Updated: Sep 11
There are a variety of reasons why you feel run down and lack energy to get through the day. There is an intricate system of hormones that allow our body to function normally (or not so normally…). When outside influences mess with these hormones, low energy can arise. There is a system is our body that is called the hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal axis or HPA axis, as well as the hypothalamic, pituitary, thyroid axis or HPT axis. These two circuits involve different parts of the brain as well as either the adrenal glands or the thyroid. These two systems are responsible for our energy levels. Things such as infections, poor blood sugar handling, and chronic stress can fatigue these circuits and lead to feelings of low energy and even weight gain. Read more to learn why you’re low on energy.
Stress hormones are the cause for a lot of functional issues that people experience today. This isn’t necessarily because life is becoming more and more fast paced (although, it is). It’s largely due to the poor lifestyle choices people make on a daily basis that can cause this. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released during periods of low blood sugar. It helps trigger the body’s ability to break down sugar storage, so that way it can elevate blood sugar to a more normal level.
This is a necessary process, but is used and abused in most people. Snacking, eating irregularly (straying from 3 quality meals per day), and consumption of processed carbs and sugars can lead to excess production of cortisol. This is accomplished by the HPA axis. Over time, the brain will become insensitive to hormones and tell the brain to produce stress hormones. As a result, the body will become depleted of resources to produce them. We call this adrenal fatigue. In this situation, chronic fatigue, depression, and hormonal imbalances set in.
& The Lows
Now that we’ve established that chronic stress and poor blood sugar regulation lead to over production of cortisol, we can now discuss how this affects the thyroid. When there are elevated levels of stress hormones and inflammation in the body, the thyroid knows. The job of the thyroid is to ensure that the body has the resources it needs to survive. In times of stress, the thyroid goes into survival mode and begins hoarding all of its resources.
When there is high cortisol, the pituitary begins to secrete less thyroid stimulating hormone, which causes the thyroid to produce thyroid hormone. Not only does this happen, but high cortisol also leads to poor conversion of thyroid hormones for use. This leads to a decrease in metabolism. This is beneficial when you get sick, injured, or food is scarce, but usually, it just means weight gain, low energy, poor digestion, etc.
Things You Can Do
To stop this process, you have to make proper lifestyle choices, so your body can become more resilient to stress. We need to change the habits that we are doing to increase cortisol in our body. Quit drinking that coffee on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, reduce your overall caffeine consumption, and stay away from high fructose corn syrup and other processed sugars. It’s important to eat three meals a day without snacking between them. Plenty of protein and fats with complex carbs are the way to go for healthy meals. Being healthier can be just a few good decisions away. You may also need to start practicing certain exercises to manage your emotional stress in your life as well. This can be done through breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, exercise, or even talking to loved ones or counselors about your every day stressors. This will prevent emotions and stress from building up.