What You Will Learn in This Article
- Common hormonal imbalances and how they affect energy levels
- How to increase energy with diet
- How to increase energy by making sure you’re properly hydrated.
- How to increase energy with herbs
- How to increase energy with nutritional supplements
Struggling with low energy? Barely making it through the day? Relying on coffee or energy drinks just to function? If so, you’re not alone. Hormone imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, and poor diet can zap your energy.
You might have had a tendency to self medicate with stimulants, like sugar or caffeine. Unfortunately, this is setting yourself up for a vicious cycle of being propped up by stimulants temporarily, only to crash and burn with even worse fatigue.
In this article, we’ll look at a few hormone-based causes of low energy levels. We’ll also cover some natural ways to boost your daily energy levels so you’re back to getting things done and enjoying life again!
Common Hormonal Imbalances Affecting Energy
Certain common hormonal imbalances may be the hidden cause behind your declining energy levels. In this section, we’ll go over some of those common imbalances, along with links for further reading.
Estrogen dominance is one of the most common hormonal imbalances in women today. The fact that PMS is thought to be normal shows just how common it is. Estrogen dominance occurs when estrogen levels are too high relative to progesterone. It can also be caused by having too much of the “aggressive estrogens,” estrone (E1) and estradiol (E2), relative to estriol (E3), the “protective estrogen.” (1)
This can happen due to toxicity from eating a non-organic diet, exposure to pesticides and synthetic hormones, xenoestrogens in consumer products, and use of the birth control pill and other drugs. It can also happen due to stress and dis-ease in the body. This includes unresolved emotional traumas, a compromised digestive system, and poor liver function.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance, according to OB-GYN, Dr. Christiane Northrup, include fatigue as well as insomnia. (2) If you don’t sleep well, it’s going to be difficult to keep your energy up. To learn whether your low energy levels might be tied to Estrogen Dominance, take our Free “How Estrogenic Are You? Assessment. You can also learn more about Estrogen Dominance by reading this article.
For a comprehensive look at this imbalance, check out my new book, Overcoming Estrogen Dominance.
Poor Adrenal Function
Poor adrenal function, sometimes called “adrenal fatigue” or “adrenal exhaustion” is another potential cause of low energy levels. The adrenal glands are responsible for producing hormones that manage the stress response, monitor energy levels, regulate blood sugar levels, affect water retention, and raise or lower blood pressure. They even have a role in immune function. The infamous stress hormone, cortisol, is one of the main hormones produced by the adrenals. (1)
Compromised adrenals have been linked to feeling fatigued, depleted, and unmotivated. Often, low adrenal function leads to coffee addiction as a crutch to make it through each week. Learn more about Adrenal Fatigue by reading this article.
Low thyroid (Hypothyroidism) is a classic cause of low energy levels. It goes hand-in-hand with Estrogen Dominance and it’s pretty common. Functional Medicine practitioners estimate that about 30% of the population has a subclinical level of hypothyroidism.
The thyroid gland is like a gas pedal; when the thyroid is sluggish, energy levels also suffer. The thyroid is responsible for producing thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which play a major role in energy and metabolism. (3)
Low thyroid may be caused by an autoimmune response to the thyroid tissue. This is Hashmoto’s Thyroiditis.
Many women go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed from hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease because of incomplete testing and inadequate lab test ranges. If you suspect having thyroid problems, insist on testing TSH, Free T3, Free T4, as well as TPO and anti-TG antibodies. We’ve negotiated with a lab and you can order the tests yourself.
Blood Sugar Imbalance
Insulin is another hormone that may not be functioning well. Insulin is produced by the pancreas to usher glucose (blood sugar) into cells. If you become insulin resistant, the sugar stays in the blood, and you have high blood sugar levels. Or, if your blood sugar goes too high, and then insulin clears it too quickly, you could have low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). Either one of these can cause low energy.
Here’s how to know if you have a blood sugar imbalance, according to Functional Medicine ranges:
- If your fasting glucose is above 90 mg/dL. (Lab/doctors may say 99 mg/dL is acceptable, but it’s not),
- If your H1Ac is greater than 5.4 (Labs/doctors may say 5.6 is acceptable, but it’s not),
- If your insulin is greater than 15 IU/mL (Labs/doctors may say 24.9 IU/mL is acceptable, not it’s not).
Again, you can order these labs yourself by requesting the Hormone Foundations Panel here.
Blood sugar issues are very much tied to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, thyroid issues, adrenal fatigue, and Estrogen Dominance. It’s one of the most basic imbalances that needs to be addressed to balance your hormones.
Menopause and Declining Estrogen
As women enter perimenopause in our late 30s or early 40s, our estrogen production starts declining. When we hit menopause, estrogen levels are at an ultimate low. That’s generally what makes women decide to seek out hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – to replenish falling estrogen levels and lessen uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.
As estrogen levels decline, so can our energy levels. That’s because estrogen has an impact on our mitochondria, and therefore, on energy production. Without adequate levels of estrogen circulating in the body, the mitochondria don’t have what they need to produce our energy currency, ATP. (4)
With all these imbalances working against us, is there any hope? Absolutely. There are quite a few things you can do to naturally increase your energy levels. We’ll start with diet.
How to Increase Energy Naturally with Diet, Herbs and Hydration
Food is often the best medicine. At least, that’s what Hippocrates told us. It’s always best to start with diet, and then see what you need to add in terms of supplements and therapies. So, here are some food and herb ideas for increasing your energy naturally:
Eat a PFF Breakfast
PFF stands for Protein, Fat and Fiber. It’s a great way to start the day to make sure there won’t be any blood sugar crashes mid morning. Keeping blood sugar steady helps promote sustained energy throughout the day.
- Proteins can include meats, fish, tempeh (if you do well with soy), and even pre-soaked nuts and seeds.
- Fats can include avocado, coconut butter or oil, ghee, olive oil, or other healthy fats.
- Fiber can include greens, cruciferous vegetables, sauerkraut, squash, apples, oats, sweet potatoes… be creative!
Following the PFF breakfast, it’s also important to make sure you’re eating a diet that promotes balanced blood sugar throughout the rest of the day.
You can see how to make it in this video:
Eat for Balanced Blood Sugar
Blood sugar roller coasters can wreak havoc on your energy levels. The surge and crash that follow a high sugar diet exhaust the adrenals and create stress on the body, leading to low energy. To avoid these constant ups and downs, avoid consuming added sugars and processed foods.
Instead, try including plenty of protein, healthy fats, and fiber to your lunch and dinner. Eliminating those blood sugar ups and downs can really help keep your energy constant throughout the day.
My cookbook, Cooking for Hormone Balance, can give you some good ideas for meal planning and recipes.
Try Matcha instead of Coffee
Instead of starting your day with coffee (which can create problems with hormones), consider using matcha. Matcha is a powdered green tea that is low in caffeine and rich in the calming amino acid, L-theanine. The combination of just a smidge of caffeine combined with L-theanine provides a calm, focused energy.
Try this coconut milk matcha latte for a great coffee alternative that gives you a boost without the jitters.
Dehydration is a common reason for fatigue. So, making sure you’re properly hydrated is another way you can keep your energy levels high.
So how much water should you drink? Shoot for at least half your body weight in ounces. If you can get closer to ⅔ of your body weight, that’s even better — especially if you live at a higher altitude or get in a lot of physical activity.
That means if you weigh 150 pounds, you should aim to get 75 to 100 ounces of water per day. That’s equivalent to about 9 to 12 glasses of water per day, if a glass is 8 ounces. If you’re 120 pounds, that’s 60 to 80 ounces, or 8 to 10 glasses of water per day.
It’s important to note that hydration isn’t just about drinking water. It’s important that water isn’t just going through you, but is actually hydrating your cells. Without proper electrolyte levels, that just isn’t going to happen. Our cells need a good balance of key electrolytes to move water from outside our cells to inside for whole body hydration.
That’s especially important in the summer (or in the sauna), as we’re sweating a lot more. Two of our products, Morning Ritual and Mineral Restore are great for helping you do just that. Women in my network report feeling highly energized by taking them (me too).
Morning Ritual is our complete and balanced electrolyte formula that you can take each morning to boost your energy. It contains the electrolyte minerals potassium, sodium, chloride, and magnesium (as Magnesium malate and Magnesium ascorbate).
Morning Ritual also includes a dose of D-ribose in each serving. D-ribose is a natural sugar found in our cells. It is used in the production of energy. (5)
Mineral Restore is our trace mineral product that is based on purified seawater. It includes potassium, sodium, chloride, and magnesium, zinc, and sulfate, along with ionic trace minerals and seawater. Ionic minerals are absorbed quickly, so this product is a quick way to replenish. Zinc is an important mineral for balancing hormones. Read more here.
To use, mix approximately ½ teaspoon of the liquid with 20 ounces of water for a quick hydration boost. You can increase or decrease the amount of water according to taste or desired concentration.
Include Adaptogenic Herbs
Adaptogenic herbs are herbs that help your body adapt to daily stresses on the system, whether that’s mental or physical stress. They are used to support health in these ways: reducing fatigue, regaining or improving athletic performance, regain or improving metal sharpness, and improving sleep quality. They can be a great addition to your daily tea or supplement regimen. (6)
Rhodiola rosea is a powerful adaptogenic herb that can help the body to adapt to stress, improving work performance, sleep, and energy levels. (7) A common dosage is 100-300 mg/day. Rhodiola rosea is included in our adrenal support supplement, Wellena Adrenal TLC.
You can also try this tulsi tea latte recipe, which includes a dropperful of supportive rhodiola.
Ashwagandha is also known as “Indian Ginseng.” It’s an Ayurvedic medicinal herb that is classified as a “rejuvenator.” It can help balance the thyroid, improve sleep, and increase energy. It has been shown to improve energy and stamina and protect the adrenal glands. (8, 9) For some people, it can be calming and almost a sedative – so try and see how it affects you.
Learn how to make an Ashwagandha latte here.
Maca has been used for centuries to boost stamina and performance. Maca is also a choice herb for regulating estrogen levels. If you’re too low, it can bring estrogen up, and if you’re too high (as in Estrogen Dominance), maca can help bring it down to normal levels. (10)
I highly recommend Mighty Maca formulated by Dr. Anna Cabeca. It’s certified organic and is sourced from Peru. It’s a great afternoon pick-me-up if you’re in a slump. Start with 1 teaspoon of the maca powder per day, and gradually increase it to a tablespoon per day. Take it daily for a few weeks and then take a break. Cycle it on and off so that your body doesn’t get too used to it.
Here are some great maca recipes you can try.
How to Increase Energy Naturally with Supplements
Supplements are also an excellent way to boost low energy levels. They are user-friendly (easy to take), and tend to be more potent than foods. Here are some great supplements to look at if you’re looking for a lift:
Taking a good quality B-complex supplement is key for energy production. The B-Complex vitamins include:
- B1 (Thiamine)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B6 (Pyridoxine)
- B7 (Biotin)
- B9 (folate)
- B12 (methylcobalamin)
All the B vitamins except folate are involved in energy production in the mitochondria, the tiny energy factories in the cells. So, if you have a deficiency in any one of them, your cells just aren’t going to be able to keep up on making energy. (11)
Our Wellena supplement, B Maximus, contains all 8 of the B complex vitamins. It also has key Bs in their active forms; for example, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is in the active form of Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate or P-5-P and B12 is in the methylated form of methylcobalamin. It also contains choline to support methylation.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for energy production and a healthy nervous system. Magnesium deficiency symptoms include: muscle weakness, fatigue, lethargy, and lack of endurance. (11) So, it’s important to correct a magnesium deficiency if you want to keep your energy levels up.
While the RDA for magnesium is around 320 mg per day, many women need more than that. Certain situations can cause you to go through magnesium faster. These are things like genetic makeup, conditions like autoimmune thyroid disease, too much sugar and carbs, and high or chronic stress. All of these can deplete your magnesium levels, leading to low energy.
If you have low thyroid, magnesium could be especially helpful. Magnesium is necessary for the successful conversion of T4 hormone to active T3. Many women who have low thyroid (Hashimoto’s or Hypothyroidism) feel especially energized when they take magnesium.
Magnesium malate in particular can help boost your energy levels, due to its inclusion of malic acid. The addition of malic acid to magnesium helps the mitochondria (the energy factories of the cells) create energy. (12)
Mag Energy is our Wellena branded Magnesium malate. The recommended dose of magnesium malate is 300 to 400 mg per day. Mag Energy provides 360 mg per 2 capsule serving.
- Testing is always helpful if you want to find out what’s going on. So, if you haven’t been diagnosed with a particular imbalance, you may want to look into getting some labs done. You can get an idea of where you are on all the imbalances I mentioned by ordering tests here.
- If you have a hormonal imbalance associated with low energy, definitely look at how you can address that specific imbalance with nutrition.
- Next, take a good look at your diet. Make sure you’re not on a blood sugar rollercoaster and that you’re eating a breakfast that supports balanced glucose levels. Remember PFF: Protein, Fat, Fiber.
- Check in with yourself on hydration. Are you drinking enough water? If so, does it seem like water is just going through you without feeling like you’re hydrated? Then think about adding trace minerals and/or electrolytes.
- Consider adding in some energy-supporting adaptogenic herbs, whether as an addition to your meals, as a tea, or even as a supplement.
- Make sure you’re taking in adequate levels of B-complex vitamins, magnesium, and electrolytes to support the production of energy in each cell.
Let us know in the comments what steps you’re taking to increase your energy levels. Then check in to report how it worked for you.
- Wszelaki, M. Overcoming Estrogen Dominance. 2021.
- Northrup, C. What Are The Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance? February 2007.
- Kim, Brian. “Thyroid hormone as a determinant of energy expenditure and the basal metabolic rate.” Thyroid: official journal of the American Thyroid Association. 2008.
- Klinge, Carolyn M. “Estrogenic control of mitochondrial function.” Redox biology. 2020.
- Mahoney, Diane E et al. “Understanding D-Ribose and Mitochondrial Function.” Advances in bioscience and clinical medicine. 2018.
- Seely, Dugald, and Rana Singh. “Adaptogenic potential of a polyherbal natural health product: report on a longitudinal clinical trial.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM. 2007.
- Kelly, G S. “Rhodiola rosea: a possible plant adaptogen.” Alternative medicine review: a journal of clinical therapeutic vol. 6,3 (2001): 293-302.
- Wankhede, Sachin et al. “Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Nov. 2015.
- Singh, Narendra et al. “An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.” African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines: AJTCAM. 2011.
- Meissner, H O et al. “Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study.” International journal of biomedical science. 2006.
- Tardy, Anne-Laure et al. “Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence.” Nutrients. Jan. 2020.
- Wu, J-L et al. “Effects of L-malate on mitochondrial oxidoreductases in liver of aged rats.” Physiological research. 2011.