What causes fatigue from a TCM perspective?
TCM believes that fatigue arises from an imbalance or deficiency in one’s organs, blood or qi (vital energy). Here’s a rundown of the most likely possibilities:
Depleted qi: Qi is our vital energy, or life force. It comes from food and air, and circulates in the body. If you’re tired and wan and prone to colds, you may be suffering from a qi deficiency. Other symptoms include lack of energy, poor appetite, shortness of breath and a weak pulse.
Depleted yang: Yang energy is associated with heat, warmth and light. Its complement is yin energy, which is characterized by coolness and darkness. Our bodies need a balance of yin and yang in order to function well. Yang deficiency is a common problem during the winter, which tends to be cold and damp.
Blood deficiency: Blood nourishes the organs and is closely related to qi, as qi directs blood flow and blood carries qi around the body. Common signs of blood deficiency include paleness, forgetfulness and a thin pulse.
If you’re looking to elevate your energy levels, it’s important to take care of your heart, lungs, spleen and kidneys. These organs are responsible for producing and storing blood, and for removing dampness (excess moisture) from the body. Accumulated dampness will stagnate the flow of blood and qi.
Dietary suggestions for staying alert
Avoid rich and greasy foods
Rich, greasy foods impede your body’s ability to process fluids. This leads to an accumulation of dampness in the body, causing tiredness and poor concentration. If you believe you need to dispel dampness, try eating pungent foods like turnip, garlic, radish, daikon and onions.
Key energizing ingredients
Astragalus root: (huang qi), or milkvetch root, can help to nourish blood, strengthen the spleen and boost qi. The best way to obtain it is from a Chinese herbal pharmacy. To take it, chop up the roots and simmer them in hot water to make a tea. Adding some honey to the mix will aid digestion.
Ginseng: is widely heralded for its ability to strengthen and bolster qi. In addition, the different varieties of ginseng can suit people with different needs. For instance, Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) has warming qualities and is ideal for those who tend to feel cold and out of breath. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is more cooling, and should be taken by those with symptoms such as red skin, dry stools and a large appetite.
Ginseng can be bought in dried or powdered form. It can be brewed as a tea or added to stir-fries, soups and other dishes.
Lastly, a warm bowl of congee with lily bulb and jujube seed promotes deep, restorative sleep to combat daytime fatigue.
Other energy boosting tips
Eat lighter meals: Eating a large, rich meal directs all your energy to your digestive system, which may cause you to feel sleepy. To stay alert, try having lighter meals, supplemented by healthy snacks in between.
Practice qigong: Qigong involves a set of slow, dynamic exercises aimed at getting your blood and qi flowing, restoring harmony to your body. It will also help you focus on deep breathing techniques, which can aid concentration. 10 to 20 minutes of qigong in the morning is a great way to start off your day.
Get some quality sleep; According to TCM, your body gets rid of toxins while you sleep. If you’re not getting enough rest, those toxins will accumulate in your body, causing stagnation and fatigue. Sometimes, a 30-minute afternoon nap can help restore your energy levels.
If you find yourself sleeping a lot but still feel tired, you’re probably getting poor quality sleep due to an overactive mind. In that case, try meditating, practicing qigong or doing something that relaxes you before bed.