In the age of overwork we are all looking for that edge. You know the one I am talking about. The extra something that allows us to go to our job, or jobs, during the day, pick up kids from day care, come home and cook dinner, clean dishes, help with homework, and maybe find a little time for ourselves or partner before crashing out to a not so great sleep. This cycle may have even deeper roots outside our direct control but we are not here to talk about that right now. What we are hear to discuss is the edge that more Americans are reaching for; the energy drink.
They go by many names and invoke numerous images such as a flying red male cow, or ferocious green creature or even the electronic device a rocker may plug her electric guitar into just to annoy the neighbors. Regardless of name they are essentially doing the same thing, trading a temporary rush of energy for a much larger and costlier subsequent crash.
In 2011 domestic sales of energy drink reached an excess of $6.9Bln and globally exceeded $50Bln. This is a huge industry and for all the claims that are made one important piece of information is omitted. Energy drinks result in an overall reduction of health and wellness. Let us explore why this is.
The body is a complicated and very sensitive machine that relies on a vast network of chemicals to communicate within itself. For example, if I am stressed, a small gland in my brain, the pituitary, will release a chemical message to my adrenal gland to release a different chemical, cortisol. That cortisol gives me a little boost of energy to run/fight, or focus to find a solution. The energy, at least in part, comes from a simultaneous release of stored sugar from the liver and muscles. Energy drinks force the body, mainly the adrenal glands, to secrete cortisol in very high and often sustained amounts. Cortisol, in addition to releasing stored sugar (giving a rush and subsequent crash) also suppresses the immune system. The high and frequent release of sugar increases the risk of diseases such as diabetes, but, a long term increase in cortisol suppresses or reduces the immune system. This suppression may have far more profound consequences to health including chronic disease and cancer. This repetitive stimulation of the adrenals causes the glands to fatigue. This adrenal fatigue results in an increased dependence on more energy drinks and sugary foods.
A classic profile of someone who is suffering from adrenal fatigue looks something like the following. Difficulty waking up in the morning and very tired. Energy does not really kick in until about 2-3 hrs after rising. Energy goes pretty good until around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and then quite tired (reach for energy drink/coffee) then feeling okay until close to bed. A “second wind” may be felt right around the time to go to sleep 9-11 at night. While not everyone experiences it the same, if this sounds something like what you are feeling there is a good chance you are experiencing some level of adrenal fatigue. The good news is there’s help. It is possible to completely remove energy drinks from your diet and feel better than before energy in a sustained fashion. Depending on how depleted you are will affect the timeline to recovery. Start by drinking plenty of water. A reasonable amount for healthy individuals is 1/3 your body weight in ounces a day. If I weigh 200lbs then 66oz. is my goal. Eat plenty of leafy greens (kale, chard, collards, spinach, mustard greens, etc) Eat breakfast and avoid sugary/starchy items. Try a hard boiled egg. No sweets/alcohol before bed. Sugar dramatically affects the quality of sleep and we want the best sleep we can get to repair. For specifics that are tailored to you personally come by for a consult. Take charge of your life and have more energy, naturally, to enjoy the things you like.
Dr. Richard Lok, ND