As many as 2 percent of the population suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, a disabling fatigue that affects one's cognition, musculoskeletal, system and sleep. While there is no test that can immediately diagnose one's chronic fatigue syndrome, the syndrome is generally the verdict after all other possible causes for fatigue have been ruled out.
I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue when I was younger and it is still something that I struggle with every day. However, now, using my health and nutrition knowledge to find what works for me, I have learned that if I am mindful about what I put into my body, I can live a productive, happy, and healthy life. Following my personal journey, I have made it my career to help others combat this condition.
My three worst experiences with chronic fatigue were when I was 11, 17 and 25— twice, after suffering from mononucleosis and bronchitis, two of the most common infections followed by chronic fatigue. The third was after an emergency appendectomy. Each time I went to see a different doctor, using both Western and Eastern medicine, to help me overcome my fatigue. Some doctors prescribed herbs and supplements. Ultimately, one doctor put me on an extremely strict diet based on theories from the book, “Green For Life" by Victoria Boutenko. As a result, I removed caffeine, alcohol, gluten and dairy from my diet, decreased my protein intake and greatly increased my fruit and vegetable intake. Initially, it was a huge struggle and my body felt worse as it was slowly adapting to these new habits. However, after the initial shock to my body, I began to have more energy than I've had in the last decade. I was finally able to do the things that I love again. This experience not only changed my health, but it also changed my life's journey— I stopped studying business/law and changed my career path to health and wellness, and nutrition.
Whether you have chronic fatigue syndrome or just want more energy in the day, there are some great nutrition tricks that can help boost your energy, mood and health. The things we put into our bodies make or break our energy levels. Providing the right fuels can give you a new lease on life, while eating the wrong foods can cause bloating and sluggishness. There are numerous things that affect the quality of our energy: what we eat, when we eat it, how much we eat, and how our digestive systems react etc.
So how does our body produce energy? The process happens in the mitochondria, or the energy factory of the cell. This is where the Krebs cycle occurs and turns food into cellular energy, or ATP. This process accounts for 75 percent of the total energy produced by cells. Specific nutrients, such as vitamin B's, L-carniture, magnesium, amino acids and CoQ10, are needed as co-factors in the Krebs cycle. It is important that we provide our bodies with these co-factors either directly through diet or by taking supplements. Other nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, and E, selenium, and essential fatty acids, also impact the production of energy by diminishing damage to the mitochondria and sustaining energy.
1. Take the Pressure Off
I am not a fan of the word detox, but I am a fan of knowing when it's time to be stricter about what you're putting into your body. Take the pressure off your body by cleaning up your blood and your immune system.
- Fruit and vegetables with every meal
- Abundance of good fats
- Diverse sources of proteins
- Natural sugars, honey, molasses, fruits
- Plenty of fluids (water, herbal teas etc.)
- High fat dairy (cheese, milk chocolate, and ice cream)
- Processed foods or “damaged fats" such as deep-fried, margarine, hydrogenated vegetables
- Artificial sweeteners
2. Strengthen Your Immune System
People with chronic fatigue are oftentimes mineral deficient; meaning, many of the nutrients needed to protect the mitochondria and boost the Krebs cycle are lacking.
Possible signs of mineral deficiency include fatigue, low blood sugar, cravings, muscle spasms and dizziness.
Add These Minerals
Magnesium is the most abundant mineral in the body and one of the most beneficial minerals for our immune systems. It can regulate gut bacteria, improve muscle and nerve function, help control inflammation, help reduce blood pressure, assist in fighting harmful toxins in the body, reduce anxiety and stress, improve sleep and most importantly, improve daily energy levels. Foods that are high in magnesium are:
- Cacao Powder
- Nuts (e.g. Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Cashews)
- Seeds (Sunflower, Flaxseeds, Pumpkin, Sesame etc.)
- Beans (Lentils and Beans)
- Whole Grains (Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Quinoa)
- Fish (e.g. Mackerel)
Selenium is a trace mineral that works with vitamin E to help prevent oxidative damage in the cells. It also works in conjunction with iodine to regulate metabolism. Foods that are high in selenium are:
- Brazil Nuts
- Fish (Yellowfin Tuna, Salmon, Halibut, cooked)
- Other Seafood (Oysters, Shrimp, Crabs & Sardines, canned)
- Lean Meats (Grass Fed Beef, Turkey, Chicken, Pork)
Boron is another trace mineral which is underutilized in optimizing our health. It assists with low concentration, poor memory, and weak muscles. It assists in building healthy bones and regulating cell health by increasing the body's ability to absorb calcium and magnesium. Foods that are high in boron are:
- Raisins, Prunes, Dates
- Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Brazil Nuts, Hazelnuts)
- Dried Apricots
- Peanut Butter
- Beans (Red Kidney, Lentils, Chickpeas)
Chromium works with insulin to help transport glucose through the cell membrane into the cell when it is needed for energy. It also helps turn fats, carbohydrates and protein into energy. Foods that are high in chromium are:
- Brewer's Yeast
- Free Range Eggs
- Sweet Potato
- Grain Fed Beef
3. Boost Energy
Your cells are the foundation of your health. The foods you eat are also the foods your cells consume. By eating nutrient-dense foods, you provide your cells with the support they need to keep your entire body healthy. Start stocking your fridge with some of these amazingly nutritious foods known to support proper cellular health.
Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, collard greens, kale, red and green cabbage, chard, turnip greens, arugula, mustard greens, savoy cabbage, Chinese cabbage, rapini, watercress, radish, horseradish, turnip, rutabaga, wasabi and Oriental radish
Leafy Green Vegetables
Kale, collard greens, turnip greens, swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, rapini (broccoli rabe), red and green leaf and romaine lettuce, cabbage, bok choy and watercress.
Cooking tomatoes in olive oil is a great way to combine lycopene with omega-3 fatty acids.
Try purple potatoes, which contain anthocyanins, an important antioxidant for protecting cells, instead of white potatoes.
Organic berries, such as strawberries, are not only delicious but also high in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, which are known to boost cellular health.
Studies have found that polyphenolin found in green tea is able to penetrate the body's cells and shield DNA potent free radicals.
Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant which has been used for centuries for its health benefits. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and supports the formation and maintenance of healthy cells.
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.