The Surprising Reasons You Might Be Feeling Sluggish

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Photo: Dr. Frank LipmanWelcome to Wellness Council, our handpicked holistic health squad: a tightly curated group that gives the best advice this side of your own personal guru. 

In his latest article, integrative medicine pioneer Frank Lipman, MD, opens up his case files to tell the story of a patient who couldn't figure out why her energy was so low.

What he writes about next is up to you—tell us what you're dying to know! Send questions and ideas to

The patient

A 49-year-old woman (let's call her Jane), who had been healthy all her life. So healthy, she said, that she hadn’t even taken a physical in the last six years.

The issue

All of a sudden, she was starting to feel tired, foggy, sad, and forgetful. Her sleep was poor, and she would wake up at night. She felt bloated and had sugar cravings. Her mood wasn’t great and she felt sad for no particular reason—and all these things were new to her.

Her habits

Jane ate what she wanted and never felt the need to monitor her intake. And she had a pretty regular routine: coffee in the morning, moderate meals, one glass of wine at night.

The approach

I sat down with health coach Katrine van Wyk, and after some discussion, we came to the conclusion that Jane had reached perimenopause. She was not having regular periods anymore and a lot of her symptoms were typical for someone going through hormonal changes. I explained to Jane what these changes were doing in her body and how some changes to her diet and exercise routine could make a big difference on how she feels.

To help correct her insulin levels and keep her stress hormone cortisol low, Katrine suggested a lower-carbohydrate, grain-free diet, with lots of non-starchy vegetables like greens, zucchini, cauliflower, and asparagus, and good quality animal proteins, like wild fish and grass-fed meat. Katrine also suggested that Jane eliminate typical inflammatory foods from her diet, including gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and all processed foods.

If you make a nighttime drink a habit, the effect on your sleep will get worse because the sleep-inducing effect can wear off over time, but the sleep-disrupting effect remains.

But what about her night walking, tiredness, and weight gain? Believe it or not, that nightly glass of wine can be a big factor. Alcohol does help you fall asleep initially, but it often prevents you from getting high-quality sleep. As your body breaks it down, alcohol can wake you up or cause you to sleep less deeply.  If you make a nighttime drink a habit, the effect on your sleep will get worse because the sleep-inducing effect can wear off over time, but the sleep-disrupting effect remains.

Katrine shared some meditation tools to help Jane manage her stress, so that she would no longer rely on the wine to unwind, and Jane decided she was going to make a cup of tea and meditate. A small change for her, but it would make a big difference.

After two days, Jane reported back that she was finally sleeping well and feeling much better overall. She had stuck to the diet and eliminated the wine, but was still keeping a cup of coffee in the morning, which she cherished. She was using L-Glutamine supplements to help overcome her sugar cravings, and her mood was thankfully a lot lighter, too. She said that just knowing she had a plan—a support system to get her on the right path—was a huge relief and motivator for her to keep going.

A few days later, Jane reached out to Katrine with another update: "I have to say I feel SO MUCH BETTER than the last time I came in—sleep has been good and this Paleo thing hasn’t been too bad either." Ha! She's not quite Paleo, but Jane's diet and lifestyle changes have definitely put her on a healthier, happier path.

A pioneer and internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative and functional Medicine, Dr. Frank Lipman is the founder and director of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City and the creator of Be Well by Dr. Frank Lipman, a proprietary brand of dietary supplements, detoxifying cleanses and health coaching services and a New York Times best-selling author of Total Renewal—7 Key Steps to Resilience Vitality and Long Term Health, Revive—End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again, The New Health Rules—Simple Changes to Achieve Whole-Body Wellness, and 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat

What should Dr. Lipman write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to


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