energy, vitality, create vital energy, functional medicine, energy healing, self-care, self-healing, nutritional healing

Vital Energy: Rock It With Five Simple Steps

Vital energy is our BIG energy–the physical energy that makes us feel awake, alert, and alive, as well as the life force energy that makes us feel connected, creative, and inspired. Because we’re integrated beings–body, mind, spirit–it’s really all one and needs to be nourished for a full and exhilarating life.

For the vast majority of us, our low energy states have simple solutions that yield fast results. These are my top five ways to rock your vital energy.

For my clients with chronic complex illness, the exhaustion they feel goes much deeper. They need an experienced guide to help them discover the roots of their energy depletion. While they benefit from the basics described in this article, they need strategies for their more complex issues like chronic infections, allergies, toxicities, or autoimmune illness.

Five Ways to Rock Your Energy Now


Sleep long enough, deeply enough, and at night.

We’re circadian beings who need the energy restoration and repair that happens during quality sleep.

Sleep can’t be hacked, passed over, or ignored without the consequence of energy depletion. Ultimately, chronic sleep deprivation will lead to far bigger problems due to the loss of critical biological control of energy repletion, repair, detoxification, hormone balance, and stress relief. Most adults need 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Refer to my sleep articles, parts one and two, for more details.

Ditch the sugar.

We are genetically wired to consume very low amounts of carbohydrate, particularly the “simple” carbohydrates like glucose, sucrose, and fructose. Most of us are programmed for insulin resistance in the face of sugar consumption to shunt energy resources to vital organs, like the brain and heart. For our ancestors sugar was scarce and insulin resistance was adaptive. For us, with sugar sources abound, it is a disaster.

Be especially wary of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a toxic sugar that goes straight to the liver to create fat and inflammation.

Sugar=Grains. Today’s genetically modified grain products, including “healthy whole grains,” have a higher glycemic index than table sugar. This delivers more sugar into the system upon ingestion.

When you drop sugar and grains from your diet you may feel more sluggish as your metabolism shifts toward using fat to make energy. Ride this out. You will come out the other side into better, more sustainable, and consistent energy in a few days to a few weeks. It’s totally worth the effort.

Get rid of food irritants.

None of us are immune to the effects of food irritants these days. Our poor guts have been assaulted by drugs, toxins, and bad food for years, leading to increased gut permeability. This allows closer contact between food proteins and the immune cell soldiers lining our guts, initiating an inflammatory response. Inflammation doesn’t stay in the gut and may not cause gut symptoms. Inflammatory mediators are sure to circulate throughout the body, impairing energy production within our mitochondria and kicking up all kinds of trouble.

Lay off grains, dairy, and legumes. If you are especially tired or inflamed (joint pain, headaches, body aches), also remove eggs, nightshades, nuts, chocolate, coffee, and all beans. If this gets too messy, work with a healthcare practitioner trained in Functional Medicine for guidance.

Move your body regularly and vigorously.

Movement ramps up the number of mitochondria in the cell as well as mitochondrial function, whose sole purpose is to create biological energy for you to enjoy. Movement also makes us more resilient to toxicity that can impair energy production.

We need to move a lot during the normal course of our day. This means sitting less, standing more, walking, and intermittently working on explosive movement through running, biking, rowing, weight lifting, and body weight movements.

Cultivate a positive outlook.

Yes, our mental and emotional states impact our energy. Enormously. This does not mean pretending to be happy when you are not. It means developing the resiliency to affirm a positive outcome even in the face of struggle. Choosing to believe that everything will turn out alright, and supporting this way of thinking with practices such as affirmations, power poses, writing, or praying. These have the power to lift us up out of the oppressive atmosphere of fear or overwhelm, and move us more into optimism and gratitude.


Karyn Shanks, MD. Create Vital Energy Through the Power of Sleep: Part One. 2017.

Karyn Shanks, MD. Create Vital Energy Through the Power of Sleep: Part Two. 2017.

Karyn Shanks, MD. Sugar is a Toxin. 2016.

Karyn Shanks, MD. Sugar Addiction. 2016.

Karyn Shanks, MD. The Liftoff Foundational Intensive Nutrition Food Plan. 2016.

Karyn Shanks, MD. The Liftoff Gut-Immune Restoration-Intensive Nutrition (GRIN) Food Plan. 2016.

Karyn Shanks, MD. Embodied Wholeness Through Movement. 2016.

Karyn Shanks, MD. Optimism: The Key to Starting Over When We’ve Failed. 2017.

Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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