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3 Nutritional Deficiencies That May Be The Cause Your Fatigue

The reason you feel so tired all the time could be a vitamin deficiency, and a multivitamin’s not enough to fix it.

It's not surprising that nutrient deficiencies are fatigue causes, given that your body’s trillions of cells rely on vitamins and minerals to generate energy. What is surprising is that few doctors recognize the fact that fatigue is often an early symptom of multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Many health care providers also ignore the well-documented fact that lack of vitamins and minerals is a surprisingly common malady. This is true even in the developed world, where we are known as the “over-fed but under-nourished”.

Nutritional deficiencies are suprisingly common

Many Americans consume less than the minimum daily allowance of many essential vitamins and minerals. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2011, for example, found that even when including vitamin intake from supplements and fortified foods, 97% of Americans don’t get enough potassium, 65% don’t get enough vitamin K, 60% don’t get enough vitamin E, 70% don’t get enough vitamin D, and around 30% don’t get enough vitamins A and C.[1] Lack of vitamins and minerals slows energy production inside cells. Nutrient deficiencies are classic fatigue causes because they impair cellular energy production. This can result in excessive tiredness and lack of energy as well as many other symptoms. Here's a closer look at 3 of the most important nutrients related to fatigue:

1. B Vitamins

B Vitamins are necessary for converting food into energy. The B vitamins are B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B12, folic acid, and biotin. If you are lacking in B vitamins, either because your needs are increased or you’re not taking in sufficient amounts, the ability of your cells to generate energy will be compromised. Lack of even just one B vitamin can compromise an entire sequence of biochemical reactions necessary for transforming food into energy. Vitamin B12 deficiency, in particular, is a highly significant fatigue causer, and 10-15% of aging adults have a B12 deficiency.[2] B vitamins can also prevent memory loss and even prevent stroke.

How to use B vitamin supplements for fatigue

It’s safe, easy, and inexpensive to experiment with B vitamin supplements in order to determine whether B vitamin supplementation will help with your fatigue. Try at least 6 weeks of a high potency B complex supplement, along with an additional 2000 micrograms of sublingual (under the tongue) B12 every day.

2. Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral to the human body. It is involved in more than 300 metabolic reactions, a key reaction being energy production. Magnesium is required to form and store the energy molecule ATP. Magnesium deficiency impairs the energy production pathway required to generate ATP. Deficiency of magnesium also reduces the body's ability to fight free-radical damage and results in excessive production of oxygen-derived free radicals and low grade inflammation.[3] Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress have both been identified as causative factors in several fatigue-related conditions such as depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.

As many as 23% of adults in the United States have low magnesium levels and fail to meet the recommended dietary intake of magnesium.[4] Low magnesium levels have been linked to an increased risk of chronic fatigue.[5,6} Repletion of magnesium in chronic fatigue patients shows clinical improvement in energy levels.

How to take magnesium for fatigue

Magnesium is another safe, inexpensive supplement for you to try to treat your fatigue naturally. Look for magnesium bound to citrateor malate for superior absorption. Both magnesium and malic acid have been found to reduce fatigue. Take 300 mg magnesium citrateor magnesium malate twice a day.

3. Antioxidants

Antioxidants are chemical compounds that neutralize free radicals by preventing oxygen from reacting with other compounds. Examples include vitamins C and E, the mineral selenium, and the nutrient coenzyme Q10. Like the B vitamins, antioxidants are involved in energy production. The body's ability to function properly is compromised when cells become damaged by free radicals, which are produced as a consequence of increased oxidative stress and insufficient antioxidant defenses. This damage results in a decrease in energy produced by some of the cells.

Antioxidants like vitamins C and E, the mineral selenium, and the important nutrient coenzyme Q10 are needed to support healthy cell energy production. Supplementing with an antioxidant formula which contains high levels of these and other antioxidant nutrients can help with fatigue.[7]

Tips on supplementing with antioxidants

Make sure the antioxidant supplement you take contains natural vitamin E in the form of “mixed tocopherols” instead of just “alpha-tocopherol.” In addition to the combination antioxidant formula, try adding a separate CoQ10 supplement, aiming for a total of 300 mg CoQ10 per day.

[1] Fulgoni VL 3rd, Keast DR, et al. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: Where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr. 2011 Oct;141(10):1847-54.

[2] Baik HW, Russell RM (1999) Vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly. Annu Rev Nutr 19: 357–377.

[3] Barbagallo M, Dominguez LJ. Magnesium and aging. Curr Pharm Des. 2010;16(7):832-9.

[4] Beckstrand RL, Pickens JS. Beneficial effects of magnesium supplementation. J Evid Bas Comp Alt Med. 2011;16(3):181-189.

[5] Cox IM, Campbell MJ, Dowson D. Red blood cell magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome. Lancet. 1991 Mar 30;337(8744):757-60.

[6] Moorkens G, Manuel Y et al. Magnesium deficit in a sample of the Belgium population presenting with chronic fatigue. Magnes Res 1997;10:329-337.

[7] Mizuno K, Tanaka M et al. Antifatigue effects of coenzyme Q10 during physical fatigue. Nutrition 2008;24:293-299.


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