Suffering with extreme tiredness - better known as fatigue - can affect all areas of your life, from productivity in the workplace to your intimate relationships. Fatigue can be caused by many factors, including stress, sleep disorders, medications, illness, and menopause; but this multitude of potential causes might mean you overlook a simpler cause: your diet. It's easy to forget how much what we eat affects our body, but the simple fact is that the body requires vitamins and nutrients to function healthily, and deficiencies in these can cause - or at least contribute to - fatigue.
Vitamin B12 is fundamental for fighting fatigue. Symptoms of a B12 deficiency include physical exhaustion, weakness, and sleepiness; these also fall under the umbrella of fatigue symptoms. Essential for proper red blood cell formation and the resultant expenditure of oxygen around the body, B12 is necessary for physical and mental energy. The vitamin is found in clams, some breakfast cereals, liver, and salmon, though some people have difficulties absorbing the vitamin in the body; in these cases, B12 is administered through a shot or prescribed drug.
Vitamin C has antioxidant properties to neutralize potentially damaging free radicals in the body, thereby boosting immune system activity. Fatigue weakens the immune system, thus increasing susceptibility to disease, so increasing vitamin C intake helps prevent this. Unlike other animals, humans cannot produce vitamin C, so it must be ingested from food sources - such as citrus fruits and leafy greens - on a daily basis.
Vitamin D boosts immunity to help prevent against susceptibility to disease during fatigue. It's also helpful for healthy bones and energy levels. There are very few food sources of vitamin D, but oily fish - such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel - and orange juice are probably the best sources. Most people meet their vitamin D needs via exposure to sunlight, though multivitamins and fortified milk are also ways of upping intake.
Potently antioxidant, vitamin E can help with improving immunity and reducing muscle fatigue. Many major sources of vitamin E, including soybeans, nuts, and seeds, also contain phytoestrogens; these are plant compounds that imitate the function of estrogen in the body, which could help combat fatigue derived from hormonal imbalance, such as menopause. The vitamin is also anti-inflammatory, helping to relieve the physical ache of exhausted muscles.
In terms of diet, incorporating extra vitamins isn't a miracle cure; to enjoy more restful sleep, you'll need to cut back on stimulants, such as caffeine and spicy foods, and increase your iron intake, too. It's also important to drink plenty of water, as dehydration intensifies fatigue. Stay hydrated and eat well, and you'll notice you have more energy to face the day.For further information on how to deal with fatigue and menopause click here.
- Better Health Channel.(2011).Fatigue-fighting tips. Retrieved May 9, 2014, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Fatigue_fighting_tips
- Coombes, J.S. et al. (2002). Effects of vitamin E deficiency on fatigue and muscle contractile properties.European journal of applied physiology, 87(3), 272-277. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12111289
- Miwa, K. & Fujita, M.(2010).Fluctuation of serum vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) concentrations during exacerbation and remission phases in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Heart and vessels, 25(4), 319-323. doi: 10.1007/s00380-009-1206-6
- National Institutes of Health.(2011).Vitamin C (Absorbic acid). Retrieved May 9, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/1001.html
- Office of Dietary Supplements.(2011).Vitamin B12. Retrieved May 9, 2014, from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/#h6
- Office of Dietary Supplements.(2011).Vitamin D. retrieved May 9, 2014, from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/