6 Nutrient Deficiencies Linked to Fatigue
December 7th, 2018
Are you tired and exhausted day after day, even after getting a full night’s sleep? Do you struggle to keep your appointments or engagements with friends because you barely have the energy to get out of bed? You are not alone. Chronic fatigue is such an epidemic that it has become the norm to feel exhausted all the time.
However, I want you to know that it is NOT normal to feel perpetually tired. In fact, it is most often a sign of an underlying health issue. Fatigue can be a symptom of autoimmune disease or other health conditions, such as anemia, heart disease, cancer, sleep apnea, Lyme disease, and depression.1 Extreme fatigue is also the primary hallmark of the increasingly common chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
CFS, also referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) affects 2.5 million Americans. It is a debilitating disorder that is characterized by extreme fatigue that doesn’t go away with rest and sleep. It is not simply the symptom of another underlying health condition (such as cancer, heart disease, or lupus); treatment (such as chemotherapy or radiation); or activity (such as overtraining in sports or staying up with a new baby). Rather, CFS is a health condition and diagnosis in and of itself. In addition to fatigue, symptoms of CFS include muscle weakness, pain, headaches, and memory loss.2,3,4
I see many patients on the autoimmune spectrum who experience chronic fatigue. Before my diagnosis of Graves’ disease, I also experienced fatigue and exhaustion along with insomnia, so I know how you feel, and the good news is that I also know how you can improve your health and increase your energy levels naturally!
Did you know that your energy levels are closely connected to the nutrients you take in and absorb? When patients with fatigue and related complaints come to me for help, I always check for nutrient deficiencies, which may be the underlying cause of the problem.
Finding out what these nutrient deficiencies are is the first step. Then once you learn the root causes of those deficiencies, you can learn how to correct them in order to reclaim your health and vitality.
6 Nutrient Deficiencies Linked to Fatigue
1. Vitamin B12 and other B Vitamins
Your body needs B vitamins to convert into energy. If you are low in B vitamins, your mitochondria – the powerhouse of your cells – cannot generate energy properly. Vitamin B12 deficiency is particularly common and can result in fatigue, weakness, and low energy. B12 is essential for red blood cell production, and so low B12 levels can also lead to anemia. Though B12 deficiency is much more common among vegans and vegetarians, it can happen to anyone due to a diet lacking in nutrient-dense foods, poor absorption (common with gut infections such as SIBO), and other health issues.5,6,7,8,9
Magnesium is a powerful mineral for promoting relaxation and energy production in your body. It is necessary to store the energy molecule ATP. Magnesium deficiency impairs the energy pathways your mitochondria use to generate ATP, and can lead to chronic fatigue, tiredness, inflammation, and free radical damage.
Magnesium deficiency affects nearly everyone. If you are consuming too much processed food, refined sugar, salt, alcohol, and coffee, your risks of a deficiency are even greater. What’s more, due to intensive chemical farming practices, our soils have been depleted of magnesium, making it nearly impossible to meet your magnesium needs even if you are eating a diet of real, whole foods. For this reason, most people can benefit from taking a high-quality magnesium supplement, however, it is particularly important to supplement if you are experiencing fatigue or dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome.10,11
Since your body cannot make essential fatty acids, you need to eat good fats to fuel it properly. Unfortunately, the typical Western diet is high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids due to an abundance of vegetable oils and processed foods, and low in anti-inflammatory omega-3 foods such as wild-caught salmon and other fatty fish. An imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can lead to fatigue and inflammation, and set yourself on the path to chronic illness.12,13
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for muscle and bone strength, along with a number of other important bodily functions. Suboptimal Vitamin D levels can lead to low energy and fatigue. Vitamin D deficiency is particularly prevalent in places with little sunshine, however if you are spending most of your time indoors, chances are that your body is low in vitamin D regardless of where you live. I have done nutritional testing on thousands of patients and of those who were not supplementing, virtually all were deficient in vitamin D.14,15,16
Iron is essential for creating red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body. Low iron levels can lead to anemia. Anemia occurs when there aren’t enough red blood cells in your body to meet its oxygen needs or if your blood cells are unable to carry enough hemoglobin. The first sign of anemia is fatigue along with pale skin and dull hair.
If you are unusually tired, it is important to get your iron levels checked. And, if you are a woman, an endurance athlete, or eat a vegetarian or vegan diet high in processed food, your risks of iron deficiency and anemia are higher. Since too much iron can be harmful as well, it is important to get a blood test and only supplement if your iron levels are suboptimal. Eating iron-rich foods, such as grass-fed beef, spinach, or organ meats, however, is super important for preventing and reversing anemia.17,18,19,20
Potassium is an important mineral for supporting the healthy functioning of your heart, nerves, and muscles. It can help improve muscle recovery and endurance. Low levels of potassium can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, and numbness. You can have low potassium levels due to excessive sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, antibiotics, diuretics, and kidney disease.21,22
One problem I see in many of my patients is that they are eating too much sodium and not enough potassium. While sodium is also important for fluid balance, as well as nerve and muscle function, a diet high in processed foods contains too much sodium and not enough potassium. It is important to keep the optimal balance of these two electrolytes through a nutrient-rich diet and proper supplementation.23,24 Bananas, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and cooked broccoli are all good sources of potassium.
What Causes Nutrient Deficiencies in Those with Fatigue
To correct nutrient deficiencies linked to fatigue and regain your energy, you must get to the root cause and identify why you may be lacking these nutrients in the first place. Let’s look at the most common reasons why my patients with fatigue are often low in these key nutrients.
A Nutrient-Poor and Inflammatory Diet
If your diet is high in processed food, refined sugars, and white flours, you are missing out on the nutrients your body requires to create sustained energy and optimal health. Unfortunately, intensive chemical farming practices have robbed our soil of its nutrients. In fact, 40% of the soil used to grow our food worldwide has been degraded or severely depleted of vital minerals thanks to modern agriculture.25 So even the whole foods you eat are not nearly as rich in nutrients as they were when your grandparents were young.
To make matters worse, inflammatory foods that are common in the typical Western diet, such as gluten, dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, eggs, caffeine, nuts, seeds, and nightshades can result in a leaky gut which leads to poor nutrient absorption and chronic health issues that are often associated with fatigue.26,27,28,29,30
A compromised diet, environmental toxins, certain medications, and stress can result in leaky gut, Leaky gut means that tiny holes develop on your gut lining that allow food particles, bacteria, yeast, and viruses to enter your bloodstream. If you have leaky gut, your body can’t absorb food properly which can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, inflammation, and fatigue.31,32
Gut infections, such as Candida overgrowth and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can interfere with nutrient absorption.
Candida overgrowth is one of the most common problems I see in my patients, especially in those with chronic fatigue and autoimmune conditions. In small amounts, your body can benefit from Candida to aid digestion and nutrient absorption. However, when it grows out of control, it leads to gut dysbiosis, breaks down the wall of your intestines, and causes leaky gut, which releases toxins into your bloodstream and opens the door to an array of health problems, including chronic fatigue.
SIBO occurs when the bacteria in your small intestine get out of balance and overgrow. Most bacteria in your body meant to be located in your large intestine and colon to help to break down food, synthesize vitamins, and eliminate waste. However, when these bacteria find their way to your small intestine, it can lead to SIBO.33
When your body is overtaken by Candida overgrowth, SIBO, or other gut infections, such as the Epstein-Barr Virus or Lyme, it leads to an imbalance of microflora, compromised nutrient absorption, digestion issues, an impaired immune system, and other health issues, of which chronic fatigue is a major symptom.
MTHFR and other common genetic mutations can lower your body’s ability to convert nutrients to their active form via methylation, including B vitamins, folate, and choline.
Meanwhile, VDR mutations can result in vitamin D deficiency.34 This is significant because, as I mentioned above, Vitamin D can boost your energy levels, which is why spending time in the sunlight feels so energizing!35
How to Prevent or Overcome Nutrient Deficiencies Linked to Fatigue
The good news is that nutrient deficiencies linked to fatigue can be corrected. You can restore optimal levels of key nutrients by optimizing your diet, taking the targeted supplements, and addressing the underlying causes of your deficiencies. By following these steps, you can nourish your body, regain your energy, and create optimal health and well-being.
Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet
Getting your nutrients through food is the best method and the first necessary step to correct deficiencies. Eating a nutrient-dense diet such as The Myers Way® will set you up for success.
To support your energy levels and overcome fatigue, eat plenty of these foods:
- B Vitamins: leafy greens, root veggies, grass-fed or pasture-raised meat, shellfish
- Magnesium: dark leafy greens, seaweed, figs, fish, avocados, bananas
- Vitamin D: fatty fish, organ meats, spirulina, wild mushrooms, bee pollen
- Omega-3: grass-fed meats, fatty fish, flax and chia oil
- Iron: fatty fish, grass-fed or pasture-raised meat, organ meats
- Potassium: bananas, sweet potatoes, cucumber, cooked spinach, oranges, apricots
If you need ideas for delicious meals that can help you correct nutrient imbalances, reduce fatigue, and bring back your energy, my cookbook, The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook contains over 150 recipes featuring foods that are packed with nutrients that you need to prevent and reverse chronic illness, and support your overall health.
Repair Your Gut
Eating a diet rich in real whole foods is critical, however, it is often not enough if you are dealing with a leaky gut, which can compromise your body’s ability to digest and absorb these nutrients. As I always say, “You aren’t what you eat, you are what you digest and absorb!” Repairing your gut will reduce inflammation and improve your ability to absorb nutrients properly, and as a result, you can finally regain the energy to live the life you want to live–whether that means playing with your grandchildren, traveling to a foreign country, or simply pursuing a beloved hobby that you’ve let fall to the wayside!
I recommend the 4R approach to repair your gut and to build yourself a solid foundation for optimal health and wellness.
Heal Your Infections
To overcome chronic fatigue, it is vital to pinpoint and heal underlying infections.
While you can often tell if you have Candida overgrowth based on symptoms alone, I recommend testing as well to be sure. A blood test that checks for IgA, IgM, and IgG Candida antibodies, a complete blood count, stool testing, and an Organix® Dysbiosis urine test can all help identify Candida overgrowth within your body. My Candida Breakthrough® Program can guide you on how to starve the yeast and overcome Candida overgrowth step-by-step.
Along with symptom checking, SIBO can be diagnosed through a SIBO breath test, Organix® Dysbiosis test, and comprehensive stool testing. To overcome SIBO, you must starve the bacteria by removing foods that feed the bacteria (sugar and carbs in particular), prune the overgrown bacteria with the help of Microb-Clear™, and feed the good bacteria with probiotics. Since regular probiotics can feed an overgrowth, it is crucial that you only take soil-based probiotics, such as Primal Earth™ until you have overcome SIBO.
Learn About Your Unique Genetic Needs
If you want to understand how your unique genetics can cause nutrient deficiencies, you can order a genetic test through 23andme.com. Once you receive your results, you can enter your raw data into a third-party tool, such as Livewello or Genetic Genie to check for possible genetic mutations and learn how they may affect your health.
Add in High-Quality Supplements
The unfortunate truth is that the combination of our nutrient-depleted soils, toxic environment, and high-stress modern life make it very difficult to rely exclusively on nutrients from food to achieve optimal health. High-quality supplements can help fill the gap and provide you with the nutrients your body needs to maintain all-day energy.
I recommend the following supplements to anyone seeking to eliminate fatigue, reverse autoimmune disease and other chronic illnesses, and achieve vibrant health.
- Multivitamin: Taking a high-quality, daily multivitamin is the building block of optimal health. I’ve specifically designed a multivitamin filled with B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and other essential vitamins and minerals you need to correct nutrient deficiencies.
- Vitamin D: Since most people don’t get adequate amounts of vitamin D from the sun alone, it is crucial to take a Vitamin D supplement.
- Vitamin B: If you have one or two MTHFR mutations, my Methylation Support is an excellent choice with pre-methylated B vitamins to help increase your energy levels. .
- Magnesium: I recommend NeuroCalm Magnesium as the best form of magnesium for brain health, balanced mood, cognitive function, and restorative sleep, as it has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.
- Omega 3: When selecting an Omega-3 supplement, it is important that you choose from reputable sources that verify through a third party that they have no detectable mercury in their product, such as my Complete Omega-3 Softgels.
- Iron: Since high iron levels can lead to health problems, make sure to get your iron levels checked before starting supplementations. When you are selecting an iron supplement, choose high-quality capsules with elemental iron to ensure ideal absorption.
Now that you understand which nutrient deficiencies may be causing your fatigue, what the root causes of these deficits are, and how to correct them, you have the power to reclaim your health. You can beat chronic fatigue and regain your vitality by eating a nutrient-dense diet, repairing your gut, healing your infections, understanding your unique genetic needs, and taking the right supplements. Finally, you will have the energy to live the life you want–and deserve!