Up until a few years ago, I thought we actually got vitamin D from the sun...like the vitamin was actually in the rays of light. It turns out, the real story is much cooler. When sunlight hits our skin, the UVB rays provide energy for our bodies to make Vitamin D. We make it in our bodies from the energy of the sun. How cool is that? UVB rays can’t travel through glass and they don’t penetrate sunscreen, which are two reasons that so many people are deficient in this critical nutrient.
Our bodies don’t make Vitamin B-12. This is a nutrient that is naturally found in animal products like milk, meat, and eggs…so people like me who eat a primarily plant-based diet often need to supplement. Some people have low levels of B-12 because their bodies don’t absorb it properly. This could be from things like Crohn’s or celiac, or any condition where the gut-blood barrier is impaired. Drinking alcohol regularly is one major cause of B-12 deficiency.
Iron deficiency – or anemia – is another common cause of fatigue. This could be from too little iron in your diet or an inability to absorb iron from the foods that you eat. It could also be caused by gastrointestinal bleeding. Taking the right amount of iron supplement – and the right type – is super important.
Magnesium is a critically important mineral that the body uses for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. We get magnesium through eating things like pumpkin seeds, almonds, spinach, cashews, and peanuts as well as some dairy products. Low magnesium leads to fatigue because it literally helps your body produce energy.
Every single cell in the body needs potassium in order to function normally. It regulates our heartbeat, helps our muscles contract, and maintains consistent blood pressure. Common food sources of this mineral include bananas, oranges, grapefruit, spinach, broccoli, potatoes, cucumbers, and many more. Like magnesium, the more alcohol we drink, the lower our potassium levels will be.
But before you run out to the nearest grocery store and stock up on supplements, there are some things that you need to know.
First, this stuff is too important for you to tackle alone. Your doctor needs to be involved so they can help you find the right dosage and monitor to see how your body responds to whichever supplements you need. You don’t want to replace fatigue with liver toxicity or pile iron overload on top of a bleeding ulcer.
Second, the supplement market is not regulated by the FDA. That means that basically no one is monitoring the quality of vitamins on the store shelves. You have to do some serious research and find a brand that you can trust.
Third, the best way to close nutritional gaps is to eat better. When we get these vitamins and minerals in their pure, natural form they are more bioavailable. This means that your body can use them more effectively. Where possible, supplement with the right food first…and then fill in the gaps.
Finally, this isn’t a one-time thing. Every year I get a cognoscopy and see where my nutritional gaps are improving. A little more vitamin D, a little less methyl folate. My list of supplements changes from year to year because – well, everything changes all the time.
People are always looking for more energy. A magic pill that can fix our fatigued bodies and minds. But for most people, taking supplements is a bit like putting lipstick on a pig, as we say here in Texas. No matter how pretty that pig looks with that lipstick on, it is still a pig.
If your energy is low, supplements probably are not going to magically fix you. I know, I’m sorry. That's not what you want to hear. Especially in the US, we are trained from birth to reach for a pill when something is not right. And it is true…taking pills is easier than eating better, exercising regularly, and the other basics of a healthy lifestyle. I get it. That used to be me, too.
But taking supplements is only one part of the solution if you want to have more energy. You can take all the supplements you want but if you’re piling them on top of a shaky foundation, it won’t work. Imbalance in the physical system of self is just where the results show up. Low energy and chronic fatigue also reflect imbalances in our mind, spirit, and heart.