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Your body depends on optimal levels of vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients to run its metabolic pathways, or the biochemical reactions that produce energy. That’s why one of the primary fatigue causes in Western cultures is a poor diet. Most people are simply not eating the types or quantities of fruits, vegetables, and healthy meats and fats to produce the needed nutritional boost to prevent fatigue.
Primarily, your body needs four chief nutrients to sustain your energy levels throughout the day:
Fatigue Causes: Lack of Vitamin B12
B vitamins are often referred to as the “energy vitamins” because they help your body’s natural process of obtaining energy from the food you eat. When consumed, they literally provide your body with a “boost” of energy. But among all the B vitamins, none is more critical when it comes to fighting fatigue than B12.
A deficiency in B12 can occur gradually over a period of years. At first, you may not notice any effects other than simple day-to-day fatigue. But, over time, the severity of the deficiency worsens, and can lead to further symptoms: lightheadedness, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, depression, headaches, obsessive-compulsive behavior, irritability, and impotence. Reversing vitamin B12 deficiency as soon as possible is vital for improved energy and overall health and wellness.
Fatigue Causes: Lack of Magnesium
Magnesium is another key nutrient, participating in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It plays a critical role for the energy metabolism in every cell. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to fibromyalgia (muscle fatigue), chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal fatigue.
- Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome: If you suffer from fibromyalgia or chronic pain in addition to fatigue, a magnesium deficiency could be the reason why. Muscles require magnesium for proper functioning, so a lack of this important mineral often results in muscle pains and aches as well as generalized weakness and malaise.
- Adrenal fatigue: Additionally, having a sufficient intake of magnesium is needed for adrenal recovery. Besides being exhausted, if you feel chronically stressed, a lack of magnesium could be taxing your adrenal glands. Often, magnesium is referred to as the “relaxation mineral” because it has a calming effect on the body; this is due to its ability to boost adrenal function. Simply put, magnesium acts like a spark plug for the adrenal glands.
Up to half of Americans are deficient in this important mineral and they don’t even know it. What’s more, you are unlikely to know if a lack of magnesium is the root cause of your fatigue because most doctors do not notice the symptoms of magnesium deficiency and they rarely even look for it! So, how can you know if you’re deficient in magnesium? Aside from low energy levels, see if you have any of the other magnesium deficiency symptoms here: What You Must Know About Low Magnesium Symptoms.
Fatigue Causes: Lack of Iron
According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the number one nutritional disorder in the world. And, fatigue is often the first symptom of this deficiency (also known as iron-deficiency anemia). Aside from fatigue and loss of energy, symptoms of iron deficiency include weakness, brittle fingernails or toenails, and poor appetite. Severe iron-deficiency anemia sometimes causes craving for strange items such as dirt or plastic. And, like B vitamins, iron plays an important role as a co-factor for the synthesis of serotonin. This means having low iron levels can lead to depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
Fatigue Causes: Lack of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Do you feel sleepy and forgetful? If so, you may not be getting an adequate daily intake of omega-3’s. Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that your body requires for proper growth and development, and normal brain function. Your body cannot produce these fats, so you must obtain them from the food you eat. If you are deficient in omega-3 fats, aside from feeling tired and having memory problems, you may experience dry skin, mood swings and depression, immune system weakness (sick all the time), hair loss, and poor circulation.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s time to start increasing your consumption of foods high in omega-3’s or begin taking fish oil capsules. Aside from reversing fatigue and memory issues, getting enough omega-3s can also reduce inflammation, decrease joint pain, fight obesity, reduce exercise-induced asthma, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
8 Energy Boosting Foods & Beverages to Naturally Fight Fatigue
Now that you know which nutrient deficiencies are the primary fatigue causes, it’s time to discover the foods that are highest in these nutrients. So, instead of reaching for a dangerous energy drink or soda, try boosting your energy levels with these 8 energy boosting foods and beverages.
For related reading, visit these posts:
- Iron Deficient But Not Anemic: A Simple Solution for Fatigue
- The Role of Inflammation in Fatigue
- Low Energy Causes May Be Rooted in These 3 Nutritional Deficiencies
This article was originally published in 2013. It is regularly updated.