From time to time, we all feel tired. Not enough sleep, working too hard or under too much stress can cause tiredness, yet sometimes, an underlying issue may need to be addressed.
Nutrition can be a crucial factor in unexplained tiredness and fatigue. You may be consuming the right vitamins and minerals, but your body isn’t absorbing them properly. You could also be missing some of the essential nutrients needed to maintain a healthy body.
We will delve deeper into the reasons you could be feeling tired in this article. Keep reading to find the answer to why you’re feeling sluggish!
What is fatigue?
Fatigue is a term used to describe feeling tired with a lack of energy.1 Lethargy, lack of motivation, drowsiness, and apathy are all symptoms of fatigue that can be pretty draining and frustrating. If you are struggling to get through the day, you may be suffering from fatigue!
Fatigue and feeling sleepy are not the same thing.1 That lack of energy and motivation is a key factor of fatigue and differentiates it from simple tiredness.
Why you might be tired all the time
Fatigue can be caused by an underlying health condition, a virus or infection, lack of exercise, consistent lack of nutrition or depression.2
Underlying health conditions that could be causing you to feel so tired include anaemia, an under-active thyroid, sleep apnoea, pregnancy, obesity or being overweight.3 If you are concerned about falling into one of these categories, contact your GP as soon as possible.
How can my diet make me tired?
Let’s delve deeper into why a lack of nutrition may be causing fatigue. Our body needs six essential nutrients to perform correctly. These are water, vitamins, minerals, fat, protein and carbohydrates.4 If you are missing any of these essential nutrients from your diet, your body is missing a vital part of what keeps it going.
13 vitamins are essential for bodily functions - A, C, D, E, K, B6, B12, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin and folate.5 All of these are available through your diet, although if you struggle to meet these needs with food and drink, you can take them in supplement form.
Minerals are also part of the 6 essential nutrients, and there are a fair few you must consume to stay fit and healthy. Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, sulfur, cobalt, copper, fluoride, manganese, and selenium are all essential minerals for the body.6
If you are missing any of these vital nutrients, it’s pretty likely you’ll feel tired. Your body will have to work much harder if it lacks what it needs to thrive and survive.
You will consume most of these vitamins, minerals and other nutrients without realising it. If you suspect you are low in any particular vitamin or mineral, you can do a blood test to find out.
What can cause chronic fatigue?
Whilst acute fatigue will usually go away by treating the underlying cause, chronic fatigue syndrome is a long-term condition with no known cure that can be really life-changing for some. It can limit physical, social and mental capacity dramatically.7
Chronic fatigue syndrome is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME/CFS.8 Chronic fatigue syndrome can be treated with CBT therapy, energy management or medication to help with pain and sleeping issues.9
Best vitamins and minerals for tiredness
Although all essential nutrients are necessary to avoid tiredness and fatigue, a few vitamins and minerals are crucial for boosting those energy levels and avoiding issues.
B Vitamins are particularly important, specifically B6 and B12. These are primarily found in animal flesh and products. Although there are small amounts of B12 in some fruits and vegetables, it is reasonably hard to get enough B6 and B12 in your diet just by eating greens.10 Taking a B12 supplement can ensure you do not become deficient.
Vitamin C is a fantastic antioxidant that boosts the immune system and is a vital energy source. Citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, blackcurrants, potatoes and peppers all contain vitamin C, although this can also be taken as a supplement if these foods don’t tickle your pickle.11
Vitamin D is vital for many bodily functions, including how much energy we have. The NHS recommends that everybody takes a vitamin D supplement containing 10mcg through autumn and winter in the UK due to sunlight being the best source of vitamin D.12 The UK isn’t the sunniest place during those months, and a vitamin D supplement can be bought at any pharmacy or supermarket.
Iron is essential for creating red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body. If your iron levels are low, tiredness or fatigue is pretty much a guaranteed side effect. Low iron levels can cause anaemia, so consuming enough is extremely important!
Fortified breakfast cereals, red meat, liver, nuts, dried fruits and beans all contain iron, or it can be taken as a daily supplement.13
Magnesium ensures your body can convert food into energy, so if you don’t have enough, you won’t have enough energy. Fish, nuts, dairy products, whole grains and dark leafy greens all contain magnesium.14 Like the other essential nutrients, it can also be taken as a supplement.
If you’re concerned about chronic fatigue or constant tiredness, make sure you contact your health provider. Blood tests can help to rule out underlying health issues and send you on the right track for treatment.
Feeling tired can really get in the way of life, so don’t suffer without asking for help! If the cure is so simple as adjusting your diet or adding a supplement, what have you got to lose?