Amidst endless to-do lists, long commutes and juggling work and family commitments, it’s no surprise that many of us can experience tiredness and fatigue from time to time. But what if that lack of energy isn’t cured by a balanced diet and some much-needed sleep?
Whilst certain medical conditions such as an underactive thyroid, diabetes and chronic fatigue syndrome can cause tiredness, there are increasingly common nutritional deficiencies which are often overlooked - and may be causing many of us to feel exhausted without us even realising.
Vitamin B12 and iron deficiency are two very common causes of tiredness, especially amongst women, vegetarians and vegans.
Energy hero – Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is essential for our bodies to function both physically and mentally, yet so many of us know so little about it and more worryingly, are unaware if we are deficient.
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal food products such as;
Once consumed it is released from food by our stomach acid, before it combines with a protein called intrinsic factor and is absorbed in the small intestine. From here, it works on providing you with healthy red blood cells, providing normal energy metabolism, and ensuring the brain and nervous system are working effectively.
Contributing to the normal function of the nervous and immune systems, low levels of vitamin B12 can cause a whole host of symptoms including; low mood, irritability, fatigue, clumsiness, poor memory function, pins and needles in the hands and feet… the list goes on.
Whilst it’s supply is clearly crucial to us, Vitamin B12 has been found to be notoriously difficult to absorb through the diet alone – especially for those who follow a plant-based diet.
Energy hero – Iron
Just as critical to human life, iron plays a central role in the formation of red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body. In addition to this, iron functions in several key enzymes involved in energy production and metabolism.
Despite the importance of sufficient iron consumption, iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the UK and worldwide. Those most at risk are infants under the age of two, teenage girls, women of childbearing age, pregnant women and the elderly. Inadequate dietary intake of iron is also extremely common in vegans and vegetarians.
Symptoms such as tiredness, lack of energy, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and having paler skin than normal could all be signs of iron deficiency.