Feeling Run Down? It Might Be a Vitamin Deficiency

Are you feeling tired and run down? Have you stopped doing some of your normal activities like cleaning or gardening or taking a walk because it’s just too much of an effort? It’s time for a visit to the doctor to find out what’s going on. It might be something as simple as a vitamin deficiency, which is usually easily corrected. And if there’s a serious underlying issue, it’s better to find out sooner than later so your doctor can treat you quickly and get you back on your feet.

Family practitioner Dr. Philip Baldeo encourages all his patients to make an appointment for an annual physical exam to ensure their good health. One of the things he checks for during the exam is vitamin deficiencies. Here are two common deficiencies he’ll look for: 

1. Vitamin D

If you’re feeling tired all the time, it could be something as simple as not getting enough vitamin D. This vitamin is essential to building strong bones, but scientists estimate that over one billion people worldwide don’t get enough of it. Up to three-quarters of older adults in America may be deficient in vitamin D because, as you age, your ability to absorb vitamins decreases. 

Vitamin D has been called the ‘sunshine’ vitamin because when your skin absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet light, your body begins to manufacture this important vitamin. 

However, several factors can converge to limit your vitamin D exposure. First, if you live in a northern climate, your body doesn’t produce much vitamin D during the winter months because you’re covered head to toe in hats, scarves, coats, and boots. Next, carbon particles in the air from fossil fuel pollution diminish UVB rays. And if your skin is dark, you’ll need more exposure to UVB than lighter-skinned people for your body to produce the same amount of vitamin D. One remedy is to go out in the sun more. And while you should always wear some sunscreen to protect from harmful rays, most people don’t wear enough of it to block enough of UVB light to interfere with vitamin D production.

Aside from sunshine, other sources of vitamin D include fortified dairy products and cereals and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout. Still, it’s usually difficult to get all the vitamin D you need from your food. Cod liver oil may make a resurgence as people become more aware of the effect of diet on health. One tablespoon contains more vitamin D than the daily requirement. 

The recommended vitamin D intake is normally 600-800 IUs (international units) daily, but experts also say that getting between 1000 and 2000 IUs a day from a supplement should be safe. 

Blood tests can reveal vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Dr. Baldeo includes blood testing as part of every annual physical exam and orders a blood test if you come in complaining of feeling constant fatigue in the interim. If he finds that you’re extremely low in vitamin D, he may give you an injection to boost your levels and recommend that you take a daily supplement.   

Vitamin B-12

Another essential vitamin that can cause fatigue if you’re not getting enough of it is B-12. This vitamin is critical for proper brain and nervous system function, it helps build red blood cells, and it helps the body use iron. Lack of red blood and an inability to use iron both contribute to fatigue. Unlike vitamin D, however, your body can’t produce vitamin B-12, so you have to get it either from foods or supplements. 

Shellfish such as clams or oysters, beef, and liver are great sources of B-12, and milk is a moderate source. If you don’t consume any of these foods, it’s important to take a daily supplement to ensure you’re getting the amount of B-12 that your body needs, although supplements are generally not as effective as natural sources.

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you’re more at risk of a vitamin B-12 deficiency because animal foods are the major source of this vitamin. In fact, scientists estimate that the majority of those who don’t eat any animal products are likely deficient in B-12. However, all is not lost. You can still obtain healthy levels of vitamin B-12 from breakfast cereals, meat substitutes, rice, nutritional yeast, leafy greens, and energy bars.

If Dr. Baldeo determines you can’t get enough of the vitamin from what you eat, he may opt to give you an injection or infusion.

If you’re feeling sluggish or chronically tired, call our office or book an appointment online with Dr. Baldeo today. Vitamin deficiencies are easily treated, and we can help you quickly get back to your active life.

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