Almost everyone experiences feelings of fatigue from time to time, whether due to being overworked, worried or not getting enough sleep. While it has many causes, researchers have examined the role deficiencies of vitamin D3, the "sunlight vitamin," might play in developing fatigue, and the benefits of vitamin D supplementation on reducing symptoms of fatigue. Consult your doctor before using any dietary supplement.
The Sunlight Vitamin
Vitamin D occurs in many forms. Vitamin D3 is a form of vitamin D, known as the "sunlight" vitamin because your skin manufactures it in response to exposure to ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays from the sun. Vitamin D is also present in eggs, fortified foods like milk and fatty fish like salmon. A deficiency of vitamin D, also known as hypovitaminosis D, can occur when you don't receive enough sun exposure or do not obtain adequate amounts of vitamin D from dietary sources. Deficiencies can result in a condition known as rickets, which causes weak bones and pain. Additionally, some research has associated vitamin D deficiencies with cognitive problems, depression, which can cause fatigue, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
About Fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Fatigue can occur for a number of reasons. According to the Mayo Clinic, fatigue often occurs due to stress, depression, excessive caffeine use, lack of sleep and unhealthy eating habits. While occasional feelings of fatigue are common, persistent, debilitating symptoms of fatigue may be a sign of chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by severe fatigue, sleep that doesn't help you feel rested, mood changes, muscle aches and pains and low grade fever. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, taking a vitamin D supplement may help chronic fatigue syndrome, since low levels of vitamin D can cause your symptoms to become worse.
A study published in the December 2006 issue of the "American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry" showed that older adults with vitamin D deficiency had a high prevalence of mood disorders like depression, and impaired cognitive functioning. Another study,published in the September 2010 issue of the "Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care," a professional, peer-reviewed medical journal, showed that study participants with complaints of musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and headache had a high prevalence of hypovitaminosis D. In the June 2007 issue of "Nutrition in Clinical Practice," researchers from the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Boston University Medical Center suggest that vitamin D deficiency may play an important role in the development of disorders like chronic fatigue syndrome, and that deficiency can be prevented by "sensible sun exposure and adequate dietary intake with supplementation."
While vitamin D may help symptoms of fatigue, you should not use dietary supplements to self-treat your condition. Chronic, persistent fatigue can be a sign of a several underlying medical conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic. Consult your doctor if your symptoms do not resolve despite attempts to obtain adequate rest, reduce stress and improve your diet. Inform your doctor if you choose to use a vitamin D supplement.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- "Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care"; Vitamin D Status in Patients with Musculoskeletal Pain, Fatigue and Headache: A Cross-sectional Descriptive Study in a Multi-ethnic General Practice in Norway; K.V. Knutsen, et al; September 2010
- "Nutrition in Clinical Practice"; Vitamin D and Rehabilitation: Improving Functional Outcomes; L. Shinchuk and M. Holick; June 2007
- "American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry"; Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Low Mood and Worse Cognitive Performance in Older Adults; C. Wilkens, et al; December 2006