It has long been said that the human body is so complex that it would be impossible to create it from scratch. Everything is designed to work in perfect harmony, every muscle and ligament, every nerve and synapse, everything down to the way that the body extracts vitamins and minerals from food in order to keep itself working at a premium.
While we are all aware of how having a well-balanced diet can help us feel our best, it is also important to not underestimate what happens when our bodies are not getting the nutrients that they need. In this article we are going to have a very brief look at the most common deficiencies that can make us feel less than our best and how the symptoms can often manifest in ways that affect our mental wellbeing.
One of the main culprits of feeling extreme exhaustion is a deficiency in iron. This mineral is present in our blood and is concerned with our red blood cells- the part of the blood which carries oxygen around the body. A significant decrease in blood oxygen levels can make us feel cold, jittery, weak, persistently tired and headachy, many of the symptoms of which can overlap with depression and generalised anxiety. Those on a vegan or vegetarian diet can sometimes find themselves with anaemia- which occurs when there is a lack of healthy red blood cells- as a result of not enough dietary iron, though this problem is not always restricted to non-meat eaters.
B12 is another vitamin often associated with veganism and those following a vegan diet are commonly warned of the risks of not getting enough as it is usually derived from red meat and eggs. Many vegan milks and similar products however are fortified with B12 and so strangely vegans are not always the ones who fall victim to this deficiency, purely as they are generally more aware of how much they are getting and often use products that have it added in.
A deficiency or a level in the body that is even borderline deficient in B12 can manifest in very low energy, low mood, limb numbness, trouble with balance, cognitive difficulties and an extreme physical lethargy. In other words, it can often present very much like some of the symptoms of depression, M.E or chronic fatigue. Some people describe feeling as though they are underwater, others with a feeling of helplessness as life feels impossibly exhausting and they find even basic tasks hard to tackle.
Vitamin D, the so-called ‘sunshine vitamin’ is another which when we don’t have enough of, can make us feel more tired than usual, cause respiratory issues and make our bones and muscles weak. While the amount we generally need to keep us feeling strong and healthy is around a mere 20 minutes of direct sunlight a day, many of us are managing to not get even that minimal amount. When we consider that a vast number of us now work either from home or in an office environment, often travelling by car to get there, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that it is easy to spend a whole day without being in direct sunlight. Repeat this on a regular basis and there is a risk of your vit d levels dropping dramatically.
While luckily many of us are now much more clued up about the signs and symptoms of mental health it is important to first eliminate the physical side of things when we are feeling out of sorts. A simple blood test either from your GP or via a self-testing kit such as those at Holland and Barrett can help rule out a biological problem. Deficiencies can usually be easily fixed with supplementation, diet and lifestyle adjustments and in the more extreme cases a simple series of injections. The changes from adjusting vitamin levels can have a fast and very profound effect and are well worth exploring if you suspect you are feeling the symptoms of poor mental health because of your diet.
If you feel however that your mood is not related to diet or deficiencies there is also a chance that it is your mental health that needs attending to. If you feel this may be the case why not make an appointment with The Henry Centre where a professional counsellor can help you explore where this lethargy and low mood is coming from.