“It wasn’t merely fatigue. although it continued to worry me how tired I was all the time. I had a strange sense of missing something, of being in the wrong place – no matter where I was.” ~ Josh Lanyon
Can I just start by saying that if you are exhausted all the time, if you are sleeping excessively, if you have trouble with waking up and struggle with staying awake, please, please go and see somebody about it.
There are so many medical things for which a key symptom is the patient ‘feeling tired all the time’, and lots of them are relatively straightforward to fix.
I say this because I struggled with excessive sleeping and tiredness for a long, long time; but every time I thought about going and getting myself checked out someone would scoff at me, tell me there was nothing wrong with me, that I’d be wasting the doctor’s time, that they’d laugh at me, that I just needed to have more self-discipline.
And they were wrong.
So very, very wrong.
I’ve had so many illnesses that have contributed to my chronic lack of energy.
The latest of which has been identified as a severe vitamin D deficiency.
So, you remember a few months ago I talked about being diagnosed with hypothyroidism?
Well, I started taking the pills for that and after a few weeks I saw a dramatic improvement in my energy levels and cognitive functioning. I felt like I was finally firing on all cylinders for the first time in as long as I can remember.
Only it didn’t last.
Just another few weeks later I was struggling to stay awake, to find words, and to ride a train of thought the whole way through to the end.
So, I went back to the doctor, got another blood test, and was told that there was only the barest trace of vitamin D in my system.
And the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are:
- muscle/joint pain or weakness
- bone pain
- excessive sweating
- depression – I’d always suspected that I had seasonal effectiveness disorder as my moods are worse without light
- and, you guessed it, tiredness or fatigue
So, now I have another daily pill to take. Plus a weekly one. For the next three months at least, then I need to have another blood test to make sure that my levels have normalised. Even so they said I might have to then stay on a maintenance dose because the vitamin D deficiency is likely to be connected to the hypothyroidism. And I’m stuck with the hypothyroidism for life.
The pills are vitamin D supplements.
I take 800 units daily, and a larger dose of 20,000 units every Wednesday.
I’m starting to see some improvement but I’m told it could take the whole three-month course of treatment before I see any significant improvement.
Which is annoying.
But, hey ho.
It’s better than ignoring the problem and going on to develop brittle bones that break all the time, or living with an increased risk of developing some cancers and multiple sclerosis*.
What I’ve learnt though is that this is another wide-spread and undiagnosed problem.
The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 1 in 7 of the global population could be deficient in vitamin D, that’s over a billion people.
And not just those of us living in countries where we currently have the central heating turned on when it’s supposed to be summer.
Those living in sunnier climes are also at risk due to the effectiveness of campaigns about the risks of skin cancer from over exposure to the sun’s UVB rays. This has led to people plastering on high factor sun screen every time they go outside. Meaning that not even the amount of UVB rays that they need to catch to make their daily quotient of vitamin D can get through.
It is suggested that the amount of suncreen-less time the average adult needs to spend in the sun to reach their recommended daily intake of vitamin D is half the time it would take that person’s skin to begin to burn.
Other people who tend to have low vitamin D levels are; people who aren’t exposed to much sun because they either cover their skin when they go out or spend a lot of time indoors; people who are very over weight – vitamin D is fat soluble; and people with darker skin – as the protection that their colouring affords brown and black people from the harmful effects of the sun also reduces their ability to convert its UVB rays into vitamin D.
For those who unable to get enough vitamin D from the sun for whatever reason there are also food sources.
- oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, or trout
- fortified milk, cereals, or orange juice – check the label before buying
- egg yolks
- liver – particularly beef liver, in fact liver has so much vitamin D it’s recommended you only eat it once a week
- cod liver oil
And if you still can’t get enough through your diet you may need to take supplements.
You don’t need to get these from a doctor, they’ve available over the counter in pharmacies and in supermarkets. They’re cheaper than the cost of a prescription as well. The off brand bottle of tablets my chemist sells is something like £1.59 for 50 tablets.
So, there you go. Something else you may want to look into.