Life is busy, and as we have children, we add more and more to our plate. Many parents are constantly running from work, to pick-up, to home, feeling huge levels of exhaustion that we just have to push through. But is there more to it? Is it more than just feeling exhausted? Have you had unexplained weight loss as well as fatigue, cracks in the corners of your mouth, constipation, even depression and anxiety? All these symptoms can be related to a lack of essential nutrients, but how do you figure out what you are lacking? Where do you start?

Hippocrates, the Greek founder of Western medicine, was a believer that food and exercise could be a person’s medicine. However, many of us do not eat a balanced organic diet, and most of our fresh fruit and vegetables are imported from overseas, losing vital nutrients in the time it takes to get from the field to our plate. Add to that, farmed fish that have high levels of PBCs; USA-raised non-organic pork and beef containing growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics; and many crops (lentils, peas, non-GMO soyabeans, corn, flax, rye, buckwheat, millet, sugar beets, potatoes, wheat and oats) being sprayed with glyphosate which is a controversial herbicide that the world’s leading cancer authority has named as a probable human carcinogen.

Even labels can be hard to decipher – manufacturers are only required to list vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium in their food, so it can be hard to tell whether your food provides sufficient nutrients. The best foods that provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytonutrients do not have a food label – fruits and vegetables! This should be the foundation of every person's diet. Having said that, someone who is vegan must pay extra attention to their diet as they will often require extra supplementation for B12, iron, calcium and vitamin D.

All these genetically modified, hormone and antibiotic-filled foods are safe to eat according to the FDA, but do they contribute to your feelings of tiredness and exhaustion? Some might well think they do. So what to do about it?

Tests You Can Take

Firstly, there is now an interesting test one can take called the SpectraCell Micronutrient Test which measures 31 vitamins, minerals, amino/fatty acids and antioxidants on a cellular level in your blood and will explain which ones you are deficient in. Regardless of how well you eat, some people have what is called a ‘snip’ on their DNA, which means that they cannot absorb a certain vitamin (or two). So, if for example, you have a snip on your DNA which does not allow you to absorb certain B vitamins, which are essential for energy production, then maybe you do need to take supplements to boost what your body is struggling to absorb.

Other Things to Consider

Are you eating a sensible, balanced diet that includes a variety of foods and a good balance of vitamins and minerals? Do you have a diet that is high in sugar? Do you have a limited diet, i.e. you eat the same breakfast every morning with the same exact ingredients? If so, over time, your body is more likely to develop nutritional inadequacies and deficiencies. Do you consume enough fibre? Do you get plenty of sleep and do you drink enough water? All these things are essential in your effort to stay healthy and keep your energy levels up.

Risks of Taking Too Many Vitamins

Please note that there are risks associated with taking too much of any one vitamin or mineral. For example, too much vitamin A can cause frontal headaches, too much zinc can cause nausea and vomiting, too much selenium can cause hair loss and too much vitamin C can cause diarrhoea. Taking Vitamin C at the same time as Vitamin B12 will reduce the amount of B12 that you can absorb, so take them at least two hours apart. Taking too much Vitamin E can lead to increased bleeding and can stop the absorption of Vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting. Then there are well-known contraindications with vitamins interacting with medications. You are strongly advised to talk to a registered dietitian before you jump into taking lots of vitamins and minerals.

Five Routine Blood Tests

  • Routine bloodwork can also help catch issues before they become a problem. The five routine tests include:

  • A broad thyroid panel.

  • Essential nutrients of iron/ferritin, Vitamin D, B12 and Magnesium.

  • A complete metabolic panel and a complete blood count.

  • Measuring your metabolic markers: haemoglobin, fasting glucose and insulin and lipid panel.

  • Inflammatory markers: hsCRP and homocysteine.

Other Things to Think About

If these tests don’t come up with anything significant and you still feel exhausted, then try the following:

1) Get your house checked for mould. It’s a simple and easy process. If you or your children are constantly sick with colds, then secret mould could be the cause.

2) Look at how much exercise you are getting. Everyone needs to move their bodies.

3) Get an allergy panel and/or a food intolerance blood test done. This will show how you develop IgE (antibodies produced by the immune system) with certain foods that you eat. If something comes back showing that your body is producing lots of antibodies when you eat potatoes or eggs, for example, that could well be the reason you are feeling so exhausted.

4) Take a look at your diet and analyse your food choices before you jump into taking supplements. Taking a supplement isn't always the most effective long-term solution.

However, if you have reviewed your diet and you are drinking enough water, eating sufficient calories, and adequately balancing quality proteins and healthy fats with fibre-rich carbohydrates, but still need that energy boost, an active B-complex that provides methylcobalamin can be helpful. So could magnesium, as it's involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body.

If you are pregnant then it is definitely recommended that you speak to your doctor before starting any new supplements. Generally, a high-quality prenatal vitamin can be helpful as a pregnant woman's body needs more of everything – calories, protein, calcium, iron, zinc and B vitamins, for instance. Omega-3 can also be helpful for a baby's brain development.

How to Start a Good Supplements Routine

Start with your doctor or a natural healthcare provider like a registered dietitian or a holistic nutrition educator. They can study what you are eating, recommend tests and then build a plan for you that can help lift the fog, feel healthier and less tired as you continue your busy life.

Where to Buy Vitamins & Minerals

In Cayman, you are really spoiled for choice in where to buy vitamins and minerals as all the supermarkets and pharmacies sell a selection. GNC has two locations (Queens Court and Countryside) and Island Naturals in Coconut Village sells them as well. GNC and Island Naturals also sell sports nutrition products, as do the gyms.

Injectable Vitamins & Supplements

NAD or Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide IV therapy can help stimulate cell regeneration in your body. Our natural levels of NAD decline as we age, so replenishing them may help clear brain fog, increase mental clarity and metabolic function, boost energy, memory and concentration, improve athletic performance, create a superior immune system, detox and cleanse and support addiction recovery.

IV therapy allows you to inject vitamins and minerals directly into your bloodstream, bypassing the normal process of digestion and absorption through the gastrointestinal tract. IV drips deliver a higher concentration of certain vitamins and minerals into the bloodstream at a quicker rate. Popular options include vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin B shots. All of the above IV therapies are available at Pensum Regenerative Medicine (Tel: (345) 949 8676).

Nutritionists & Dietitians

Going to talk to a dietitian or holistic nutrition professional can often be the best money you can spend! They can explore what you are eating, discern what you might be lacking and make invaluable suggestions. Cayman Medical Group has a dietitian on staff every Saturday, and Seven Mile Medical Clinic, the Cayman Islands Hospital and Total Health all have Registered Dieticians on staff. Or you can contact Holistic Nutrition Educator Andrea Hill BCHN MSc on (345) 938 4246.