Research & Education

Identifying Nutrient Deficiencies in Patients with Chronic Fatigue

Nutrition provides the foundational blocks for body processes and as such, it plays a key role in preventing and mitigating disease. Identifying common nutritional deficiencies in a particular disease, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, provides a rubric for creating a supportive protocol for those who have the disease.

While the etiology of chronic fatigue syndrome remains elusive, there is likely a connection between mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and inflammation. Therefore, nutrients associated with oxidative balance and mitochondrial health provide promising places to start for identifying potential nutrient deficiencies underlying this disorder. The nutrient deficiencies currently associated with mitochondrial dysfunction and/or chronic fatigue syndrome include:

In practice, testing for and identifying these potential nutrient deficiencies may help tailor a nutritional approach supporting the management of chronic fatigue syndrome. Supplementation may provide an important tool to counter the role such a deficiency may play. While research remains limited, there are some promising studies.

In one study, taking a multivitamin, multi-mineral supplement for 2 months led to significant improvement in fatigue, sleep, autonomic nervous system, headaches, and antioxidant capacity in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. The supplement used in the study was a widely available supplement containing most of the commonly supplemented vitamins and minerals, including those discussed above, but it did not contain carnitine, tryptophan, essential fatty acids, ribose, or CoQ10.

Another study using a supplement containing a B-complex, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, MSM, alpha-keto glutaric acid, l-carnitine, l-tyrosine, and NT Factor, the source of many of these vitamins and minerals as well as beneficial bacteria phospholipids such as phosphatidylcholine. After just one week, the participants experienced a 35.4 percent reduction in their fatigue levels as well as improved markers for mitochondrial health. Studies have also found benefits from carnitine, NADH, CoQ10, D-ribose, vitamin B-12, and essential fatty acid supplementation.

While getting these nutrients from food may provide additional nutrients and phytochemicals that support mitochondrial health, oxidative balance, and other body processes, those with chronic fatigue syndrome may require more than they can get from food. Turning to nutritional supplements provides one way to boost intake of these key nutrients and potentially help the management of fatigue and other symptoms.

By Kendra Whitmire, MS, CNS