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The Futile Search for the Mix of Vitamins as the Silver Bullet for Fatigue

If there were a way of fixing up a medicinal compound that worked to enhanced physical and cognitive performance for everyone, some drug companies would have created the magic pill long ago. Like how we all come in different shapes and sizes, each individual has a unique profile in responding to naturally-occurring or synthetic substances. There are many variables such as drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination (ADME) at stake to produce meaningful results of health change. The following is a brief description of each ADME stage of drug movement within the body:

Absorption
First, the individual has to take or use the drug where the active ingredient becomes absorbed through organs like the small intestine (most drugs), lungs (inhalers), skin (topicals), and mouth (dissolvable tablets). Gastrointestinal issues, chronic asthma, and even dry mouth can prevent the proper absorption of ever making into the body in the first place.

Distribution
Once the drug has entered systemically, it has to circulate through the bloodstream. Some drug molecules latch onto blood proteins and hence remain within the bloodstream compared to others that don’t. People with a higher body fat percentage tend to store a higher amount of fat-soluble drugs and vitamins (A, D, E, and K) within areas of the body.

Metabolism
Chemical processes take place to “activate” a drug circulating within the body to exert therapeutic effects. Key players known as the “enzymes” are biological agents within the body that speeds up these chemical reactions for the drug to work. Genetics and ethnic differences have a role in determining the level of activity for a specific group of enzymes that metabolizes certain drugs (Horn, 2008). And after a drug becomes “active,” it needs to become inactive so as not to exert action for too long.

Elimination
A drug taken will eventually need to be cleared out through the kidneys or intestines to make way for the next dose. Chronic kidney disease is a condition that can prevent the adequate elimination of medications leaving the body as urine. When the drug is allowed to build up systemically, it can lead to severe side effects.

Hopefully, it becomes clear how “Results May Vary” after taking vitamins when considering the ADME process.

The motivation of taking vitamins is many, but it is safe to say the common reasons include to prevent fatigue, feel more energetic, and avoid illness. Before you jump into deciding which vitamins would work best for you, consider the following questions:

  • Do you have any underlying health conditions that are associated with fatigue?
  • Have you been stressed in life or at work more than usual lately?
  • Are you having issues with going to bed in time and setting a sleep schedule?
  • Is the lack of physical activity contributing to your feeling of inactivity and tiredness?
  • Does your diet have anything to do with your fatigue?

If you answer “Yes” to any of the above, then you might want to think about discussing with your healthcare provider on plans to improve your daily habits. One is “sleep hygiene” in the effort to improve your sleep environment. One recommendation is that the room you sleep in should be dark and quiet without distractions, such as browsing the Internet on your mobile device. The second recommendation is to prepare to have a discussion with your primary care doctor on whether you are affected by a health condition that needs addressing. The last is considering whether there is a personal or work-related aspect of your life that has to do something with fatigue. Working too much and too hard is a recipe for burnout.

No amount of vitamins can permanently alleviate a health situation. Some vitamins and supplements are labeled “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” After all, the drug product is tested and made for everyone, and there may be cases where the drug is ineffective for certain groups of the population. Knowing thyself and the questions to ask your doctor or other healthcare providers can provide insight into alternatives, even homeopathic ones, other than the mythical silver bullet.


References

Horn, J. R. (2008). Get to know an enzyme: CYP2D6. Retrieved from https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2008/2008-07/2008-07-8624

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