Can Multivitamins Help With COPD-Related Fatigue?
A common complaint for people with COPD is a lack of energy. This symptom sometimes improves with treatment, but in some people, the lethargy prevails even after optimization on various therapies. This fatigue can make it difficult to perform basic tasks such as cleaning, climbing the stairs, or cooking.
A common question I receive at the pharmacy is whether multivitamins can provide energy. People may feel tired and are looking for an over-the-counter option to give them an energy boost. Other people may feel like they are missing a nutrient from their diet and supplementing with that nutrient will enhance their energy.
What is the association between COPD and fatigue?
There is an association between COPD and fatigue, and a further association between fatigue and the degree of COPD severity. Biologically, there are various reasons why this occurs; the underlying cause is reduced airflow to the lungs resulting in less available oxygen to the body. Low oxygen levels contribute to the feeling of fatigue.1-2
Before concluding whether multivitamins can be a source of energy, we must first identify what multivitamins are composed of. Most multivitamins, regardless of brand, contain the same nutrients. These include:3
- Vitamin C
- B Vitamins (such as B12)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Calcium & magnesium
The dose of a nutrient may be higher or lower depending on the target population of the multivitamin. For example, multivitamins aimed at women over the age of 50 usually contain more vitamin D and calcium since women are at a higher risk of bone loss as they age.3
Can multivitamins provide energy?
For most people who eat a well-balanced diet, multivitamins will likely not provide direct energy. There are circumstances where someone could be deficient in a nutrient in which the deficiency results in symptoms of fatigue. For example, low iron levels can result in anemia, where fatigue is one of the most common symptoms. B12 deficiency can also manifest with symptoms of low energy.4-5
However, overall, the dose of these nutrients found in a multivitamin is considered low and not enough to correct a true deficiency. If your doctor has run some tests and identified that you are deficient in iron, for example, they would likely recommend an iron supplement, which has a much higher concentration of iron than that found in a multivitamin.
Should you take a multivitamin?
Even though multivitamins are available without a prescription, it is a good idea to consult with your physician before taking one. Overall, multivitamins do not provide a direct source of energy and may not reduce symptoms of fatigue if you have no underlying deficiencies.
Of note, multivitamins can also have drug-drug interactions. This may also include your short-term medications such as antibiotics. For example, if you are prescribed levofloxacin (Levaquin) to treat a COPD exacerbation, be cautious in that you have to space this drug from multivitamins by at least 2 hours. If you decide to use a multivitamin, ask your pharmacist if there are any interactions.6
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