You may believe that vitamin and mineral deficits are exclusively suffered by sailors on long sea trips. Even today, it is possible to be deficient in some of the critical nutrients your body requires to function properly.
“Nutrient deficiencies alter bodily functions and processes at the most basic cellular level,” explains Tricia L. Psota, Ph.D., RDN, a Quakertown, Pennsylvania-based partner at Nutrition On Demand. “Water balance, enzyme function, nerve signaling, digestion, and metabolism are examples of these processes.” It is critical to address these deficits in order to achieve optimal growth, development, and function.”
Diseases can also be caused by nutrient shortages. “For example, calcium and vitamin D deficiencies can cause osteopenia or osteoporosis, two conditions marked by brittle bones,” explains Kate Patton, RD, a nutritionist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “Inadequate iron can also lead to anemia, which saps your energy.”
According to Patton, telltale signs are generally the first indication that you are deficient in one or more key vitamins or minerals. Here are seven typical vitamin deficits explained.
1. Calcium: Numbness, tingling fingers, and irregular heartbeat
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), calcium is essential for keeping healthy bones as well as managing muscle and nerve function. According to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms of significantly low calcium include numb, tingling fingers and irregular heart rhythms. However, there are no clear short-term signs of calcium shortage.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most individuals require 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day, with women over 50 and men over 70 requiring 1,200 mg. According to Patton, at least three servings of milk or yogurt each day should suffice. Calcium is also found in calcium-fortified plant-based milk and breakfast cereal (check the nutrition facts label to see if calcium has been added), as well as dark leafy greens like kale and broccoli, according to the National Institutes of Health.
2. Vitamin D: Fatigue, Bone Pain, Mood Shifts, and Other Side Effects
According to the Cleveland Clinic, this vitamin is also important for bone health and may help prevent some malignancies. Symptoms of vitamin D insufficiency might be ambiguous, including weariness, bone discomfort, mood swings, and muscular pains or weakness.
“Long-term vitamin D deficiency can result in bone softening,” Dr. Psota explains. Long-term deficiency may also be connected to cancer and autoimmune illnesses, according to Michelle Zive, Ph.D., a nutrition consultant in San Diego.
According to the NIH, most individuals require 15 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D per day, while adults over the age of 70 require 20 mcg. Patton recommends three cups of fortified milk or yogurt every day, as well as two servings of fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna, twice a week, as they are vitamin D-rich meals. Spend time outside in the sun every day as well, as this is a good source of vitamins. Dr. Zive recommends 10 to 30 minutes of direct sunshine exposure a few times each week. However, the NIH warns that getting your vitamin D needs simply through food and time in the sun can be difficult, and that for many individuals, a supplement is frequently the best option to satisfy daily requirements.
3. Potassium: Muscle weakness, constipation, irregular heartbeat, and other symptoms
According to MedlinePlus, potassium helps your heart, nerves, and muscles perform properly and also supplies nutrition to cells while eliminating waste. Furthermore, it is a beneficial vitamin that helps to counteract the harmful effects of salt on blood pressure: “It’s important for maintaining healthy blood pressure,” explains Zive.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you might become potassium deficient in the short term due to diarrhea or vomiting; excessive sweating; antibiotics, laxatives, or diuretics; excessive alcohol intake; or a chronic illness such as renal disease. According to MedlinePlus, symptoms of a deficit include muscular weakness, twitches, or cramps; constipation; tingling and numbness; and an irregular heart rhythm or palpitations.
Try bananas, milk, acorn squash, lentils, kidney beans, and other legumes for natural potassium supplies. According to the NIH, adult men require 3,400 mg per day, while women require 2,600 mg.
4. Iron: Tiredness, shortness of breath, cold hands and feet, brittle nails, and other symptoms
According to UCSF Health, iron is required for the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body. When iron levels go too low, there may be a shortage of red blood cells, leading in anemia. Menstruating women, developing persons (such as youngsters and pregnant women), and those following a vegan or vegetarian diet are among those at heightened risk of iron deficiency, according to Zive.
According to the Mayo Clinic, anemia can cause symptoms such as weakness and exhaustion, shortness of breath, a rapid heartbeat, pale complexion, headache, chilly hands and feet, a painful or swollen tongue, brittle nails, and cravings for unusual items such as dirt. The symptoms may be so minor at first that you don’t notice anything is amiss, but they will get more acute as iron supplies diminish.
Patton suggests consuming iron-fortified cereal, meat, oysters, beans (particularly lima, navy, and kidney beans), lentils, and spinach to increase iron levels. According to the NIH, adult males and women over the age of 50 require 8 mg per day, whereas adult women under the age of 50 require 18 mg per day.
5. Vitamin B12: Numbness, Fatigue, Swollen Tongue, and Other Side Effects
According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin B12 assists in the formation of red blood cells and DNA, as well as improving neurotransmitter function. According to Harvard Health Publishing, vegetarians and vegans are especially vulnerable to vitamin B12 deficiency because plants do not produce the nutrient, and people who have had weight loss surgery may also be deficient because the procedure makes it difficult for the body to extract the nutrient from food.
According to Harvard, symptoms of severe B12 deficiency include tingling in the legs, hands, or feet; difficulties walking and balancing; anemia; exhaustion; weakness; a swollen, irritated tongue; memory loss, and trouble thinking. These symptoms can appear suddenly or gradually, and because they are so diverse, you may not notice them for some time.
According to the NIH, adults require 2.4 mcg of B12 each day. It’s most typically found in animal products, and Patton suggests eating fish, poultry, milk, and yogurt to increase your B12 levels. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, Zive recommends eating B12-fortified foods like plant-based milk and morning cereals. According to the NIH, you can find B12 in most multivitamins, but if you’re at risk of deficiency, you can take a B12 supplement.
6. Folate: Fatigue, Diarrhea, and Other Benefits
Folate, also known as folic acid, is a B vitamin that is especially necessary for women of reproductive age, which is why prenatal vitamins often include a high quantity. According to the Mayo Clinic, folate promotes healthy growth and function and may lower the chance of birth abnormalities, especially those involving the neural tube (the brain and spine). According to Psota, a lack of folate can reduce the overall number of cells and big red blood cells, as well as create neural tube problems in an unborn kid.
According to MedlinePlus, symptoms of a folate shortage include weariness, irritability, diarrhea, poor development, and a smooth, tender-feeling tongue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women who may get pregnant should take 400 mcg of folic acid daily in addition to eating folate-rich foods. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, folate is best absorbed by the body in supplement form, with 85 percent absorbed from supplements and 50 percent absorbed through diet.
Fortified cereals, beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, whole grains, eggs, and dark leafy greens are good sources of folate.
7. Magnesium: Appetite Loss, Nausea, Fatigue, and More
According to the National Institutes of Health, humans require between 310 and 420 mg of magnesium per day, depending on gender and age. Although magnesium insufficiency is uncommon in generally healthy persons, some drugs (including some antibiotics and diuretics) and health disorders (such as type 2 diabetes and Crohn’s disease) can decrease magnesium absorption or increase magnesium excretion from the body.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, magnesium insufficiency can induce a lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting, exhaustion, and weakness. It can also cause numbness and tingling, muscular cramps or contractions, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, personality changes, and coronary spasms in more severe cases.
Eat extra magnesium-rich foods like almonds, cashews, peanuts, spinach, black beans, and edamame to help your levels return to normal, according to Patton.
Nutritional Deficiency to Healthy Eating
Consult your doctor if you feel you have a nutritional shortage. “Blood tests can help determine if you are deficient,” adds Patton. If you are, your doctor may refer you to a qualified dietician or suggest supplements.
According to Patton, the best method to avoid or treat nutritional deficiencies is to eat a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet. “I recommend food first, but if you are at high risk of nutrient deficiency, a multivitamin may be beneficial,” she explains.
According to Zive, those at risk include the elderly, pregnant women, and people who follow either restrictive diets (like vegans and vegetarians) or limited diets that lack fruits and vegetables (like the usual American diet). If you have any concerns about your risk, consult your doctor.