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5 Common Signs of Nutrient Deficiency (And What To Do About It)

Happy woman with Nutrient Deficiency taking vitamin

Did you know that more than three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults are suffering from Vitamin D deficiency? Besides, all of the new studies have been showing that 80% of COVID-19 patients were vitamin D deficient. It highlights an issue of mineral and nutrient deficiency that can literally lead to your death.

Thus, if you’ve been feeling tired, weak, or even sick to your stomach, these are common signs that your body might be craving a specific mineral and signaling its lack by presenting all of those symptoms. 

Whether you’ve been losing hair, or have been dealing with bone pain for the longest time, no worries. You’ve come to the right place to learn more. Keep on reading for our key five signs that you’re dealing with a nutrient deficiency of one type or the other. 

1. The Red Flag of Nutrient Deficiency: Severe Hair Loss

Sure, everyone tends to lose around 100 strands of hair each day. Yet, if you’re starting to notice clumps of hair on your shower curtain, on your carpets, or even on your pillow, then you might be dealing with something abnormal. 

Generally speaking, severe hair loss is a sign of your body dealing with an imbalance of one type or another. A potential reason behind your hair loss can be due to low iron levels in your blood, or a thyroid issue. 

This is the point where getting a blood test to check your iron levels and thyroid function becomes necessary. But, for now, let’s explore both conditions and see whether some of the other symptoms sound familiar. 

Of course, before your mind wanders to a type of vitamin or mineral deficiency, you’ll want to double-check your hair products for any toxic elements that might be the driving force behind your hair loss. 

Iron Deficiency

Needless to say, having enough iron is a crucial element to your overall health. One of iron’s main responsibilities is binding with hemoglobin in your red blood cells, which work hard to transport sufficient oxygen to your cells. 

There are two main types of iron deficiencies that are based on a lack in your dietary iron. The first is called “heme iron.” This specific type of iron is easily absorbed. Yet, it can only be found in animal foods, with a special focus on red meats. The second is “non-heme iron.” This one can be found in both plant and animal-based foods. Unfortunately, it’s not absorbed quite easily.

As you’ve probably guessed, iron deficiency is actually rather common, with more than 25% of people on the globe negatively affected. 

Also, vegetarians and vegans who abstain from animal products, tend to have higher risks of deficiency. As they only consume products that have non-heme iron, they run the risk of it not getting absorbed well enough. 

In its severe cases, people might suffer from anemia, which means that your blood’s ability to carry enough oxygen is compromised. That’s where your hair loss starts to truly increase. After all, how can your hair grow without getting enough oxygenated blood? Other symptoms include feeling weak, tired, and a weakened immune system. You’ll want to check the common causes of hair loss as well.

Dietary Sources of Iron

Starting with sources of heme iron, you have:

  • Shellfish: anything like oysters, mussels, and clams are good sources of heme iron. Just 3 ounces of cooked oysters will give you more than 50% of your daily value (DV).
  • Red Meat: With only 3 ounces of ground beef, you can get around 30% of your iron DV. 
  • Organ Meat: Admittedly, this one is a bit more niche. Yet, with one slice of liver, you’d be getting more than 50% of your DV. 

Unfortunately, there’s no plant-based source for heme iron. However, the best dietary sources of non-heme iron are all plant-based:

  • Seeds: Adding squash, sesame, or pumpkin seeds to your daily diet is a great way to get some non-heme iron in your body. With one ounce of roasted squash or pumpkin seeds, you’d be getting around 11% of your DV.
  • Kidney Beans: With cooked kidney beans, and other types of beans as well, you get 66% of your DV with a single cup.
  • Dark and Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, and broccoli are all plants that are rich in iron. With one ounce of fresh kale, you can get around 5.5% of your DV. 

The reason behind our breakdown of the different types of sources for iron is that it’s preferable to not supplement with iron, unless under your doctor’s advisement. Iron is one of those minerals that can have negative effects on your body if you get too much of it. 

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C to aid with the absorption of iron. Fruits like oranges and bell peppers are great ways to boost up your iron absorption. 

Iodine Deficiency

When it comes to dealing with thyroid problems, you’ll want to ensure that you’re getting enough iodine. Basically, iodine is essential to achieve a normal thyroid function, as well as the production of key thyroid hormones. 

To highlight the importance of having effective thyroid function, it’s important to understand that your thyroid hormones are involved in a variety of bodily processes. For example, when it comes to your growth, your bone maintenance, and even your brain development, your thyroid hormones are necessary for all of those processes to work properly. 

Moreover, your thyroid gland is responsible for regulating your metabolic rate. If you’re noticing that you’re gaining a lot of weight, losing a lot of hair, dealing with an increase in heart rate, and shortness of breath, you’ll want to test for iodine deficiency.

This isn’t an auxiliary mineral that you can coast without getting enough of daily. When it comes to children, having severe iodine deficiency can cause developmental abnormality and different forms of mental retardation. 

Dietary Sources of Iodine

There are different sources of iodine that you’ll want to integrate into your diet. Thankfully, there are plant-based options, if you’re vegetarian or vegan:

  • Seaweed: A single gram of kelp can give you from 460 to 1,000% of your iodine DV.
  • Dairy: Getting one cup of plain yogurt can give you around 50% of your DV.
  • Fish: With three ounces of baked fish (ex: cod) you can get around 66% of your iodine DV.
  • Eggs: A single egg has around 16% of your iodine DV.

Sadly enough, these amounts aren’t always available. It all depends on whether you live in an area that has iodine-rich soil or ocean water. If you live in iodine-poor soil, then you’ll get low-iodine food. 

2. Burning Sensation in Your Tongue or Feet

This is a symptom that you can’t really ignore. You’ll want to talk to your physician or healthcare provider as soon as possible for a blood test. You’ll want to specifically check your B12 levels. If you’re already dealing with constipation, balance, and dry skin issues, then you’re more than likely dealing with vitamin B12 deficiency.

Similar to iron in its functionality, B12 is essential for producing hemoglobin, and it’s key for different systems, like your digestive tract to work properly. 

Vegans: Take Note

Unfortunately, going for a plant-based diet will eliminate the majority of foods that are rich in B12, like dairy products and meats. However, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough almond milk, fortified soy, nutritional yeast, or coconut milk. Those will give you enough B12 to stay healthy. 

It’s important to keep in mind that it takes a long period of time to become deficient in vitamin B12. The average duration of depletion is around three years, specifically for your liver to lose all its stored B12. 

How to Boost Your B12 Levels

The tricky thing about B12 absorption is the unorthodox need for a specific protein called intrinsic factor. Some people are born with a lack of this protein. Therefore, these folks will need to get either B12 injections or even higher doses of supplements than what another person would take. 

Unlike iron supplements, vitamin B12 isn’t harmful if consumed (or injected) in large amounts. This is one of the minerals that are hard to absorb and can be easily excreted if your body wants to get rid of any excess. 

The main reason behind the popularity of taking B12 supplements is that your body can’t create B12 on its own. You have to take an active role in getting your B12 levels to where they need to be. 

3. It Takes Forever to Heal

If you’re starting to notice that your gums are bleeding daily whenever you brush your teeth or floss them, or that you bruise easily, then you might be dealing with a vitamin C deficiency. Consider vitamin C as the bond that builds up your cells, and heals your wounds. Moreover, it acts like an anti-inflammatory agent, as well as an antioxidant to limit the regular wear and tear that happens to your cells.

How to Increase Your Vitamin C Intake

First things first, if you happen to be a smoker, you’ll want to consider quitting. In short, smoking always prohibits your body’s capacity to absorb vitamin C, no matter how much you give your body in the form of food or supplements. 

In general, you’ll want to eat more vegetables and fruits that have a high quantity of vitamin C, like red bell peppers, kiwi, as well as oranges. You’ll want to get around 60 mg of vitamin C daily to stay healthy.

4. Dealing With Bone Pain

When you’re feeling pain deep in your bones, then you’re probably dealing with a vitamin D deficiency. This is a solid sign if you’re an adult who’s feeling like you’re having growing pains even though you’re done growing. You’ll want to check in with your healthcare provider. 

Treating Vitamin D Deficiency 

This is a vitamin that works like a steroid hormone in your body, as it’s fat-soluble in nature. Your body naturally produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, specifically through your cholesterol. This makes it one of the key factors that fight against premature aging.  

If you’re living in an area that gets a lot of sun exposure, then you’re probably good to go. However, if you live far away from the equator and see the sun twice a year, then you’re going to need to supplement your healthy diet with vitamin D. 

Dietary Sources of Vitamin D

It’s important to note that there are very few foods that have a substantial amount of this vitamin. Those include fatty fish, egg yolks, and cod liver oil. Therefore, you’re probably going to need to take a supplement or actively increase your sun exposure to make sure you’re healthy.

5. Irregular Heartbeat

Of course, there might be many causes behind having an irregular heartbeat or chest pains. Regardless of the reasons, this is a symptom that you’ll want to talk to with your doctor as soon as possible, just for your peace of mind. 

On the other hand, it might be due to a calcium deficiency. When your body is short on calcium, it can cause you chest pains due to arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat. Calcium is responsible for regulating your heartbeat.

There are other signs of calcium deficiency that you’ll want to be familiar with. If you’re dealing with muscle cramps, a lot of bone fractures, or abnormal twitches around your mouth or face, then there’s a high chance you’re short on calcium. 

How to Get Enough Calcium

For healthy adults, they need approximately 1,000 mg of calcium daily, whether from different food sources or supplements. 

Going the route of food selection, you’ll want to increase your intake of sardines and salmon, as well as bok choi and broccoli. Also, you can always integrate dairy products into your diet, like yogurt and skim milk.  

Exploring the World of Vitamin Deficiencies

We understand that it might be a bit overwhelming to be faced with the numerous potential symptoms of nutrient deficiency. Hopefully, our article has helped shed some light on the five common symptoms of mineral deficiency, and the way to fix the problem.

If you’ve enjoyed this article on the intricacies of vitamin deficiencies, then you’ll want to check out our learning section for additional health tips.

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