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7 Common Nutrient Deficiencies, Symptoms & Dietary Sources

January 20, 2023 4:49 am
REAN Foundation

Welcome to the world of nutrients- Those essential substances that nourish your body and contribute to its growth and well-being. Nutrients play an instrumental role in keeping you alive because they are used for every process that happens in your body, from breathing, and building cells, to repairing damages.

The essential nutrients include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Of these, vitamins and minerals make up a tiny percentage of your body's requirements, which is why they are known as Micronutrients. Carbs, proteins, and fats comprise the Macronutrients, as they are consumed and used by the body in large amounts.

Whether micro or macro, deficiency in any of them can adversely affect the health of the body, and they can even be life-threatening. Common nutrient deficiencies jeopardize normal bodily functions right from the cellular level, threatening your system’s water balance, metabolism, nerve and enzyme functioning, digestion, and assimilation.

In short, without adequate nutrients, every process in your body goes for a toss. Fortunately, these deficiencies can be prevented and reversed to restore normalcy. How?

Our article covers all the common nutritional deficiencies, their symptoms, and the nutrient sources and supplements in detail. So, let’s start exploring!

7 Nutrient Deficiencies To Look Out For

1. Iron Deficiency 

As one of the most essential nutrients, Iron is responsible for binding hemoglobin and transporting oxygen to your cells, helping the generation of red blood cells. Iron deficiency results in Anaemia, one of the most common conditions affecting most people worldwide. Teenage girls, very young children, and people who eat a plant-based diet are the most vulnerable to iron deficiency.

Anaemia manifests itself as:

  • Lethargy and fatigue.
  • Headaches.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Loss of healthy skin color.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Pains in the chest.

Anemia occurs when your body loses its ability to absorb iron or when it does not get the adequate amount of iron for the absorption process. Due to their bodies' increased need for nutrients during pregnancy and breastfeeding, pregnant and breastfeeding women are particularly vulnerable to anemia. The condition can also occur when the body loses red blood cells faster than they are produced.

One must include iron-rich food in the daily diet to overcome iron deficiency. Sourcing iron-rich foods is no herculean task. The nutrient is abundantly found in:

  • Red meat
  • Shellfish
  • Leafy vegetables like spinach, moringa, kale, and broccoli
  • Edible seeds like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and squash seeds
  • Beans
  • Sardines

Here’s an interesting point: Vitamin C can enhance iron absorption in your body. Hence, you can include the following foods to increase iron absorption.

  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Bell peppers

2. Calcium deficiency 

Calcium does more for your body than mere bone maintenance. It serves as a signaling molecule for the uninterrupted functioning of your heart, nerves, and muscles. All cells in your body require calcium to function, as it mineralizes bones and teeth, especially during the growing stages of life.

Here’s an interesting fact about Calcium that most of us are probably unaware of: All excess amounts of Calcium are stored in your bones because the calcium concentration in your blood is tightly regulated. When there’s an inadequate intake of Calcium, the bones release the nutrient to compensate for the deficiency. However, in the long run, this leads to Osteoporosis, a condition that makes the bones fragile and highly vulnerable to fractures.

It is also possible for children to develop soft bones or Rickets due to a severe dietary calcium deficiency.

To avoid Calcium deficiency, you must take more dairy products like milk, cheese, and curd and include bony fish in your diet. Eating dark green vegetables like Kale, spinach, bok choy, and broccoli will also aid your Calcium intake. You can also take Calcium supplements on your doctor’s advice.

3. Iodine Deficiency 

A third of the world's population is deficient in iodine, making it one of the most common nutrient deficiencies.

What does iodine do for your body? Your thyroid gland needs iodine to function correctly and produce the thyroid hormones, without which your body can develop various functional and developmental abnormalities related to:

  • Bone maintenance.
  • Brain development.
  • Growth development.
  • Metabolism.

Iodine deficiency causes multiple issues, such as:

  • Weight gain.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Breathlessness.

Children with severe iodine deficiency may suffer from mental retardation and developmental problems. However, one of the most common manifestations of iodine deficiency is Goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland which makes swallowing difficult, changes the tone of the voice, etc.

To overcome iodine deficiency, you should include the following foods in your diet:

  • Dairy Products
  • Eggs ( especially the yolk)
  • Fish and fish oils
  • Seaweed
  • Iodine-enriched salt

4. Vitamin D Deficiency 

Popular as the “sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D is produced when the body’s cholesterol is exposed to sunlight. This fat-soluble vitamin, also known as a steroid hormone, is present in every single cell in your body.

Unlike other deficiencies, the lack of Vitamin D does not show any symptoms for many years or until you experience fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, and mood swings. A deficit of this vitamin, which is as essential for bone health as iron, may be detected by tests later. Lack of Vitamin D also makes you more prone to fractures, reduces your immune functions, and increases your risk of cancers.

Want to gain adequate amounts of this sunshine vitamin? All you need to do is spend some time in the sun, particularly in the mornings when you are not exposed to harsh UV rays. Diet-wise, you can take the following foods to increase this essential vitamin:

  • Egg Yolk
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout
  • Vitamin D supplements

5. Vitamin B12 deficiency 

This water-soluble vitamin is so essential for every cell in your body. But ironically, your body cannot produce Vitamin B12, so you can only get it through foods and B12 supplements.

Also known by the name Cobalamin, B12 is abundant in animal-based foods. Hence if you are pure vegan or vegetarian, you could be at a higher risk of B12 deficiency.

What harm can Vitamin B 12 deficiency do to your body? Well, quite a lot, like numbness, weakness, fatigue, and an inflamed tongue. However, the most common symptom of B12 deficiency is Megaloblastic Anaemia, a disorder of the blood that enlarges the blood cells. A number of other symptoms may also occur, such as impaired brain function and an increase in homocysteine levels.

To overcome the B12 deficiency, it is important to include the following foods in your daily diet:

  • Shellfish like clams and oysters
  • Organ meat like liver, spleen, and kidneys
  • Red meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products

6. Vitamin A deficiency 

You may have grown up hearing that carrots are good for your eyes. That’s true, but why? Carrots are rich in Vitamin A, one of the most important fat-soluble vitamins that are important for your vision and a host of other bodily functions such as:

  • Bone, teeth, and skin maintenance.
  • Formation of cell membranes.
  • Production of eye pigments (which explains why it helps your vision)

In fact, Vitamin A is so essential for your eyesight that severe deficiency can cause temporary or permanent blindness. (Globally, this deficiency is the leading cause of blindness.) In addition, a lack of Vitamin A can cause the immune system to malfunction, leading to an increased mortality rate, especially among children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

There are two kinds of Vitamin A found in different food sources:

  • Preformed Vitamin A, which is found in animal-based food such as organ meat and fish.
  • Pro-Vitamin A is found in fruits and vegetables, especially in carrots, green leafy vegetables, red peppers, mango, papaya, tomatoes, etc.

When it comes to Vitamin A, the phrase "too much of anything is bad for nothing" holds true. In fact, too much of this vitamin is toxic to the body. Hence, it is advisable to consume it in regulated quantities.

7. Magnesium deficiency 

Magnesium is a key mineral that’s often not highlighted enough. This mineral is responsible for more than three hundred enzyme reactions in your body and for your strong bones and teeth.

Although this mineral is required in tiny quantities, magnesium deficiency can cause:

  • Heart ailments.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Metabolic syndrome.

What leads to magnesium deficiency? This nutrient is lost or is limited in absorption due to:

  • Intake of diuretics and antibiotics.
  • Drug abuse.
  • Poor digestion.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Crohn’s disease.

Magnesium deficiency manifests as:

  • Cramps in your muscles.
  • Restless leg syndrome.
  • Abnormal heart rhythm.
  • Fatigue.
  • Insulin resistance.
  • Hypertension.

Fortunately, nature has blessed us with abundant resources of magnesium, such as;

  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Dark chocolate
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables

Include these foods in your diet to overcome any symptoms of Magnesium deficiency.

Nutrient deficiencies should never be taken for granted. What may start as a subtle symptom may become a significant health issue if not diagnosed and treated promptly. Besides, nutrient deficiencies are easily curable with the right, nutrient-rich diet.

Also Read: Everything You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s Disease - Prevention, Diagnosis, and Care

REAN HealthGuru To Your Rescue!

Understanding the food sources for these highly essential nutrients is no longer a challenge. REAN HealthGuru, our digital healthcare companion, gives you easy access to an expansive food list to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. You can also use our app to make dietary changes to manage specific health conditions right from the comfort of your home.

With REAN HealthGuru, you can:

  • Understand how various foods help your nutrition.
  • Learn what foods to consume to manage health conditions.
  • Develop healthy and tasty recipes.

Stay Free of Deficiencies With A Nutrient-rich Diet

We have listed for you the most commonly occurring nutrient deficiencies which can be prevented by following a healthy and wholesome diet. Please note the supplements may help those who cannot obtain the necessary nutrients from diet alone. Please take supplements only as per your doctor’s advice.

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