Everyone is quite familiar with the fact that everyone needs vitamins and minerals to keep our bodies healthy. But how do you know when you aren’t meeting your body’s needs?
There are many telltale signs of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Feeling tired for no reason, having low energy, looking pale and always getting sick can all be signs of certain nutrient deficiencies. Not getting enough vitamins and minerals can lead to a variety of health problems. These can include digestion problems, skin disorders, stunted or defective bone growth, and even dementia.
The amount of each nutrient you should consume depends on your age. Many foods that you buy in the grocery store — such as cereals, bread, and milk — are fortified with nutrients that are needed to prevent nutritional deficiency.
But sometimes, your body is unable to absorb certain nutrients even if you’re consuming them. It’s possible to be deficient in any of the nutrients your body needs.
Keep reading to learn about some common nutritional deficiencies and how to avoid them.
The most widespread nutritional deficiency worldwide is iron deficiency. This deficiency can lead to anemia. A common sign of an iron deficiency is fatigue. Other symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can include dizziness, headache, sensitivity to coldness, paleness in the skin and under the eyelids, and weakness.
Vitamin A helps form and maintain immune function, skin health, vision, reproduction and cellular communication. Furthermore, it produces eye pigments, which are necessary for vision.
Vitamin A deficiency can cause both temporary and permanent eye damage and may even lead to blindness. Vitamin A deficiency may cause eye damage and blindness, as well as suppress immune function and increase mortality among women and children.
Your body needs calcium to keep your bones and teeth strong, and to support skeletal structure and function. Additionally, calcium serves as a signaling molecule. Without it, your heart, muscles, and nerves would not be able to function. So a deficiency could cause serious health problems over time. The main symptom of calcium deficiency is an increased risk of osteoporosis later in life.
Thiamine (vitamin B-1) deficiency
Vitamin B1, thiamin, or thiamine, enables the body to use carbohydrates as energy. It is essential for glucose metabolism, and it plays a key role in nerve, muscle, and heart function.
Thiamine deficiency can present itself in various ways, and symptoms are often nonspecific, which makes it difficult to identify. Fortunately, a thiamine deficiency is usually easy to reverse with supplementation.
Niacin (vitamin B-3) deficiency
Niacin is the mineral that helps the body convert food into energy. t helps the body to use proteins and fats, and it keeps the skin, hair, and nervous system healthy.
Mild vitamin B3 deficiency causes relatively mild symptoms, including indigestion, fatigue and canker sores. Severe, persistent vitamin B3 deficiency causes a disease called pellagra. The condition can be fatal.
Vitamin D deficiency
According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, about 1 billion people worldwide don’t get enough vitamin D. People with darker skin tones are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency is not usually obvious, as its symptoms are subtle and may develop over years or decades. Adults who are deficient in vitamin D may experience muscle weakness, bone loss, and an increased risk of fractures. In children, it may cause growth delays and soft bones (rickets). Also, vitamin D deficiency may play a role in reduced immune function and an increased risk of cancer.
How can nutritional deficiencies be treated?
The treatment for a nutritional deficiency depends on the type and severity of the deficiency. Often, symptoms fade when the correct diet is followed or nutrient is supplemented.
A doctor may advise you on how to change your eating habits in the case of a minor deficiency. In some cases, you may need to take supplements or a multivitamin. It may also be necessary to take an additional supplement to help your body absorb the supplements, such as taking calcium and vitamin D together.
It is possible to be deficient in almost every nutrient. That said, the deficiencies listed above are by far the most common.
Children, young women, older adults, vegetarians, and vegans seem to be at the highest risk of several deficiencies.
The best way to prevent deficiency is to eat a balanced diet that includes whole, nutrient-dense foods. However, supplements may be necessary for those who can’t obtain enough from diet alone.