Just because you eat all your meals, does not mean you’re getting all the essential nutrients. Nutritional deficiency occurs when you don’t get an adequate supply of essential vitamins and minerals resulting in malnutrition or even certain illnesses. Here are the most common nutritional deficiencies, the signs, and ways to fix the problem.
Iron is critical for the transportation of oxygen to the cells. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world. About 47% of preschool children have an iron deficiency. About 30% of menstruating women and 42% of young pregnant women are deficient as well. Vegetarians and vegans are at an increased risk of being deficient.
Signs of iron deficiency include tiredness, weakness, a weakened immune system, and impaired brain function. There may also be hair loss.
Dietary sources of iron to resolve the problem include red meat, organ meat, shellfish, sardines, beans, pumpkin and squash seeds, and dark leafy greens.
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Calcium plays a critical role in maintaining strong bones as well as controlling muscle and nerve function.
Signs of calcium deficiency include numb, tingling fingers and abnormal heart rhythms. Calcium deficiency also increases your risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. In children, severe deficiency results in developing rickets.
Dietary sources of calcium include boned fish, dairy products, and dark green vegetables.
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Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is produced in your skin upon exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D plays a role in the development of strong bones and the strengthening of the immune system. Vitamin D may also help prevent cancer.
Signs of vitamin D deficiency include muscle aches, muscle weakness, and increased risk of fractures. Fatigue and mood changes also signal a deficiency.
Dietary sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout), and egg yolks.
A non-dietary solution is going out in the sun unless you live in a place that’s far from the equator, in which case, supplements are advised. In general, it is hard to get sufficient amounts from diet alone so supplements would likely be beneficial for most people.
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Iodine is essential for a properly functioning thyroid. Thyroid hormones are involved in a variety of body functions including growth, brain development, bone maintenance, and metabolism.
Signs of iodine deficiency include enlarged thyroid (goitre), increased heart rate and shortness of breath, and weight gain. When it’s severe in children it can lead to mental retardation and developmental abnormalities.
Dietary sources of iodine include seaweed, fish, dairy, and eggs. Salt that is enriched with iodine also helps decrease the likelihood of deficiency. This is why iodized salt is mandated in many countries.
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Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 is essential for blood formation as well as brain and nerve function. The body doesn’t produce it, so you have to get it from food or supplements. It’s only found in animal products which is why vegans and vegetarians are at a higher risk of being deficient. Body absorption decrease with age, so the risk of deficiency increases with age.
Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include blood disorders like anaemia and impaired brain function.
Dietary sources of vitamin B12 include shellfish, organ meat, meat, eggs, and milk products.
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Vitamin A deficiency
Vitamin A helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth, bones, and cell membranes. It is also critical for good vision.
Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include dry skin, skin breakouts, dry eyes, night blindness, trouble conceiving, delayed growth, throat and chest infections, and poor wound healing.
Dietary sources of vitamin A include organ meat, fish liver oil, sweet potatoes, carrots, and dark leafy vegetables.
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Magnesium is essential in the development of bones and teeth and is also involved in metabolism.
Symptoms of deficiency include abnormal heart rhythm, muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, fatigue, and migraines. Low levels of magnesium are also linked to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Dietary sources of magnesium include whole grains, nuts, dark chocolate, and dark green leafy vegetables.
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General signs of nutritional deficiency include:
- Hair loss
- Unexplained fatigue
- Burning mouth syndrome
- Dry skin
- Cracks at the corners of your mouth
- Swollen tongue
- Spoon nails (fingernails curved upwards)
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