Nutrient deficiency is an important contributing factor underlying many chronic symptoms and health challenges, yet it is not discussed enough. There is a clear difference between optimal levels of nutrients, which enables thriving health versus adequate where one might fall into a ‘normal range’ of values, but the level is nowhere near the optimal for health.
There’s never been a more important time to optimize our nutrition status - so that we have a robust immune system.
The best way to identify possible nutrient deficiency is by working with a doctor or a registered dietician who understands nutrition. Conventional serum lab testing may not indicate a true, cellular level of nutrient level, e.g. zinc and magnesium. A thorough nutritional assessment is ideally done by a doctor/dietician who is knowledgeable about nutrition and can take a comprehensive medical history on which to base the assessment.
Here are the top nutrient deficiencies I encounter. Some general tips on common symptoms and signs (the information does not replace the need for a medical assessment by a doctor).
Some common symptoms of nutrient deficiency:
Fatigue/breathlessness/reduced exercise tolerance
Muscle aches and pains
Fragile hair, thinning hair, and brittle nails
Brain fog & irritability
These symptoms seem pretty standard in our fast-paced lifestyle, but they may be signs of something missing in your diet. If you find yourself experiencing these often, it might be time to look deeper into what is going on inside your body.
Top 6 Nutrient Deficiencies
Especially with working from home in full swing, it can be very difficult to ensure we are getting enough Vitamin D. The best way to obtain this is via safe sun exposure; however, you can also get it from food & supplementation. My favorite vitamin D supplement is Vivolife, derived from algae. Use code: ‘Platefulhealth” at checkout for 10% off!
I suggest you get your levels tested with your doctor before we head into the fall/winter and optimize this.
Magnesium is a highly unappreciated nutrient. With the depletion of minerals from our soil and therefore lower levels in our food, many people are deficient. We used to get a lot of magnesium from our grains, but now the process of refining them steals most of the magnesium present.
We used to get a lot of magnesium from our grains, but now the process of refining them steals most of the magnesium present. Magnesium plays a crucial role in the brain, heart, and muscle functions. You can get magnesium from nuts/seeds, leafy greens, cacao, and your doctor may advise you to take a supplement. There are many different forms of magnesium, and they have different functions. The main ones you will find on a store shelf:
Magnesium glycinate - calming on the nervous system, and may help with mood, anxiety, sleep
Magnesium citrate - laxative and sometimes used to relieve constipation
Magnesium oxide - I do not like this form and do not recommend it
Our bodies can’t produce iodine on its own, so we must get it in our diet. Many people are deficient and do not realize it. It can be particularly tricky for vegans to get enough iodine.
Swelling in the neck
Iodine is mainly used by the thyroid to make many supportive hormones that our bodies need to function correctly. If you are severely deficient, you could develop hypothyroidism. But be careful - getting too much of this nutrient can have adverse effects, so make sure you speak to your doctor.
Similarly to Iodine, B12 is not made in our bodies. But it does contribute to many vital functions, such as brain health & making DNA. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just vegans who suffers from B12 deficiency. In fact, I used to give more B12 shots to non-vegans because so many people have impaired gut function and cannot absorb it even if they are eating enough. Low stomach acidity, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and the MTHFR mutation, among a few others, contribute to a B12 deficiency.
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Iron is the commonest nutrient deficiency. Many people make the mistake of believing that if they are deficient, they just need to eat more or supplement, without ever addressing the underlying issue. For the same reasons as B12 above, poor digestion and absorption are common causes of iron deficiency, e.g. in celiac.
Iron is present in leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, and animal products. If you need to supplement, make sure you address the root cause
It is not just for your bones and teeth. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, and lack of it can cause problems in other areas besides osteoporosis and dental issues.
Signs of deficiency include:
Pins and needles
Along with a calcium deficiency, you will often find magnesium and vitamin D deficiency because the lack of these two can slow the absorption of calcium. You can increase calcium in your diet by incorporating more beans, lentils, broccoli, kale, and greens. Since there is no test to see if you are taking enough calcium, the best assessment of whether you are getting enough is a thorough dietary and lifestyle assessment.
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