Nutrients Deficiency

What is nutrients deficiency; what are the symptoms we should be looking for; what is malnutrition; and how can we prevent nutrients deficiency? These are some of the questions we will cover on this topic – stick around!

A healthy diet is the key against malnourishment in all its forms and is a basis for health and growth. It also helps in avoiding non-transmissible diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, some cancers, and other conditions associated with being overweight. Along with a lack of physical activity, an unhealthy diet is one of the world’s most important health risks. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and grains, and less in salt and added sugars and fats are most beneficial to human health. Adopting a healthy diet commences early in life if the such diet is available. Nutrition is a biochemical and psychological process by which the body uses food for its life and as such is an important part of health and growth. Without nutrition, our body becomes weak, sick, and may even die.

A healthy diet is rich in nutrients necessary for the normal functioning of the body. Nutrients are substances in food that our body processes to allow it to function. The need for nutrients is influenced by age, growth stage, and activity.

Malnutrition is a condition that results from a nutrients deficiency or excessive consumption of nutrients. There are two types of malnutrition and they include:

  • Undernutrition which results from insufficient intake of nutrients such as micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), or protein and calories.
  • Overnutrition is a result of excessive consumption of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

There are more than 40 various types of nutrients in food which can be Categorized into 7 major groups which include:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Fats
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Dietary fibers
  • Water

Water is the most important nutrient and an adequate supply of acceptable quality water is crucial for life. But this does not mean that other nutrients are not nearly as important for the good functioning of our body.

As we know the modern diet is rich in saturated fats, added sugars, additives, flavor enhancers, artificial colors, and flavors which lead to obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. But a modern diet can also cause a lack of nutrients which can alter bodily functions and processes at the cellular level. Once changed, these processes, which include water balance, enzyme function, nerve signaling, digestion, and metabolism, are an obstacle to optimal growth, development, and, functioning of the body, and if unresolved can lead to diseases such as osteoporosis, anemia, kidney diseases and more.

Thus, nutrients deficiency can make you feel weak or tired, can cause headaches or rapid heartbeat, can disrupt digestion, and can cause bleeding gums, but if left untreated, nutrient deficiencies can also cause serious conditions. We all remember the school lessons of sailors “in the age of sailing” who suffered from scurvy without vitamin C in food, which lead to a deadly end. So, let’s describe some of the common nutrient deficiencies and their symptoms.

Common nutrient deficiencies

Among the common nutrient deficiencies, we can find deficiencies of vitamins and minerals and the most common are:

  • vitamin D
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin B1
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin C
  • calcium
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • iodine

Symptoms of nutrients deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency

Among the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are:

  • fatigue
  • bone pain
  • mood swings
  • muscle aches
  • weakness

Untreated vitamin D deficiency can lead to the development of osteoporosis, prostate cancer, depression, dementia, cardiovascular disease, and the like. Exposing our body to direct sunlight for 15-30 minutes, several times a week, can help our body produce enough vitamin D.

Vitamin A deficiency

Some of the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include:

  • eye conditions
  • night blindness
  • infections
  • skin irritations
  • some types of skin conditions

Over time, vitamin A deficiency can lead to a number of health conditions such as serious vision problems, decreased immunity, and death. Treatment for mild vitamin A deficiency includes consuming foods such as eggs, liver, beef, carrots, mangoes, leafy green vegetables, chicken, and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin B1 deficiency

Symptoms of Vitamin B1 deficiency include:

  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • nerve damage
  • blurred vision
  • irritability
  • fatigue
  • tingling in the arms and legs

If left untreated, it can lead to the development of severe diseases such as beriberi (a disorder of the heart, peripheral nerves, and digestive system), weight loss, and mental problems such as short-term memory loss and confusion. Foods rich in vitamin B1 include liver, cauliflower, eggs, oranges, potatoes, and kale.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

Among the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency most common are:

  • shortness of breath
  • weakness and fatigue
  • pale skin
  • constipation or diarrhoea
  • loss of appetite
  • depression
  • confusion
  • numbness or tingling
  • loss of vision
  • mouth ulcers
  • muscle weakness

If left untreated vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to the development of health problems affecting the nerves and brain, as well as heart failure. Foods rich in vitamin B12 include eggs, fish, meat, milk, cheese, most vegetables, tofu, and yogurt.

Vitamin C deficiency

Amongst the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency most frequent are:

  • easy bruising
  • slowly healing wounds
  • fatigue and weakness
  • anemia
  • bleeding gums
  • painful swollen joints
  • dry damaged rough skin
  • curled body hair

If left untreated vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, gum and dental problems, and anemia. Foods rich in vitamin C are fruits and vegetables (vegetables are the best row as cooking can destroy some nutrients), fermented vegetables.

Calcium deficiency

Symptoms of calcium deficiency include:

  • numbness and tingling
  • muscle cramps
  • spasms
  • fatigue
  • osteopenia
  • osteoporosis
  • dry skin
  • irregular heartbeat
  • confusion and memory loss

Calcium deficiency can lead to insomnia, extreme fatigue, and forgetfulness. Treatment for calcium deficiency includes consuming foods such as dairy products including yoghurt, and cheese, as well as calcium-fortified beverages such as soy and almond milk, dark green leafy vegetables, fish, dried peas, and beans.

Potassium deficiency

Symptoms of potassium deficiency may include:

  • skipping or irregular heartbeat
  • tingling and numbness
  • constipation
  • increased urination
  • weakness and fatigue
  • confusion and muscle cramps

Low potassium levels can lead to muscles weakness – even paralysis. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, apricots, grapefruit, some dried fruits such as prunes, raisins, and dates, boiled spinach, boiled broccoli, mushrooms, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes.

Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is also among the most common nutrient deficiencies. Symptoms include:

  • fatigue and weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting and nausea
  • muscle cramps
  • pins and needles

Magnesium deficiency can lead to low calcium and potassium levels, bone weakening, arterial calcification, heart problems, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, low energy levels, and hormone disbalances. The richest sources of magnesium are seeds and nuts, avocados, bananas, legumes, whole grains, tofu, and leafy greens.

Iodine deficiency

Symptoms of Iodine deficiency include:

  • fatigue and weakness
  • hair loss
  • dry skin
  • swollen neck
  • feeling very cold
  • changes in heart rate
  • anxiety and depression
  • weight gain
  • constipation
  • learning problems

Untreated it can lead to goiter caused by an inflamed thyroid gland. Good sources of iodine are fish and seafood, iodized table salt, eggs, beef liver, chicken, milk, cheese, and, yogurt. In most cases, hypothyroidism is treated by taking a synthetic hormone.

As we can see, nutrient deficiency is a very serious health problem, mainly caused by inadequate food intake and untreated it can lead to the development of various diseases some of which can be deadly. So, if you have any or some of the above symptoms, it is time to visit your health practitioner and have your blood test done.

What can we do to prevent nutrient deficiency?

If we are still deficient in minerals and vitamins, we can do decent research and find a quality supplement that we can take to supplement our food with.

Nutrients deficiency can cause a lot of healthy issues, make sure that you eat well balanced diet and do health check-up regularly!

Looking for more articles like this? Check these out:

➥ DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to replace medical treatment. The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.