Nutrient deficiency: Recognize and treat
Fatigue, sluggishness and dizziness accompany your everyday life? Do you regularly feel powerless and plagued by headaches? Then you should have your blood values checked, because a nutrient deficiency could be the cause of your complaints.
A balanced and varied diet can easily get lost in the hectic workday. However, an unbalanced diet can bring consequences and have a negative impact on your body’s health over a long period of time.
Learn in this article how a nutrient deficiency occurs, which nutrients your body needs and how you can contribute to a healthy lifestyle in the long term.
What nutrients does your body need?
Our body needs various nutrients to carry out metabolic processes and perform bodily functions properly. A distinction is made between macro- and micronutrients:
Macronutrients are the energy suppliers for the human organism. These include carbohydrates, fats and proteins, which are responsible for building our cells.
Micronutrients, on the other hand, regulate various processes in the body, such as our metabolism and immune system. They include vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
A nutrient deficiency is when your body is not supplied with adequate nutrients. This then leads to processes and functions being restricted.
Nutrient deficiency - know the causes and avoid them
The human organism cannot produce some nutrients itself, which it needs to maintain physical functions. These must be supplied to it, for example, through a balanced diet. If this does not happen, the body is undersupplied and a nutrient deficiency occurs.
Basically, a distinction is made between two levels of nutrient deficiencies: marginal and absolute.
Marginal nutrient deficit
In the case of a marginal nutrient deficit, the body’s functionality and performance are limited by the nutrient deficiency, but its viability is not threatened. In this case, the carbohydrates in the body become scarce or the organism shows a deficiency of vitamins and minerals. However, all symptoms disappear completely as soon as the missing nutrients have been reabsorbed in sufficient quantities.
Absolute nutrient deficit
An absolute nutrient deficit describes the permanent undersupply of a body with nutrients. The reason for this is the complete lack of required nutrients in the diet. As a result, vital basic functions can no longer be maintained and corresponding deficiency symptoms occur.
Causes of nutrient deficiency
A balanced and varied diet forms the basis for a healthy and balanced lifestyle. The body receives enough nutrients and can coordinate both a functioning immune system and a healthy metabolism.
A one-sided diet, especially characterized by predominantly fast food, does not provide the body with a variety of nutrients, resulting in deficiencies.
Changed nutrient requirements
Especially pregnant women, mothers in the nursing period or athletes need more nutrients due to their increased consumption. If the food intake is not adapted to these needs, a nutrient deficiency may result.
Certain diseases, such as intestinal disorders or chronic illnesses, can also cause nutrients to no longer be absorbed properly by the body, resulting in a nutrient deficiency.
Regular and excessive consumption of alcohol, coffee, sugary foods, nicotine and other stimulants contributes to the fact that the body’s absorption of nutrients is impaired.
Psychological problems, such as depression, can lead to loss of appetite or gastrointestinal distress, which means that not enough nutrients are absorbed and a deficiency occurs.
The vegan diet, which is based on plant foods, can also lead to nutrient deficiencies, since certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12, are present in appreciable quantities exclusively in animal foods and are thus not absorbed.
Recognize and treat nutrient deficiencies
Particularly affected by nutrient deficiencies are people in old age, people who are subject to permanent stress and alcoholics or people who use other drugs.
Nutrient deficiency symptoms
Many general symptoms of a nutrient deficiency become noticeable insidiously over a longer period of time and are therefore often perceived by affected persons as normal reactions to stressful everyday life.
Basically, it can be said that the respective symptoms always turn out differently depending on the type of nutrient deficiency.
In addition, a concrete diagnosis can only be made by a physician with the help of a blood count, who will then prescribe appropriate treatment. If you suffer from any of the symptoms listed below, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any treatment measures on your own:
- Feeling of weakness
- Muscle and limb pain
- Lack of concentration
- Skin, hair and nail problems
- torn corners of the mouth and lips
- Gum bleeding
- Susceptibility to infections
Proteins are composed of amino acids, which, among other things, promote the strength of skin and hair. In case of protein deficiency, the body resorts to the proteins stored in the body tissues, which are found in the skin, hair, nails and muscles. This causes the connective tissue to slacken and the skin to become thin, resulting in hair loss and muscle breakdown.
Protein deficiency is often caused by malnutrition.
- Feelings of weakness
- Degradation of the musculature
- Increased susceptibility to infections due to weakened immune system
- Water retention
- Splintered fingernails and toenails
- Thin, dry, brittle hair
- Dry, flaky skin
- Cravings due to rising and falling sugar levels
- Sleep disorders
- Impaired wound healing
As a rule, 1.5-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is recommended. You can get protein from your diet by eating egg yolks, cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, fish, turkey, chicken, nuts, seeds, ham, beans, or quinoa.
However, protein shakes are also a good alternative to meet your daily protein needs.
Iron belongs to the trace elements and ensures the transport of oxygen to the individual cells in the red blood cells. If there is an iron deficiency, this is called anemia – the organs are then insufficiently supplied with oxygen.
Women in particular are often prone to iron deficiency due to their periods. Causes of iron deficiency may include chronic blood loss caused by bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, bleeding from the urinary tract or reproductive organs, or chronic bleeding from the gums or nose.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Torn corners of the mouth
At best, we should consume 10-15 milligrams of iron per day. We can make this possible, for example, by eating lamb’s lettuce, arugula, fennel, legumes, oil seeds, meat, fish, elderberries, mulberries, blackberries, beet or cocoa.
Alternatively, you can take iron supplements to meet your needs.
Magnesium is one of the nutrients that our body cannot produce itself. However, it is required for our organs, tissues and cells, which is why the human organism is dependent on an adequate supply of magnesium. Thanks to an adequate supply, the body can build muscle mass more easily and absorb and activate vitamin D better.
A magnesium deficiency only becomes apparent after a long period of time, since the magnesium level only drops when there is a serious deficiency. For this reason, a deficiency in a blood count is often not immediately recognizable.
Pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, athletes and people with a lot of stress are particularly susceptible to a magnesium deficiency.
- Sleep disorders
- Muscle cramps, especially in the calves
- Low threshold
- Depressive moods
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Abnormal sensations (tingling, numbness)
- Tension in the neck and shoulder area
- Lower back and lower back pain
- Cold hands and feet
- Increase in allergic symptoms
A magnesium deficiency can be caused by a one-sided, unbalanced diet and a disturbed absorption of magnesium in the intestine. Diets, increased magnesium excretion through diarrhea, exercise or the use of laxatives or diuretics, as well as an increased need for magnesium, which is the case with pregnant women and athletes, can also lead to a deficiency.
Magnesium levels can be maintained by consuming bananas, avocados, chocolate, nuts, oilseeds, spinach, dried figs, strawberries, cauliflower or magnesium supplements, among other things.
Folic acid deficiency
Folic acid belongs to the B vitamins and plays a special role in the growth and reproduction of cells. Folate, together with vitamin B12, is needed in the human organism for the formation of red blood cells and is responsible for the synthesis of DNA and the development of the nervous system of a fetus.
In addition to older people and people with high alcohol consumption, pregnant women and nursing mothers are particularly frequently affected by folic acid deficiency. The body itself can only store small amounts of folic acid and it is more difficult to absorb folic acid naturally contained in food.
The increased requirements of pregnant women and nursing mothers are usually not met, but in individual cases this can lead to the baby being born with a birth defect of the spinal cord or brain.
- Tingling or numbness in the limbs
- Low stimulus threshold
- Depressive moods
- Sleep disorders
- Shortness of breath
Intestinal diseases, certain medications – such as the contraceptive pill – insufficient folate intake, impaired absorption, and increased folate requirements can lead to folic acid deficiency.
In principle, folic acid from supplements or from fortified foods can be more easily absorbed by the body. The intake of such preparations is therefore recommended to cover the folate requirement.
You should also make sure you eat a balanced and varied diet of legumes, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, whole grains, potatoes, nuts, animal products, citrus fruits and liver.
Vitamin D3 deficiency
Vitamin D3 – probably the best known vitamin of all. It is actually one of the few nutrients that the body can produce on its own. However, this only happens when it is exposed to the sun, which is why many people often suffer from vitamin D3 deficiency in winter.
Vitamin D3 deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in our region. It is accelerated by isolation in one’s home and the accompanying avoidance of sunlight and fresh air. With the constant development of technology, life in the house is also becoming more and more comfortable, so people avoid the outdoors.
However, this development is fatal, because in the body, vitamin D3 is essential for our bones, immune system, muscles and hair.
- Muscle weakness
- Bone pain
- Skeletal changes in children (e.g. bow legs)
- In elderly people especially osteoporosis
- Muscle cramps and tension
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Hair loss
- Limb pain
A severe vitamin D3 deficiency should be taken seriously in any case, because it can have a significant impact on our well-being. Depression, cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases such as asthma, metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, among others, may be caused by vitamin D3 deficiency.
The most common causes of deficiency are insufficient exposure to sunlight, malnutrition, impaired utilization and absorption of vitamin D, increased vitamin D requirements, the use of certain medications (e.g. for epilepsy) and increased excretion of the vitamin via the kidneys.
To counteract vitamin D3 deficiency, spend some time in the sun every day and eat foods that are high in vitamin D3. These include fresh fish, milk and dairy products.
However, vitamin D preparations in the form of drops or capsules are also a proven method of meeting the requirement.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Especially vegans are familiar with vitamin B12 deficiency. Why? Because the vitamin is contained in appreciable quantities to a large extent in animal foods, which are omitted from the vegan diet. However, since our body cannot produce vitamin B12 itself, it must be taken in through food, which is a problem in the vegan diet.
The vitamin is responsible for the production of red blood cells and ensures that our nerve cells as well as our metabolism function completely. It also contributes to the formation of blood cells as well as to the building of the nerve sheaths.
However, vitamin B12 deficiency only occurs when too little vitamin B12 has been consumed over several years.
- Concentration problems
- Change of the mucous membranes
- Numbness and tingling in the limbs
- Insecurity when walking
- Sensory disturbances (including paralysis)
- Burning tongue
- Hair loss
A vitamin B12 deficiency can be caused by a lack of the protein intrinsic factors, chronic inflammation in the stomach or intestines, taking medication for diabetes or too much stomach acid, and regular alcohol consumption .
You can eat meat, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products to meet your daily vitamin B12 needs. Vegans can resort to taking vitamin B12 supplements or fortified foods.
With the right diet to a healthy lifestyle
If you would like to counteract a nutrient deficiency, a balanced and varied diet is in any case your healthy, stable foundation. Make use of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits and make your diet as colorful as possible.
Avoid fast food, industrially processed foods, and sugary foods as much as possible. You should also eliminate drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and other intoxicants from your daily routine.
Make sure you get enough exercise, and regular sun exposure, and don’t jump to conclusions If you feel said symptoms in yourself. Always talk to a doctor before taking appropriate action if you have any concerns.
With Probatix, it is now very easy to have your own nutrient levels checked regularly. Simply register at Probatix Health and make an appointment!