What if we told you that most people are deficient in at least one vitamin? What if we told you that many of these people are deficient in more than just that? Most people, barring certain medical conditions, can receive the recommended amount of each essential vitamin and mineral by eating a balanced diet that’s packed with colorful, fresh foods. But still, many adults still find themselves in need of a nutrient boost.
Are you one of them? And how would you know?
Vitamin Deficiencies 101
Women are more likely to have vitamin deficiencies than men, especially those between the ages of 19 and 50, and nearly half of all pregnant women are deficient in at least one vitamin. Vegetarians and vegans are also more likely to suffer from vitamin deficiencies.
It’s estimated that individuals who don’t take a multivitamin supplement have the highest risk of deficiency.
That last part may not come as quite as much of a surprise. What might surprise you, though, is that the most common deficiencies aren’t obscure minerals or nutrients that we haven’t heard of. In fact, most deficiencies are the ones we typically talk about the most.
Check out the list below. You might be surprised at what you find.
Calcium deficiency is most common in children and older adults. These two demographics are also those who need the mineral the most. Calcium contributes to positive bone growth and development in children and helps build strong teeth. In older adults, it prevents osteoporosis and bone degeneration.
How People Become Calcium Deficient
Calcium deficiency can be the result of several factors. The first is a poor diet. Individuals can get all of the calcium they need from food, according to experts. However, most people don’t have a balanced diet, and this can negatively impact calcium levels.
Children who are picky eaters, for example, may have a hard time getting enough calcium. In adults, hormone disorders, such as an imbalance in estrogen or testosterone, can contribute to the deficiency. The most significant underlying cause of calcium deficiency is vitamin D deficiency. This is because, without vitamin D, our bodies cannot properly absorb calcium.
Additionally, those with vegan or vegetarian diets may have a hard time getting an adequate amount of calcium from food sources.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
Take the quiz and see what your nails might be trying to tell you. Do you have white spots or marks on your nails? That’s a symptom of calcium deficiency. Other calcium deficiency symptoms include:
- Frequent muscle cramps
- Bone breaks and fractures
- Teeth that crack easily
- Decreased mood
- Excessive fatigue
Only a doctor can diagnose you with a calcium deficiency. If you have low calcium symptoms and suspect you may have a problem, make an appointment. Your doctor will take a blood sample to check your calcium levels.
How to Increase Your Calcium Intake
To increase your calcium intake, make sure you have a balanced diet. If your doctor diagnoses with you a deficiency, they may recommend a supplement for calcium deficiency treatment or suggest that you incorporate more of certain foods into your daily meals. Foods rich in calcium include:
- Milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Collard greens
Positive Changes to Look for When Increasing Calcium Levels
Your doctor will likely advise you to come back for a follow-up appointment so that they can re-test your blood levels. However, you’ll know you’re on the right track as your mood improves, your nails become stronger and break less easily, and you don’t notice as many aches and pains.
More than half of all adults in the United States have a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency correlates with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Adults are more likely to have a deficiency than children.
How People Become Magnesium Deficient
According to the FDA, adults can become magnesium deficient due to the use of certain medications. The most common are Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), which treat excess stomach acid, acid reflux, and heartburn. They’re common medications, available both over-the-counter and by prescription. Another one of the most common causes is poor diet.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
The symptoms of low magnesium can be hard to spot. However, one of the leading indicators is a drastic change in mood. Most markedly, apathy, and lack of emotion, along with anxiety. Other symptoms include:
- Muscle tremors or twitches
- Muscle weakness
- Excessive fatigue
- High blood pressure
- Heart arrhythmia
There is no standard test currently available to doctors to check magnesium levels. Most people are diagnosed through medical consultation and an evaluation of symptoms.
How to Increase Your Magnesium Intake
The best way to increase your magnesium intake is to eat foods that are rich in the micronutrient. These include:
- Dark chocolate
- Almonds and cashews
- Flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds
- Leafy greens
Positive Changes to Look for When Increasing Magnesium Levels
When improving your magnesium levels, look for changes in your breathing and heartbeat, plus a decrease in blood pressure. Improved mood and more energy are other good signs that you’re getting the amount of magnesium you need.
Vitamin D Deficiency
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey states that just over 40% of individuals have a vitamin D deficiency. Since vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, essential for bone and tooth health, this is cause for concern. The deficiency is most common in the elderly, those who are overweight, vegans, or those who are lactose intolerant, and individuals who do not go outside often.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms can affect many aspects of your life. If you notice a combination of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor. A simple blood test can determine if you require vitamin D deficiency treatment.
- Impaired or slow wound healing
- Easy bruising
- Frequent sickness
- Bone or back pain
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain
How to Increase Your Vitamin D Intake
If you do have a vitamin D deficiency, your doctor may recommend that you take a supplement. Additionally, try to get more time outside in the sun. Your liver and kidneys synthesize vitamin D from the sun and help it to circulate throughout your body. Foods that include rich sources of vitamin D include:
- Spinach and kale
- White beans
- Sardines and salmon
- Egg Yolks
Additionally, many foods are fortified with vitamin D. Look for fortified orange juice, soy milk, and cereal.
Positive Changes to Look for When Increasing Vitamin D Levels
When combating low vitamin D symptoms, you should notice less aches and pains in your body as levels rise. Your mood will increase, and you are less likely to experience hair loss. Be sure to make a follow-up appointment with your doctor to re-evaluate your blood levels if they order a course of vitamin D deficiency treatment.
Iodine is a mineral we don’t often think about, but it’s essential to creating thyroid hormones in the human body. Thyroid hormones affect our metabolism, bone, and brain health. You only need small amounts of iodine, but the trace mineral is important. Low iodine levels are the leading cause of hypothyroidism worldwide.
Populations at higher risk for low iodine levels include pregnant women and those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets.
Symptoms of Iodine Deficiency
Iodine deficiency symptoms are typically easy to identify. Your doctor will run an iodine deficiency test to see if you require treatment. They will apply iodine to the surface of your skin and monitor how quickly it disappears. Deficient individuals will absorb the iodine much more quickly than those who are not. The test usually takes 24-hours. If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible:
- Swollen thyroid glands, noticeable in your neck
- Unexplained weight gain
- Hair loss
- Dry or flaky skin
- Constantly feeling cold
- Irregular heart rate
- Memory problems
- Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles in women
How to Increase Your Iodine Intake
The best way to get iodine into your diet is to use iodized salt when cooking. If you’re looking for more foods to incorporate into your diet to address iodine deficiency, these are the best ones:
- Seaweed (Experts state that seaweed from Japan is particularly rich in the mineral)
Positive Changes to Look for When Increasing Iodine Levels
If you are undergoing iodine deficiency treatment, your doctor will continue to monitor your levels. You will likely notice that you have an easier time losing weight, and your short term memory will improve. Women will notice less severe menstrual symptoms and more regular cycles.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 plays a significant role in the human body. It helps your body produce DNA, prevents megaloblastic anemia, protects the central nervous system, and ensures that red blood cells remain healthy. Still, according to Harvard Health, as many as 20% of adults may be deficient in the vitamin. Those with vegan and vegetarian diets are at considerable risk for developing a vitamin B12 deficiency, as the only food sources of the nutrient are from animal-derived products.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms range from mild to severe. A doctor will order a Complete Blood Count (CBC) test to determine if you have low levels of the nutrient. If you notice the following symptoms, make an appointment to discuss your concerns:
- Pale or yellow skin
- Excessive fatigue
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling sensation in your hands and feet
- Compromised balance and worsening coordination
- Changes in the appearance of your tongue: pain, redness, and swelling or a smooth tongue with long, straight, lesions
- Ulcers in the mouth
- Dizzy spells
- Shortness of breath
- Impaired vision
- Chronically high body temperature
As vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms can be quite severe, it’s important to seek medical care as quickly as possible,
How to Increase Your Vitamin B12 Intake
If your blood tests show that you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, there are several treatment options. Your doctor may make different recommendations based on how low your levels are. One option is a vitamin B12 injection. You may need one shot every day for a week, then one shot every 3 to 4 days, followed by a monthly shot for as long as your doctor deems necessary. They may also recommend that you take a daily vitamin B12 supplement.
To help ensure you’re getting an adequate amount of B12 in your diet, eat foods such as:
- Animal livers
- Tuna, trout, salmon, and sardines
- Milk and cheese
- Fortified foods, such as breakfast cereal or non-dairy milk
Positive Changes to Look for When Increasing Vitamin B12 Levels
If you receive a vitamin B12 injection, experts state that you will begin to see results within two to three days. You will notice an increase in energy, and the pins and needles in your extremities will begin the fade. If you have a severe vitamin B12 deficiency, it may take longer to recover and require an extended period of vitamin B12 injection sessions. As you recover and maintain routine care, you will notice your symptoms begin to fade.
A Note from GR8NESS
Only a medical doctor can properly diagnose and assess vitamin deficiencies. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, seek medical care, and develop a treatment plan with your physician.