- Nutrient deficiencies can cause several symptoms.
- The best way to address nutrient deficiencies is to eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet.
- Vegans and vegetarians are at high risk of nutrient deficiencies.
Tricia L. Psota, Ph.D., RDN, says nutrient deficiencies can negatively affect bodily functions and processes and lead to diseases.
Kate Patton, RD, a dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, says nutrient deficiencies have telltale symptoms. Below are some of them:
1. Calcium Deficiency
Calcium strengthens bones and controls muscle and nerve function. Calcium deficiency may cause numbness, tingling fingers, and abnormal heart rhythms, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Recommended daily allowance (RDA): Adults – 1,000 milligrams (mg), Women over 50 and men over 70 – 1,200 mg
Sources: Milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified orange juice or breakfast cereal, and dark leafy greens
2. Vitamin D Deficiency
This vitamin promotes bone health and may prevent some cancers, per the Cleveland Clinic. A deficiency may cause fatigue, bone pain, muscle aches or weakness, mood changes, bone softening, and a heightened risk for cancers and autoimmune diseases, says Michelle Zive, a NASM-certified nutrition coach.
RDA: Adults – 15 micrograms, Adults over 70 – 20 micrograms
Sources: Fortified milk or yogurt, fatty fish, ten to 30 minutes of sun exposure
3. Potassium Deficiency
Potassium promotes proper function of the heart, nerves, and muscles, delivers nutrients to cells, eliminates waste, and prevents the effect of sodium on blood pressure, according to MedlinePlus.
Diarrhea or vomiting, excessive sweating, taking antibiotics, laxatives, or diuretics, excessive alcohol consumption, or having a chronic condition such as kidney disease can cause this deficiency, per the Mayo Clinic. This deficiency can cause muscle weakness, twitches, or cramps, tingling and numbness, constipation, palpitations, and an abnormal heart rhythm, according to MedlinePlus.
RDA: Adult men – 3,400 mg, Adult women – 2,600 mg
Sources: bananas, milk, acorn squash, lentils, and legumes such as kidney beans.
4. Iron Deficiency
Iron is essential for producing red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. Low iron levels may cause a deficiency in red blood cells, resulting in anemia. It is common among menstruating or pregnant women, growing children, and vegans or vegetarians, says Zive.
Per the Mayo Clinic, anemia can cause:
- weakness and fatigue
- shortness of breath
- rapid heartbeat
- pale skin
- cold hands and feet
- sore or swollen tongue
- brittle nails
- cravings for strange things like dirt
RDA: Men and women over 50 – 8 mg, Women younger than 50 – 18 mg
Sources: Iron-fortified cereal, beef, oysters, beans, lentils, and spinach.
5. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 helps with the red blood cell and DNA production, and improves neurotransmitter function, says the NIH. According to Harvard Health Publishing, this deficiency affects vegetarians and vegans, and people who’ve had weight loss surgery.
Severe B12 deficiency may result in numbness in the extremities, balance problems, anemia, fatigue, swollen or inflamed tongue, and cognitive problems.
RDA: Adults – 2.4 mcg
Sources: fish, chicken, milk, yogurt, and breakfast cereals, and multivitamins specifically containing B12.
6. Folate Deficiency
The Mayo Clinic says this B vitamin promotes healthy growth and function and reduces the risk of birth defects that involve the brain and spine. According to Psota, folate deficiency can reduce cells and large red blood cells. It may also cause fatigue, irritability, slow growth, a smooth, tender-feeling tongue, and diarrhea, says MedlinePlus.
RDA: Women of childbearing age – 400 mcg
Sources: Fortified cereals, beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, eggs, whole grains, and dark leafy vegetables.
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the body absorbs 85 percent of folate from supplements, and 50 percent from food.
7. Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium promotes bone health and the production of energy. Certain medications, like antibiotics and diuretics, and health conditions, like type 2 diabetes and Crohn’s disease, can hinder magnesium absorption in the body. According to Cleveland Clinic, magnesium deficiency can result in appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, numbness and tingling, muscle cramps or contractions, seizures, irregular heartbeat, mood changes, or coronary spasms.
RDA: Adults – between 310 and 420 mg
Sources: almonds, cashews, peanuts, spinach, black beans, and edamame
When to see a doctor
Talk to your doctor if you think you have a nutrient deficiency so they can recommend supplements, or refer you to a registered dietitian.
Via Everyday Health