What is nutrient deficiency?
Your body relies on nutrients of all forms to provide the necessary reactions inside your body that provide you with energy to do every bodily function from breathing to running a marathon. The food that you eat is full of macronutrients, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, water, etc. These components break down and are distributed throughout your body to help you grow and give you energy. Each reaction that takes place in your body requires specific “ingredients” that come from your food or your body produces them. If we are lacking those “ingredients” then those reactions cannot take place and we begin to see problems pop up such as fatigue, rashes, muscle cramps, and even disease.
Even if you eat a well-balanced diet, you could still be nutrient deficient! This is due to outside factors including your age and health conditions (especially digestive issues which are becoming extremely common) which can impact your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from your food. The quality of the food you ingest is also a potential cause for nutrient deficiency. Soil quality, processing, and storage times can all affect how many nutrients are available in the food we eat.
So, how do I know if I am nutrient deficient?
Chances are if you eat a traditional western diet and do not supplement required nutrients, you are probably nutrient deficient. Even if you eat a less processed, more whole foods diet, you may still be deficient despite any symptoms you may or may not have. This is simply due to outside factors as stated above. Farming just isn’t the same anymore! If you take prescription drugs, you are likely deficient in some nutrients as many drugs actually deplete your system of certain nutrients. Here is a list of common symptoms associated with nutrient deficiencies:
- Cracks at the corners of your mouth – This can be a sign of iron, zinc, and B-vitamin (niacin, riboflavin, and B12) deficiency, or that you’re not getting enough protein
- Hair loss and red scaly rash (especially on face) – This can be a sign of biotin (vitamin-B7) deficiency.
- Red or white acne-like bumps – This can be a sign of deficiency in essential fatty acids like omega-3s, as well as vitamin A or vitamin D deficiency.
- Tingling, prickling, and numbness in your hands and feet – This can also be a sign of B-vitamin deficiency (particularly folate, B6, and B12).
- Muscle cramps – Muscle cramps may be a sign of deficiencies in magnesium, calcium, and potassium, especially if it happens frequently.
Treating or Preventing Deficiency
One of the best methods for treating a deficiency and preventing deficiencies is to eat foods full of nutrients. Here is a chart that will help you determine what foods you need to increase your intake of if you know what nutrients you are deficient of. If you are unsure what you may be deficient of or want to prevent deficiencies, a balanced, whole food diet consisting of a variety of foods will help.
In addition to increasing your intake of nutrient-rich foods, be aware of their processing. Try to fill your plate with whole foods (fresh is best) and limit cooking and processing times. Of course, it is nearly impossible to monitor and maintain a completely balanced diet and the soil composition of the produce we eat may be nutrient/mineral deficient in a variety of ways. Supplementation can help prevent and treat any deficiencies you may have.
High quality, pure supplements are best to achieve maximum absorption and benefit. If you take supplements that are not high quality, they could contain excess “fillers” (nonessential non-nutrient ingredients) or are created in a way that the body cannot fully utilize so the supplement is essentially wasted by the body. We typically recommend in general that the average person take a high quality multi-vitamin, vitamin D, and probiotics as a base to prevent nutrient deficiency and to best support your body. Probiotics are the “good bugs” that live in your digestive system and a balanced flora is completely necessary for a properly functioning immune system. Our bodies are often not balanced with the correct flora due to various reasons including probiotics lacking in our food, unbalanced diet, antibiotics, and other prescription drugs.
How we can help!
If this information seems overwhelming, Dr. Ryan is available to consult you for proper nutrition and supplementation to best suit your individual body. We offer high quality supplements in our office as well. Feel free to ask questions when you come in and if needed, Dr. Ryan offers nutritional consults!