How can you know for sure which vitamins you may be lacking? Here are some general guidelines to give you an idea of what to look out for when it comes to keeping that nutritional balance just right, including symptoms of nutrient deficiencies.
Tell-Tale Signs of Nutrient Deficiencies
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We live in a time and place where most of us are lucky enough to have easy access to varied food supplies. We may be forgiven for thinking that some of the old illnesses, such as scurvy and rickets, caused by vitamin deficiencies are a thing of the past, but this is not necessarily true. It is quite possible to eat substantial amounts of food but to still miss out on some of the nutrients vital for optimal health.
Recognising the warning signs when something is lacking, and seeking the appropriate nutrients to redress the balance, is the key to putting things right. Nutrition is a science, but understanding it is one of the most important ways we learn to look after ourselves and our families.
Bodily processes can be thrown out of sync because of nutrient shortages, and these negative changes take place at cellular level. Enzyme function, digestion, metabolism, and nerve signalling all play their part.
Deficiencies in vital nutrients can lead to your body functioning at less than its full potential, leaving you vulnerable to infection and disease.
Necessary for maintaining healthy eyes and skin, also helping fight off infection. Because the human body can’t produce vitamin A on its own, you must incorporate it into your diet in other ways.
When there is a shortage of vitamin A in your diet you could be at risk of developing vision problems and an impaired immune system. It is possible to correct a mild case of vitamin A deficiency with no long-term damage being incurred. This is usually correctible by introducing a regular supply of foods rich in A. In more serious cases a doctor may recommend vitamin supplement treatment.
In the Western world, those most at risk of A deficiency tend to be adults with gastrointestinal issues such as celiac disease, cirrhosis of the liver and pancreatic problems, where absorption of vitamin A is impaired. Also, anyone who has had a duodenal bypass may be vulnerable.
Symptoms of low levels of vitamin A can vary greatly. Some people will suffer more serious effects than others.
Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms
- Night blindness
- Bitot spots – a build-up of keratin in the eyes causing clouded vision
- Skin irritation – dryness, itching and scaling
- Keratomaiaia – an eye disorder where the cornea, the clear film in front of the iris, becomes dry and clouded
- Xerophthalmia – the eyes become crusted and dry, damaging the retina
- Stunted growth – in children a deficiency of vitamin A can result in slow bone development
- Fertility – Lack of vitamin A can cause problems when trying to conceive, and can sometimes lead to infertility
Foods Containing Vitamin A
- Liver – contains large amounts of A. One serving gives above the recommended minimum intake for a week.
- Fish – oily fish, shellfish and cod liver oil all contain a good amount of A and are equally effective when taken as food or as vitamin supplements.
- Vegetables – orange-coloured vegetables have the highest levels of vitamin A. The main ones are carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash. Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, spring greens, kale are also good choices.
- Fruit – oranges, ripe mango, papaya, cantaloupe melon, apricots (equally good fresh or dried).
- Dairy – full-fat milk is a good source of A and soft cheese contains a small amount. Cheddar cheese and other hard cheeses made with full-fat milk are best.
NOTE: it is important to incorporate some healthy fats into your regular diet because vitamin A is best absorbed in fat particles in the gut or intestines.
Vitamin A in Supplement Form
When adding vitamin A to your diet in supplement form, it can be taken in the form of beta-carotene which is a precursor to vitamin A. This means that it can be converted by your body into vitamin A if a need exists.
Our Wholefood Multivitamin and Mineral capsules provide 3.0mg beta carotene per recommended dose of 2 capsules daily.
Warning: Consuming very large amounts of vitamin A in a short space of time causes drowsiness, headache, nausea and vomiting and can be fatal. Women who are pregnant or planning to conceive should not take vitamin A in amounts above the safe upper limit of 3,000 micrograms as birth defects can result.
There are various B vitamins, all having their own important function. Together, the B vitamins are known as vitamin B Complex.
Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine and studies have found that it may be linked to a reduction in risk of heart disease. B6 is active in over 100 enzyme reactions in body cells and helps us metabolise amino acids from our food, as well as helping create red blood cells.
Vitamin B Deficiency Symptoms
- Muscle weakness
- Short-term memory lapses
- Concentration problems
Foods Containing Vitamin B6
- Beef liver
- Wholgrain rice
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Wholemeal Flower
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
This member of the vitamin B family is particularly vital to women during pregnancy. Folic acid or folate as it is also called, can reduce the risk of birth defects, particularly those which involve the brain and spine. It also helps support normal, healthy growth.
Vitamin B9 Deficiency Symptoms
- A smooth and sore tongue
- Excessive tiredness
- Unusual irritability
- Prolonged spells of diarrhoea
whole grains, beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, eggs, dark green, leafy vegetables, and cereals that have been fortified.
Foods Containing Vitamin B9
- Whole grains
- Sunflower seeds
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
- Fortified cereals
A water soluble vitamin, B12 is important to nerve function as well as the formation of red blood cells. It also plays an important part in the formation of DNA. Ideally, you will be getting enough B12 from your diet as it is found in dairy products, meat, and whole grains, but if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet or if you are elderly then you may be more at risk of a deficiency.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
- Balance problems
- Digestive and intestinal issues
- Memory lapses
- Mood swings
- Mouth soreness
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
Vitamin B Complex Supplements
Our Super B Complex Vitamin capsules contain high quantities of Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7 and B12 along with an array of minerals. They are suitable for vegan and vegetarian diets and are free from dairy, wheat, gluten, live yeast, soy, added sugars, colourings, flavourings, and preservatives.
Ascorbic acid, more usually referred to as vitamin C, is an essential nutrient but it can’t be stored by the body so must be gained by diet. The NHS recommend that adults need 40mg of vitamin C each day and this amount should be adequately satisfied from a healthy and varied diet containing plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Vitamin C helps in the production of a protein called collagen which maintains and repairs skin, bone, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, blood vessels and teeth. When levels of this vital vitamin are insufficient, the body struggles to fight infection and heal from wounds.
It is rare that anyone today is at risk of scurvy which is an illness caused by a severe vitamin C deficiency. This can only be brought on by not having enough vitamin C in the diet for at least three months and this means no fruit or vegetables for that length of time. Scurvy is relatively easy to treat and, according to the NHS, even people who don’t eat a particularly healthy diet are not usually considered at risk.
However, people who are at risk of extreme vitamin C deficiency are those who eat very little food at all. The most common reasons for this are due to treatments causing nausea such as chemotherapy or eating disorders such as anorexia. Smokers can possibly be at risk too as smoking robs the body of vitamin C. It is possible that those who have drug or alcohol-related dependency can also be at risk, as can anyone with severe digestive disorders such as Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis.
Vitamin C Deficiency Symptoms
The NHS recommend that anyone experiencing the following symptoms on a regular basis should see their GP so that scurvy can be either treated or ruled out:
- Extreme exhaustion and weakness
- Irritability and constant low mood
- Severe joint and leg pain
- Swollen and bleeding gums (possibly with tooth loss)
- Red or blue spots on the skin, particularly on shins
- Nose bleeds
- Skin that bruises easily
Foods Containing Vitamin C
- Oranges, grapefruits, limes, and lemons
- Berries, including blackcurrants, blueberries, raspberries
- Brussels sprouts
Vitamin C in Supplement Form
If you are not sure that you can get all the vitamin C you need from your food choices, it is available in dietary supplement form but make sure you are not taking more than 1,000 mg each day as overdosing on vitamin C can cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
Our wholefood vitamin C capsules contain 800mg of acerola cherry powder, sourced from the fruit pulp and juice and providing 272mg of natural vitamin C. The fruits of the acerola cherry tree are one of the richest-known natural sources of vitamin C available and is a superb wholefood source of nutrition when compared with chemical vitamin products.
Calcium is vital for maintaining strong bones. It is also essential for the functioning of muscles and the nervous system. It is important to keep calcium levels topped up as we age and for anyone at risk of osteoarthritis. Read more about a calcium-based supplement to help alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis, and other effects of ageing.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
- Tingling in the fingers
- Irregular heart rhythm
According to research from the Mayo Clinic, most adults need 1,000 mg of calcium each day, although for women over fifty years old and men over 70 need 1,200 mg. They recommend that three servings of milk or yogurt a day should provide enough to maintain your calcium levels. Cheese is also a useful source of calcium. If you are not too keen on dairy or if you are lactose intolerant, you can get calcium from dark leafy greens such as broccoli and kale. It is often added to breakfast cereals and orange juice, but you need to check the labels to be sure.
Calcium as a Supplement
We supply Calcium AKG with Aquamin, a unique multi-mineral complex derived from 100% red marine algae, providing bio-active calcium, magnesium and 72 other trace minerals. This works alongside AKG to support ageing metabolism.
Often called the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones but also helps alleviate various other illnesses:
- Osteoporosis, a condition caused by brittle bones. Read more about Vitamin D.
- Erectile dysfunction – studies have shown that men with low vitamin D levels may be more prone to ED.
- Autoimmune diseases
- Type 2 diabetes. A randomised controlled trial published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, found that supplementing with vitamin D for a six month period improved insulin sensitivity in participants who were at high risk of, or were already diagnosed with, type 2 diabetes. It also helped with the cardiovascular problems that tend to accompany this illness.
Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms
- Bone pain
- Mood changes
- Muscle aches and weakness
Spending plenty of time out in the daylight, and preferably sunshine, is the top method of ensuring you are getting enough vitamin D. Other ways are to try to have such foods as salmon or tuna or other fatty fish at least twice a week or to have vitamin D fortified milk or yogurt each day.
Vitamin D is available as a supplement and although it’s impossible to bottle sunshine, scientists have discovered the next best thing. Read more about how Vitamin D is made into a natural dietary supplement.
Vitamin D in Supplement Form
We supply wholefood Vitamin D3 capsules made from natural plant algae, suitable for vegan and vegetarian diets.
For heart, nerves, muscular function. Potassium also helps carry nutrients to cells and removes waste. It is also known to help lessen the negative effect of salt on blood pressure levels.
In situations where you have had a spell of gastric upset with diarrhoea and vomiting, or if you have had a lengthy course of antibiotics, laxatives or diuretics, your potassium levels may be depleted. Other condition that can predispose you to potassium deficiency are kidney disease and excessive alcohol consumption.
Potassium Deficiency Symptoms
- Abnormal heart rhythm and/or palpitations
- Prolonged constipation
- Muscle weakness
- Cramps and twitching of muscles
Foods Containing Potassium
Potassium in Supplement Form
We offer high quality Hawaiian Spirulina Tablets containing potassium. Sourced from blue-green micro algae, spirulina is known as a superfood as it is rich in many vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. It is also high in protein and vitamin B making it a superb choice for anyone following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Needed for production of red blood cells which transport oxygen around the body. If iron levels become low, there may be a deficiency of red blood cells, and this causes anaemia. Those at higher risk of anaemia are children, women with heavy menstrual cycles and during pregnancy. Anyone following a restrictive diet could be predisposed to anaemia.
According to the World Health Organisation, iron is the only nutrient deficiency that is widely prevalent in developed countries
Iron Deficiency Symptoms
- Cold extremities
- Shortness of breath
- Brittle nails
- Pale skin colour
- Sore or swollen tongue
- Brittle nails
- Cravings for unusual things such as dirt or coal
Foods Rich in Iron
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark turkey meat
- Iron-fortified breakfast cereals
- Oysters and mussels
- Beans such as kidney and lima
Liver is a very rich source of iron but it is also high in cholesterol and research has linked it to possible birth defects so it is perhaps best avoided during pregnancy or if you have high cholesterol.
Iron in Supplement Form
Taking iron as a supplement can sometimes cause certain side effects such as heartburn, bloating, constipation and sickness, however our Iron Oral Spray, with its natural pomegranate flavouring, does not cause any of these discomforts and is absorbed very quickly, providing fast nutrient uptake.
Helps support healthy bones and energy levels. Certain medications, including antibiotics, and health conditions such as Crohn’s disease and type 2 diabetes can restrict the way the body absorbs magnesium as well as possibly increasing its loss from the body.
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
- Loss of appetite
- Numbness and tingling
- Muscle cramps
- Irregular heart rhythms
Foods Rich in Magnesium
- Black beans
- Cashew nuts
- Dark chocolate
- Edamame beans
- Pumpkin seeds
- Wholemeal bread
Magnesium in Supplement Form
If you find you need to boost your levels, there are various kinds of magnesium supplement available. You may wish to read more in our blogs about what they do before making your choice:
One of the essential minerals, zinc is present in many different types of food. When levels of zinc are low various health issues arise including impaired immunity and skin problems. Symptoms don’t normally present until the levels have been low for several months and deficiency is mainly caused by a lack of zinc-rich foods. Certain medical conditions such as sickle cell disease make a zinc deficiency more likely to occur.
Diagnosis is difficult because a blood test can’t accurately detect the levels of zinc in the blood. Other factors, such as diet history, may be investigated when a diagnosis is made.
Some of the causes of low zinc levels are intestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, also, excess alcohol consumption, sickle cell disease, diabetes, and cancer. Other causes can be traced to dietary factors such as:
- Vegetarian diet with low zinc
- Iron supplements interfering with zinc levels
- Babies having been exclusively breastfed for six months or more without having other foods introduced
- Taking of diuretics and antibiotics
Zinc Deficiency Symptoms
Symptoms can cause several different issues which may not be apparent for a while. Most common effects are:
- Cold symptoms occurring frequently
- Slow wound healing
- Weak immune system
- Vulnerability to infection
- Skin rashes, especially around the mouth
- Skin ulcers
- Concentration lapses
- Hair loss
- Weight loss
- Vision problems due to age-related issues
- Taste and smell abnormalities
- Concentration lapses
- Sexual dysfunction issues
- Asthma symptoms worsening
Foods Containing Zinc
- Oysters are the food richest in zinc
- Seafoods such as lobster, crab and fish
- Red meat
- Dairy products such as yogurt and cheese
Zinc in Supplement Form
For some a supplement containing zinc may be necessary. Our Organic Baobab Powder is a superfood, packed with vitamins and antioxidants and containing 5.66mg zinc.
Nutrient Deficiency and Healthy Eating
If you suspect you may be suffering from a vitamin deficiency it is a good idea to have a talk with your doctor because a simple blood test can help to find out for sure. You may then be referred to a dietitian or be recommended to take a dietary supplement.
Adjusting your diet is the first step towards countering problems but if you are at higher risk for any reason then the appropriate supplement will bring great benefits in getting you back to optimal nutrition.
When it comes to keeping you informed on health and nutrition, we’re here for you and aim to always be a source of science-backed information.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of using natural supplements, or would find advice helpful, please feel free to contact us on 01297 553932.