Updated: Jun 14, 2022
As cliché as it sounds, life is just really busy for everyone. To combat the never-ending feeling of not having enough hours in the day, we try to maximize our time and get the most out of each day, taking shortcuts wherever—and however—we can. Cooking wholesome and vitamin-rich meals can end up taking a back seat. Convenience is king, so with an increase in processed foods and on-the-go meals, vitamin deficiencies are something to be mindful of.
If your body is depleted of the proper nutritional foods it needs, it could drastically affect your physical and mental health in a myriad of ways. This is a state where the body is deprived of the optimum dose of nutrients it needs, but any illness has yet to arrive. Consider it a grey zone between wellness and sickness.
So how do you know if you’re low on essential vitamins and minerals? Well, the only way to really know is to get a blood panel. Deficiencies can be worsened by the demands placed on the body by stress, which actually can worsen the deficiencies themselves. It's a catch-22 of sorts. This is why mental health and wellness are just as important as your physical being. When your body is experiencing prolonged stress and a never-ending task list, it continues releasing adrenaline and cortisol hormones into your bloodstream to combat the stress. This can lead to a disruption of your NeuroEndoMetabolic Stress Response System that can lead your body to Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. This can lead to a weakened immune system, weakness, headaches, reduced libido, unexplained hair loss, and so much more.
Essentially, due to excessive stress, your metabolic, hormonal, reproductive, digestive, and other bodily systems are not properly functioning. Eating a diet that’s bursting with vitamins and minerals from whole foods not only boosts your mood but gives your body the vitality and stamina it needs to decrease your risk of countless health conditions down the road.
Read on for a list of common symptoms that result from nutrient shortfalls.
A common and early sign of any vitamin deficiency is fatigue4, but this is often brushed off and dismissed as a symptom of a busy lifestyle. Fatigue is also the first symptom of dehydration, so make sure you’re giving your body plenty of water. If the fatigue is unrelenting and you can't find relief after some decent nights of sleep, it’s a sign you may be deficient in a few nutrients. Almost all nutrient shortfalls are tied to fatigue. The nutrient shortfalls with the biggest impact are the cellular energy nutrients of iron, vitamin B12, and magnesium. It’s important to pay attention to symptoms that won’t go away.
Iron also plays a huge role in your overall well-being, especially for pregnant or menstruating women. Iron is an essential component of red blood cells that carries oxygen to all the body’s tissues. Inadequate intake of iron deprives the muscles, organs, and brain of oxygen and may result in anemia, fatigue, weakness, and poor concentration. The good news? This is an easy one you can check up on. During your next blood panel, make sure you ask for a Serum Ferritin test, which can detect iron deficiency before it develops into anemia.
Changes in Mood
Sure, everyone has a bad day every now and again, but it’s essential to get plenty of the key nutrients that support brain health and mental wellness. When you’re feeling like you’re in a funk, increase your omega-3 fatty acids. Critical for normal brain function and cell communication, they can be found in fatty fish (try salmon and sardines), and also in algae.
If you’re experiencing muscle cramps, along with fatigue or numbness and tingling in the arms, legs, feet, and around the mouth, you may need to up your intake of calcium. Calcium is needed for muscle contraction, blood vessel function, and the secretion of hormones and enzymes. If you are low in calcium, it is recommended you take a daily allowance of 1000 mg if you’re under 50 and 1,200 mg if you’re over. Be sure to take supplements along with vitamins D and K for better absorption and healthy distribution of calcium throughout the body.
Changes in Hair Texture
A change in the quality and texture of your hair can be a sign you’re not getting enough folic acid, B12, B6, and/or iron.9 These nutrients help to support a healthy blood supply that carries oxygen to the hair and scalp. Poor intake can lead to reduced or fragile red blood cells, which can suffocate the hair and scalp.
Changes in Eye Sight
There are some vision issues that are signs your diet is low in vitamins C and E, as well as two compounds called lutein and zeaxanthin. The lens of each eye filters ultraviolet light, a potent source of highly reactive compounds called free radicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin act as internal sunglasses to shield deeper layers of the eyes from damage. These two compounds are found in spinach, so eat up!
If you’re suffering from an atypical amount of bloody gums or aggressive gingivitis, you may need to increase your intake of Vitamin C. Supplement your diet with a minimum of 2000mg a day by eating foods like broccoli, cantaloupe, cauliflower, kale, kiwi, papaya, and strawberries.
If you find blood in your urine or stool, have heavy periods, bleeding gums, frequent bloody noses, or if you easily bruise, you may have a vitamin K deficiency. The best food sources for replenishment are green leafy vegetables, fish, liver, meat, and eggs.
Dry Skin or Eyes
If you’re noticing that your skin is on the drier side, and you feel your eyes are dry and unable to produce tears, then beware of a vitamin A deficiency. Difficulty seeing in dim light (also known as night blindness) is another issue. Add meats, dairy, and eggs, as well as red, yellow, orange, and green plant foods to your diet.
Prickling Sensation in Fingers or Toes
If prickling sensations are coupled with depression, weakness, or even fatigue, there’s a chance you might be deficient in vitamin B12, affectionately known as the energy vitamin. It’s primarily found in meat, dairy, and eggs, so those following a plant-based diet may be more at risk for this type of deficiency. A multivitamin and/or B complex that includes B12 is usually the first recommendation for correcting the deficiency. If absorption issues inhibit normalization of B12 levels, then B12 injections are required.
Anyone familiar with the discomfort that is TMJ? The temporomandibular joint is the sliding hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull. Any jaw pain, clicking and locking, or difficulty chewing are all symptoms. This could be a sign that you’re deficient in magnesium in addition to calcium. Supplementing with magnesium malate is best. Positive effects can be seen with daily doses of up to 2,500mg. Magnesium-rich foods include dark, leafy greens like baby spinach, collard greens, kale, or Swiss chard.