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7 Common Nutrient Deficiencies and How to Reverse Them

There are many nutrients essential for health. We all know we should eat more vitamins and minerals. However, if you are not getting enough of the following nutrients, you may be putting your health at serious risk.
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Are you deficient in nutrients? Most of us are deficient in at least a few nutrients some of the time. It is difficult to get everything you need every day. However, a general effort to eat a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit is usually enough to see us through.

However, if humans are deficient in any of the following nutrients, their health may be seriously at risk. Surprisingly, deficiencies in the following nutrients are common. If you make sure you have plenty of the following seven nutrients in your diet regularly, then you can avoid some of the common health problems, such as a sluggish thyroid. Find out what nutrients you may be lacking below:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has a steroid-like effect in the body. It tells cells to turn genes on or off and even boosts immune function.Most cells and systems in the body use vitamin D, however, most Americans are deficient in vitamin D. It is estimated that up to 82 percent of Americans are functioning at reduced vitamin D levels. Because of this, many doctors now prescribe vitamin D supplements to all patients. Symptoms of a vitamin D deficient are not always visible. They can include a reduced immune system, increased risk of fractures, growth delays, and muscle weakness. The best way to increase vitamin D levels is to get out in the sun more. However, you can also boost your consumption of vitamin D-rich foods.

Where to Find Vitamin D:
  • Sunlight
  • Cod liver oil
  • Fatty fish
  • Egg yolk
  • Grass-fed dairy

Iron

Humans need iron to survive. That is why today, iron is added to many foods. Iron is necessary to transport oxygen to cells and to create red blood cells. Without iron, we die. However, far too many adults are still deficient in iron. There are two types of iron, found in different foods. Heme iron: This iron is found in animal foods and typically only in animal foods. Red meat is high in heme iron. Non-heme iron: This form of iron is found in vegetables, but it is harder for the body to use.

According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiencies are found in about one-quarter of all adults worldwide. Preschool children are deficient in iron at a rate of about 47 percent. Young women are deficient in iron about 30 percent of the time, due to the increased iron loss from menstruation. When iron levels drop, the entire body is affected.

First, anemia hits. This causes the body to feel weak, tired, and have a weakened immune system. From there, the metabolism slows and the brain starts to function at reduced levels.

Where to Find Iron:
Heme Iron: Red meat, organ meat, shellfish, sardines. 
Non-Heme Iron: Beans, seeds, broccoli, kale, spinach. 

If you eat vitamin C along with iron, your absorption will be increased. Add oranges, bell peppers, and kale to your diet when you eat iron-rich foods.

Calcium

It doesn’t seem like Americans would be deficient in calcium seeing how big the dairy industry is here, but studies show that many Americans are still deficient in calcium. Calcium is not only used for teeth and bones, but it is also used in all cells in the body. Calcium sends vital signals in the nerves, muscles, and without it, we would die.

Since calcium is so necessary, if we are low in the mineral, the body takes it from our bones. This is why a calcium deficiency usually shows up in the form of thinned bones, osteoporosis, or cavity-filled teeth. A 2010 survey published in the Journal of Nutrition found that only about 10 percent of women over age 50 get the recommended intake of calcium daily. Only 22 percent of men were eating enough calcium according to study data.

Where to Find Calcium:
  • Bones (usually eaten from sardines or other canned fish)
  • Dark green vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach)
  • Dairy (at least 3 servings daily)

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin used in many body systems, including skin, bones, teeth, and cell membranes. Vitamin A also helps eyes and preserves vision.

Vitamin A comes in two forms:

Preformed vitamin A: Found in animal products

Pro-vitamin A: Found in plant products

A 2002 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that only about 25 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin A. However, in other countries, deficiencies are more common. Vitamin A deficiency cause eye damage, loss of vision, immune system failure, and increased mortality.

Where to Find Vitamin A:
  • Organ meat
  • Dark green vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli)
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Fish oil

Magnesium

Many Americans (particularly women) are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is used for bones, teeth, metabolism, thyroid, brain health, and over 300 enzyme reactions in the body. Magnesium is extremely important for our health and wellbeing. But according to a 2012 survey published in Nutrition Reviews, only about 50 percent of Americans are eating enough magnesium.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency can include sluggish thyroid, weakened bones, unhealthy teeth, type 2 diabetes, metabolic stroke, restless legs syndrome, muscle cramps, migraines, fatigue, and even heart disease.

Where to Find Magnesium:
  • Whole gains
  • Dark chocolate
  • Leafy greens (spinach, kale, broccoli)
  • Nuts

Iodine

A 2013 study published in the journal Thyroid found that up to one-third of the entire world’s population is deficient in iodine. The biggest side effect of low iodine is the reduction in production of thyroid hormones and a sluggish metabolism. Symptoms of iodine deficiency include an enlarged thyroid, increase in heart rate, inability to lose weight, shortness of breath, and sudden weight gain without a change in eating habits. If children are low in iodine, things are even worse. Children low in iodine can have developmental problems and even mental disabilities.

Where to Find Iodine:
  • Seaweed
  • Fish
  • Diary
  • Eggs

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin (which your body cannot store for later use) that is used for energy production, blood formation, brain health, and nervous system health. The body cannot make vitamin B12 on its own. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods (aside from seaweed), which is why many vegetarians are deficient in the nutrient (up to 90 percent are deficient as estimated by a 2013 study published in Nutrition Reviews).

Symptoms of a B12 deficiency include fatigue, lack of energy, mood swings, trouble concentrating, and anemia.

Where to Find B12:
  • Shellfish
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Organ meat
  • Seaweed
  • Muscle meat

You Need These Essential Vitamins

While it is possible to survive without optimal levels of all vitamins, if you are lacking in any of the above vitamins you may start to see negative health effects in your life. One of the first systems to go when you are deficient in vital nutrients is the thyroid. After the thyroid, your bones and teeth are at risk from nutrient deficiencies. The best way to prevent adverse health effects in your life is to ensure you get plenty of these nutrients in your life daily.

If you cannot receive all of these nutrients from food, consider supplementing with the nutrients temporarily until your body’s nutrient levels regulate and the danger of deficiency and adverse health effects are gone.

Sources


http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/ida/en/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18390780

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list

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