Feeling tired for no reason? Energy low? Dragging yourself throughout the day, feeling like all you want to do is go back to bed?
You might have a nutrient deficiency.
Suffering from a nutrient deficiency is no way to live. Trust me, I’ve been there.
I used to be anemic, magnesium-deficient, B12-deficient, and probably even vitamin D deficient at some point.
But overcoming some of the most common nutrient deficiencies was more of a wake-up call than anything. Clearly, there was something I was doing wrong that was making my body unable to absorb and utilize nutrients from the foods I was eating.
This story is all too common with the majority of the population today. In fact, a study published in Nature found that micro- and macro-nutrient declines are on the rise (1) (and they’re not expected to get any better).
Now, it wouldn’t really matter if vitamins and minerals weren’t such a big deal. But our bodies require them to thrive.
Ensuring we get enough nutrients every day is crucial for feeling our best. Nutrient deficiencies can lead to issues like high blood pressure, osteoporosis, anemia, hair loss, chronic fatigue, impaired glucose control, reduced immune function and more.
What Causes Nutritional Deficiencies?
The main reason that nutrient deficiencies have become so common is poor diet. People simply are not eating the right foods, or not eating enough of the right foods.
If you take a look at the Standard American Diet, it is chock-full of highly processed foods that are stripped of crucial vitamins and minerals.
While many companies will replace nutrients that were lost during processing, like “calcium-enriched” cereals, these nutrients are very often poorly absorbed.
Food manufacturing isn’t the only reason so many people suffer from common nutrient deficiencies. The foods themselves clog up the digestive tract, leading to conditions like leaky gut.
Not eating enough calories, such as with restriction diets and disordered eating can lead to nutritional deficiencies down the road.
Diseases and medication can also impede the ability of our body to absorb certain nutrients. Proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), used to reduce acid reflux and heartburn, for example, prevent vitamin B12 absorption (2). Cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins inhibit the production of coenzyme Q10, a necessary nutrient our mitochondria depend on.
There is also the problem of soil mineral depletion, with blame pointing to the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, which quickly degrade the quality of the soil.
Because of soil depletion, crops grown decades ago provided us with more vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today (3).
With that being said, the body is able to store some nutrients, so a deficiency may not be caught until the body has been without the nutrient for some time.
How Can You Detect Nutrient Deficiencies?
One of the easiest ways to determine if you are nutrient deficient is to go get tested. Medical doctors can request testing on a variety of different nutrients.
Whether it’s vitamin D you want to be tested for, iron levels or even B12, your doctor should be able to order the proper tests.
For more specific vitamin and mineral testing, there are testing kits online sold by companies who test your blood for a broad range of micronutrients. Some Naturopathic doctors and offices also do this sort of testing.
Determining if you have one of the common nutrient deficiencies listed below can also be made easy by looking at any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Some common symptoms of nutrient deficiencies include (4):
– bleeding gums
– brittle hair and nails
– changes in appetite
– coarse hair
– dry skin
– hair loss
– mouth ulcers or cracks in the corner of the mouth
– muscle cramps
– poor night vision
– red or white bumps on the skin
– restless leg syndrome
– unexplained mood changes
What Diseases Are Caused by Lack of Nutrients?
Nutritional diseases are any nutrient-related diseases and conditions that cause illness in humans.
You’re probably quite familiar with the nutritional disease called scurvy. Scurvy was a deadly 18th-century disease commonly experienced by sailors who made long sea voyages with limited food options.
Bleeding gums, decaying teeth, thinning hair, and overwhelming fatigue were just a few of the symptoms experienced by those who weren’t getting enough vitamin C (5).
Rickets is another nutritional disease brought on by a lack of vitamin D. Without enough vitamin D, the body cannot absorb or deposit calcium. The resulting disease, rickets, leaves bones undeveloped in children and produces the effect of “bone-softening” in adults (6).
Beriberi, a condition largely confined to Asia, is caused by a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency. The name, meaning, “I cannot, I cannot,” derives from the inability to perform even the simplest of tasks. Once the disease has processed to the end-stage, there is often severe permanent damage to the neurons (7).
There is also a condition called pellagra, which is caused by a lack of vitamin B3 (niacin) and turns you into somewhat of a ‘vampire’. The symptoms it causes are pale skin, blistering of the skin when in the sun, blood dripping from the mouth and cravings for raw meat (8).
The good news is, is that many of the diseases caused by nutritional deficiencies can be reversed.
Eating proper foods and taking the recommended supplements is often enough to remedy diseases and disorders caused by nutrient deficiency.
What Are The Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies?
By now, you probably understand why it’s important to prevent deficiencies before they have a chance to get too out of control. If you’re dealing with some of the symptoms mentioned above or below, you’ll be better able to make informed decisions about what steps you need to take next.
1. Iodine Deficiency
The function of the thyroid gland is to take iodine from food and convert it into thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
Thyroid cells are the only cells in the body that can absorb iodine. They combine iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to make T3 and T4.
These two hormones then get released into the bloodstream where they are transported throughout the body to aid in metabolic processes (10).
These hormones aid in processes like brain development, growth, bone maintenance, and as previously mentioned, metabolic rate.
If you’re not getting enough iodine, these processes could be interfered with in a negative way.
Lack of iodine in the diet may result in metabolic problems such as goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland), or hypothyroidism. It may also cause an increase in heart rate, shortness of breath and weight gain (11).
Iodine deficiency in children and pregnant women is particularly harmful. Iodine deficiency may result in goiter, hypothyroidism, miscarriage, stillbirth, congenital anomalies, infant and neonatal mortality and impaired growth (12).
Most people get iodine from the salt they eat. But if you’re one of those people like me who consume a high-quality Celtic sea salt instead of regular table salt, you need to make sure you’re getting your iodine elsewhere.
Seaweed is a great source of iodine and is safe to take by vegans and non-vegans alike. Just 1 gram of kelp will provide you with 460-1000% of your daily needs.
You may also want to check your selenium intake as it is strongly linked to serum iodine concentrations (13). Including 1-2 brazil nuts in your daily diet is enough to supply you with all the selenium you need.
2. Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium is a mineral needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body (14).
Yup, you read that right.
So you can probably understand why a deficiency in this mineral isn’t conducive to our overall well-being.
Unfortunately, over half of the population of North America isn’t consuming enough magnesium (15).
Therefore, the chances that you have a magnesium deficiency are probably very high.
Magnesium content in vegetables has seen declines from 25-80% since pre-1950 figures, and typical grain refining processes for bread and pasta remove 80-95% of total magnesium (16).
But that isn’t the only reason why people are magnesium deficient. Factors like disease, drug use, and reduced digestive function also play a role (17).
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle contractions and cramps
- Personality changes
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Coronary spasms
Severe magnesium deficiency can result in hypocalcemia or hypokalemia (low serum calcium or potassium levels, respectively), as mineral homeostasis is disrupted.
While it would be smart to supplement with magnesium, a select few foods tend to be higher in the mineral than others. This includes things like (22):
- Dark Leafy Greens: things like kale, collards, spinach, chard, and arugula.
- Raw Cacao: 30 ounces of dark chocolate or raw cacao offers 15% of your daily value for magnesium.
- Nuts and Seeds: chia seeds, almonds, cashews and particularly pumpkin seeds are a great source of magnesium.
Avocado, beans, potatoes, bananas, broccoli, and apples also contain a decent amount of magnesium.
3. Vitamin E Deficiency
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient found in many plant-based foods, and yet so many people are still deficient.
In the body, vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, helping protect the cells from damage caused by free radicals (23).
Vitamin E is also required for a strong immune system so it can fight off invading bacteria and viruses.
While vitamin E isn’t a particularly common nutrient deficiency, many people still rank low due to absorption issues and poor food quality.
Low levels of vitamin E circulating in the body may result in the following symptoms (24):
- Muscle cramps (particularly menstrual cramps)
- Muscle weakness
- Weakened immune system
- Vision problems
Taking a vitamin E supplement often isn’t necessary, as it is found abundantly in the following plant foods (25):
- Sunflower seeds (1 ounce: 66% of your daily value (DV))
- Almonds (1 ounce: 48% DV)
- Mamey sapote (1 ounce: 39% DV)
- Hazelnuts (1 ounce: 28% DV)
- Pine nuts (1 ounce: 18% DV)
- Avocado (half a fruit: 14% DV)
- Sweet red pepper (1 medium pepper: 13% DV)
Dark leafy greens like turnip greens, beet greens, and mustard greens also provide up to 8% of your daily recommended needs.
4. Calcium Deficiency
Calcium is essential for every cell in your body. It is used by the body to build and maintain strong, healthy bones. Your heart, muscles and nerves also need calcium to function properly.
Calcium levels in the body are tightly regulated, with any excess being stored in the bones. But when our body doesn’t get enough calcium, it is taken from the bones, leaving them weak and brittle.
Some of the most common symptoms of calcium deficiency include (26):
- Stunted growth (particularly in children)
- Osteoporosis and osteopenia
- Muscle cramping
- Dental problems
- Pins and needles
- Brittle fingernails
- Abnormal heart rhythms
Calcium supplements often aren’t the answer. Calcium carbonate may cause acid rebound where the stomach overcompensates for the high dose of calcium carbonate (which is alkaline), by churning out more acid (27).
Constipation is another symptom of taking calcium supplements.
The good news is that many plant-based foods are superior to dairy products when looking for an adequate calcium source.
Dairy products tend to be highly acidic, which the body tries to buffer by pulling alkaline calcium from the bones instead of adding to it.
Studies have found that there is a linear relationship between milk consumption and hip fractures later in life.
One study even found that consuming more milk could actually be associated with higher mortality and bone fractures in women and higher mortality in men (28).
According to a study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, you only need between 500 and 741 mg of calcium per day if you’re eating the right plant-based foods that actually allow your body to absorb more calcium (29).
If you want to up your calcium intake, start loading up on these calcium-rich plant foods:
- Kohlrabi (1 cup: 390 mg)
- Collards (1 cup: 357 mg)
- Black beans (1 cup: 294 mg)
- Spinach (1 cup: 250 mg)
- Turnip greens (1 cup: 249 mg)
- Kale (1 cup: 179 mg)
- Broccoli (1 cup: 178 mg)
- Bok Choy (1 cup: 158 mg)
- Chia Seeds (1 tablespoon: 90 mg)
For calcium, aim for getting enough from your diet before turning to calcium supplements. Supplements have proven beneficial only for those who simply cannot get enough calcium from diet alone (30).
5. Zinc Deficiency
Zinc deficiency is common in the general population. And with zinc being an essential micronutrient required for over 300 different cellular processes, that’s not good news.
Zinc has been found to prevent out-of-control inflammation that can be damaging and even deadly in the elderly (34).
Zinc deficiencies can lead to symptoms such as (35):
- Weak and brittle nails
- Brittle hair
- Thyroid problems
- Heart palpitations
- Digestive problems like diarrhea
If you’re looking to alleviate this common nutrient deficiency, you can either take a liquid zinc sulfate supplement, or focus on eating zinc-rich foods.
Foods that contain higher than normal levels of zinc include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Collard greens
- Nettle leaf
6. Iron Deficiency
9. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
10. Vitamin D Deficiency
7. Selenium Deficiency
8. Vitamin K2 Deficiency
How to Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Nutrients
If you want to help prevent nutritional deficiencies, you need to make sure you’re eating the proper foods and taking the necessary supplements.
Let’s face it – soil quality is depleting, and the amount of nutrients that were available in food years ago isn’t the same story for those same foods today.
With that being said, some vitamins and minerals are more abundant than others. Even if you’re not experiencing any symptoms of a nutritional deficiency, it would still be smart to invest in some of the following:
Shilajit is a complex mineral resin sourced from high elevations in the most pristine parts of the world. It has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and European medicine to heal the body from nutritional deficiencies and help activate full cellular potential. Shilajit is known to enhance our metabolism, directing the mitochondria to convert fats and sugars into ATP — our main source for cellular energy.
The shilajit from Cymbiotika is one of the most bio-charged, biologically available shilajit products on the market. It is patented, tested, pure, and constructed with 333 ppm of alchemical gold.
Omega-3 fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are crucial for brain and heart health. The unfortunate reality is, however, is that not many people are getting high-quality omega-3 fatty acids.
Most of the omega-3 fatty acids we see out there today come in supplemental form as fish oil. The problem with fish oil, though, is that it often comes with heavy metal contamination like mercury.
While ALA can be found abundantly in plant foods, EPA and DHA are a little harder to find. They’re almost always limited to fish and seafood products. And you know why? Because fish eat a high concentration of algae, which is high in EPA and DHA!
Thankfully, Cymbiotika covers all of these needs for us in one simple product: The Omega.
The Omega is a carefully crafted blend of DHA, EPA, organic sea buckthorn, astaxanthin, and phosphatidylcholine (PC).
Their DHA is extracted from a wild heirloom strain of algae from Nova Scotia (so you don’t need to worry about radiation coming from Japan and the whole Fukushima incident).
The sea buckthorn brings the product to a whole other level, because, if you didn’t already know, sea buckthorn is the only plant to offer all 4 omega fatty acids – 3-6-7-9! It promotes skin and organ elasticity and protects against dryness.
Astaxanthin, a strain of algae harvested from the pristine waters in Iceland is a powerful antioxidant with broad health implications. Unlike other antioxidants, astaxanthin never becomes a pro-oxidant. It is the perfect nutrient for cellular protection, restoring healthy vision and top athletic performance.
The PC is added to increase the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain, which will enhance the absorption of DHA across the board.
3. Vitamin B12
As you’ve probably already seen above, B12 is essential for normal body function.
The reality is, however, is that many of us are deficient, and for reasons beyond our control. The intrinsic binding factor for B12 is a sensitive one.
If these binding spots become destroyed either through alcohol abuse, prescription or non-prescription drug use, or even just consuming foods that are high in pesticides, then we won’t be able to properly absorb or utilize B12.
Not only that, but so many of the B12 products out there are made with cyanocobalamin. You might as well just be throwing your money out if you purchase a cyanocobalamin B12 product. Our cells might look at it, but they don’t know what to do with it, and very little of it will get absorbed.
When searching for a high-quality B12 supplement, you want to make sure you’re getting methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin. These are the two most bioactive forms of vitamin B12.
One of the last Cymbiotika products I will mention today is their Synergy B12.
Honestly, guys, this company is onto some revolutionary products that actually work, and actually have been improving the lives of people who’ve been deficient for so long.
Synergy B12 is one of the most advanced B12 products available on the market. Why? Because they use micelle technology, which guarantees maximum absorption.
So even if you’ve destroyed all the intrinsic binding factors for B12, their biotechnology delivery system makes these viral nutrients permeable on a sub-cellular level.
In addition to these active forms of B12, Cymbiotika also added fulvic minerals and folate to encourage proper cell function and detoxification.
Their folate is the most bio-active L-methylfolate form, a critically important vitamin for those who carry a mutation in the MTHFR gene.
If you don’t believe me, try out the product for yourself, and you’ll see just how much of a difference it will make in your life as it has mine.
And don’t worry. You can’t overdose on B12. Any extra B12 your body can’t use will get peed out.
You’d think that the majority of the population would be high in zinc, but that often isn’t the case.
Including a liquid zinc sulfate supplement in smaller amounts on a day-to-day basis may very well keep your immune system running strong year-round.
Zinc deficiency is a trigger for all kinds of chronic illnesses and symptoms. If you become deficient, you can become gravely ill.
If you want to reduce symptoms of chronic disease, or simply want to boost your immune system and protect against viruses, a high-quality liquid zinc sulfate supplement will be a game-changer.
Let’s face it. We all need to be taking a magnesium supplement.
The amounts of magnesium present in foods today are practically nill.
This mineral is also essential for the proper function of over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Just think about that for a second!
Imagine how your body would function with not enough magnesium! It would leave you feeling chronically fatigued, sick and constantly on edge.
Getting in the proper form of magnesium is very important. Avoid all the products with magnesium oxide, magnesium lactate, and magnesium gluconate.
The magnesium you want is called magnesium glycinate or magnesium bisglycinate.
My favorite brand of magnesium glycinate is from Pure Encapsulations, because they don’t use any fillers. This means that the product you’re taking is actually doing its job.
6. Fulvic/humic Minerals
Fulvic and humic minerals not only remineralize the body, but they help pull out pesticides and other environmental toxins from our tissues.
And there are products out there that are targeted exactly for that.
BioActive MetChem by Microbe Formulas is a powerful supplement that uses long-, medium-, and short-chain carbon molecules from organically sourced, plant-derived fulvic and humic acid extracts to bind and remove heavy metals and pesticides systemically in your body.
With this extra support, your body can begin to heal and restore itself back to its optimal state.
7. Vitamin D3
If you don’t get enough time out in the sun, or if you live in the Northern Hemisphere with cold, dark winters, you need to start supplementing with vitamin D3.
Vitamin D deficiencies are on the rise, and as important as this vitamin is for preventing cancer and other illnesses, we really can’t skimp on proper supplementation.
Pure Encapsulations formulates a liquid vitamin D3 supplement with zero fillers. The vitamin D3 is suspended in MCT oil, an oil that is known for its beneficial effects in those wanting to lose weight and increase their energy levels.
Additional Tips to Avoid Nutrient Deficiency
In addition to taking these supplements, eating a wide variety of plant-based foods, and choosing organic when you can, will significantly improve how you look and feel.
Personally, I like to grow a garden in the summer and source out local produce throughout the winter when I can.
With my garden, I focus on building soil quality so that the food I grow is nutrient-rich. I add in my own homemade, enriched compost, invest in a soil called ‘Sea Soil’, add in mineral rock dust and add straw on top to prevent soil erosion (aka. nutrient depletion).
There are many little ways you can improve on making sure your body gets exactly what it needs.
Let me know in the comments below, what steps you’re taking to ensure your body stays nutrient-rich!