Common Nutrient Deficiencies and What Causes Them

Nutrients play a vital role in our lives and bodies. Obtaining enough vitamins through your diet can be the most natural, and often, beneficial way of sustaining your body so that it can function that way it was made to. But sometimes, due to poor food choices or health ailments, we lack nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to properly perform. Read on for information about the most common vitamin deficiencies in the American diet, as well as how to remediate them for optimal health.

What Are the Causes of Nutrient Deficiency?

There are many causes of nutrient deficiency, however, one of the biggest has to do with dietary habits. By neglecting to eat a variety of vitamin-rich healthy foods, you may be putting yourself at risk for having low levels of certain nutrients. Additionally, there are some who may be eating the right kinds of foods, but their body is still unable to absorb the nutrients it needs. This is known as “malabsorption” and is common among many who have certain diseases or health ailments. The following are a few of the health ailments that might put someone at risk for malabsorption:

  • Damage to the Intestines
  • Parasites
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Celiacs Disease
  • Birth Disorders
  • Crohn's Disease

Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies in the American Diet

1. Magnesium

Magnesium, found in fish, spinach, and even chocolate, plays an important role in the body. It is involved in hundreds of enzyme reactions, combats diabetes and alleviates inflammation in the body. Becoming deficient in magnesium, therefore, can have a host of negative outcomes in the body. These include fatigue, cramps, and heart palpitations. More serious conditions connected to the deficiency include type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Moreover, studies show that nearly half of those living in the United States consume less than the desired amount of magnesium. To increase levels of magnesium naturally, try incorporating the following into your diet:

  • Dark Chocolate
  • Almonds
  • Oats
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Collard Greens

2. Iron

Iron is important as it plays a key role in transporting oxygen to your body's cells. Still, nearly a fourth of the global population suffers from iron deficiency, making it one of the most common deficiencies in the world. Those suffering from low iron levels may experience fatigue, impaired immune systems, and poor cognitive function. If left unchecked, this population of people may also become anemic, as their red blood cells begin to cease to do their job in transporting oxygen to the rest of the body. Vegan and preschool children are also particularly at risk of having low iron. Those that are deficient in iron may seek to include the following in their diet:

  • Sardines
  • Red Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Liver

3. Biotin

Biotin, also known as B7, plays a very active role in the body. It is responsible for creating fatty acids and glucose, and supports your body's overall metabolic function. An article at states that this deficiency can be somewhat rare, it is also more prevalent amongst pregnant women than it is amongst other populations. This deficiency can also show up in infants within his or her first few stages of life. Symptoms of low biotin in infants include seizures, eczema, developmental delays and more. To increase your biotin intake, consider eating more of the following:

  • Cooked Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Avocado
  • Seeds
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Nuts

4. Vitamin D

This vitamin is absorbed directly through the skin from sunlight, making it difficult to maintain good levels, particularly for those having limited exposure to the sun. Moreover, those with darker skin tend to have more trouble absorbing vitamin D from sunlight, and therefore, are at an even higher risk of developing this deficiency. For this reason, those that are low in vitamin D may want to consider taking a supplement, getting more time in the sun and increasing their intake of the following foods:

  • Egg Yolks
  • Salmon
  • Cod Liver Oil

5. Calcium

Responsible for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, calcium is a key nutrient for our bodies to function properly. Those not obtaining enough calcium are likely to suffer from osteoporosis later in life and may develop soft bones, otherwise known as “rickets”. Although you may be able to take calcium supplements, this method may not be the most effective way of absorbing calcium in the body. The best way to get enough calcium is through your diet. Therefore, if you are suffering from a calcium deficiency, consider adding these items to your diet:

  • Kale
  • Dairy Products
  • Spinach
  • Boned Fish
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli

6. Vitamin B12

This vitamin is desperately needed by your body, however, your body is unable to produce it. Vitamin B12 performs a variety of functions including supporting the processes for your nerves and brain, and thus, those deficient in the nutrient must be sure to get it from a supplement or diet. Because vitamin B12 comes largely from animal sources, it is reported that over 80% of vegans are deficient in this nutrient. If you are low in Vitamin B12, consider supplementation, or begin to include the following in your diet:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Steak
  • Clams and Oysters

7. Iodine

The most common symptom of iodine deficiency is deteriorated function, or the enlargement of, the thyroid. This, too, is a very common deficiency, as over one-third of the global population suffers from it. Along with thyroid function, a lack of iodine can also cause weight gain, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing and developmental delays in children. Try including the following in your diet if you find that your levels of iodine are too low:

  • Cod
  • Yogurt
  • Seaweed
  • Eggs

In summary, vitamins play a very important role in our health. Being deficient in one, or more of these nutrients can have serious outcomes on your health and can have damaging effects on your quality of life. To ensure you are getting the correct amount of vitamins, talk to your doctor, especially if you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms mentioned above. Once your doctor takes your blood, he or she will then be able to inform you about your nutrient levels, and what you can do to improve them. If and when possible, always try to get your nutrients through food and diet. Also, be sure to do your research, and follow the advice of a licensed physician.

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