You’re deficient! Find out why
There really might be something wrong with you
Your body needs vitamins and minerals to function properly and to keep healthy. Most people can receive all the nutrients they need to nourish their body from a balanced diet.
But health issues and other lifestyle factors can also contribute to a deficiency – for example, sunlight contributes to your levels of Vitamin D, so you need to make sure you’re getting enough daylight.
But while you may already take iron supplements, be conscious of your calcium intake and regularly top up your Vitamin C with fruit and vegetables, there are less well-known deficiencies that could be causing mysterious symptoms – and even serious health problems.
One example is a lack of Vitamin B12. Unusual and concerning symptoms of a B12 deficiency include a sore and red tongue (glossitis), pins and needles (paraesthesia), disturbed vision, depression and even a decline in your mental abilities. It has also been reported to be the cause of chronic itching.Pernicious anaemia, an autoimmune condition that affects your stomach, is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency – but there are other factors including diet, parasites, commonplace medicines, gastric bypass surgery and gastric atrophy (inflammation of the stomach).
Since Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal-based foods, with the exception of seaweeds like Japanese nori, those following a vegan diet are susceptible to a dearth of B12.So what other strange symptoms could be a sign that your body is craving something or is lacking in essential compounds? (It’s worth noting that, in some cases, an excess of certain vitamins and minerals can also lead to unwanted symptoms or health issues. And that, as ever with medical issues, you should consult a GP if you have any concerns.)
Dry eyes and a physical inability to cryVitamin ACarrots really could help you to see in the dark: the first sign of a Vitamin A deficiency is dry eyes and difficulty seeing clearly at night. It may be harder to drive at night, or you may need to turn on lights earlier in the evening. You might also experience a “loss of tears” and dry, cracked lips.
Vitamin A is found in eggs, milk, liver and red, orange and green fruits and vegetables including peas, red peppers, spinach and carrots.
A desire to eat things that aren’t food, such as ice or paperIronAs well as making food taste strange, iron-deficiency anaemia can even make you want to eat things that aren’t food. This is a disorder known as pica, which can compel you to crave the ingestion of dirt, clay, ice and paper.
Common symptoms of iron deficiency also include tiredness and lack of energy, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and pale skin. There are also some more unusual signs to look out for, such as spoon-shaped nails, restless leg syndrome and tinnitus.
Iron-rich foods include red meat (beef, lamb and pork), pulses and legumes (beans, peas and lentils), and tofu, nuts and seeds.
Bruising easilyVitamin CSkin that bruises easily could be a sign of scurvy, a condition resulting from a deficiency of Vitamin C. It’s easy to treat by adding quantities of fruit and vegetables to your diet. Other symptoms include swollen, bleeding gums, and red or blue spots on the shins, as well as tiredness and irritability.
Aching bonesVitamin DIf you’re experiencing a low mood and can’t wait for some sunlight to soothe your aching bones, you may be in need of Vitamin D. A lack of the Vitamin D we get from sunlight decreases our levels of serotonin, the happy hormone, which could make you sad. But it can also result in a throbbing or achy feeling in your bones. This is often most noticeable in the knees and back. A more serious deficiency can lead to rickets.
A staggering gaitVitamin B12
There are many different types of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, Vitamin b6 and niacin. Some are concerned with helping your body to release energy from food and enabling the nervous system. Some of these need to be ingested every day.
A long-term lack of Vitamin B12 can have a detrimental effect on your health. According to Harvard Health Medical School, a lack of Vitamin B12 is “sneaky” and “harmful”. It points out that it can affect balance and cause difficulty walking, leading to staggering – as well as other symptoms including memory loss and a lack of taste.
Slow-healing woundsVitamin KSuffering from permanently scabby knees? Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting, which means it helps wounds heal properly. You can get it from green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, vegetable oils and cereal grains. A deficiency can also cause excessive bleeding and blood in the urine.
Brittle nails, facial spasms and difficulty swallowingCalciumYou may not know you have a calcium deficiency until it’s too late, because the body simply takes it from our bones naturally. It’s crucial for bones and teeth, as well as blood clotting and the regulation of muscle contractions, including the heartbeat and lungs.
If a calcium deficiency is very severe or acute there can be muscle spasms or cramping, tingling, or burning sensation around the mouth and fingers, and an impaired ability to swallow – as well as other facial spasms and tics.
Feeling cold (even when it's warm)IodineAccording to the Australian Thyroid Foundation, an iodine deficiency is the most common worldwide cause of thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism.
The most reliable way to check your iodine intake is with a urine test, but symptoms can include feeling cold, even in warm conditions – as well as fatigue, weight gain, puffy skin, hair loss and depression.
Bloating PotassiumOne potential cause of constipation and bloating could be a potassium deficiency. A function of potassium is to control the balance of fluids in the body. It ensures that nutrients move into cells, and that waste products move out of cells. It also helps the heart muscle to work properly.
Low potassium levels could be indicative of an irregular heartbeat. In rare cases, potassium levels may be low through poor diet. Potassium is found in most foods including fruit (especially bananas), vegetables, brown rice, oats, fish, beef and chicken.
Be careful though – you can also have too much potassium, which can reduce your heart muscle activity.
Hair lossZincAccording to hair loss specialists, thinning hair can be caused by a diet that is zinc deficient. “Even in the developed world, zinc deficiency is quite common and can occasionally cause hair loss,” it states. The mineral is responsible for cell reproduction and regrowth, so a zinc-rich diet (meat, fish, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables) can ensure your hair is naturally conditioned and prevent excessive shedding.
© The Daily Telegraph