Ever wondered if you’re missing nutrients in your body?
You’re certainly not the only one thinking about it.
As a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and registered Nutritionist, it’s one of the most common things I’m asked about, along with what we can do to make sure we’re getting all of the nutrients we need.
This article is here to answer your questions and uncover the most commonly missing nutrients in the average person’s body in western countries.
Because once we know what nutrients we might be missing, we can start to understand how to adjust and supplement our everyday diet to feel better.
But before we dive into what you might be missing, let’s just take a quick look at the reasons why this might be the case:
6 Reasons You’re Not Getting Enough Nutrients
- A poor variety in your diet
Different foods contain different nutrients. If we only stick to the same foods, chances are there are certain foods (and therefore certain nutrients) that you’ll be getting too little of or won’t be in your diet at all
- Soil quality + food source
Because of high-intensity agriculture and the use of pesticides and herbicides, most of the plant foods we now eat have lower nutritional content. This is also made worse by the long-distance transportation of imported food which causes further nutrient density loss.
- Reduced ability to absorb nutrients
An unbalanced microbiome can lead to poor intestinal absorption, interfering with your body’s ability to break down and absorb the nutrients that you consume. (Your microbiome is the network of microorganisms that lives in your body and supports your digestive system)
- Dysbiosis and gut permeability
An imbalance in the microbiota of your body that is associated with an increase in chronic body inflammation and reduced nutrient consumption
Mental and emotional stress can deplete many of the critical nutrients your body needs, even if you have a perfect diet. The most depleted minerals under chronic stress conditions are Magnesium, Vitamin C and Zinc.
- Paracetamol and other medications
- Paracetamol may deplete glutathione which contributes to immune system function and is vital in building and repairing tissue. Glutathione is your body’s “master antioxidant”.
- Metformin depletes B9 and B12, which help the body convert food into energy (metabolism), create new blood cells, and maintain healthy skin cells, brain cells, and other body tissues
- Oral contraceptives may deplete nutrients like vitamin B and Magnesium which plays many crucial roles in the body, such as supporting muscle and nerve function and energy production
- Statins reduce CoQ10 which is a powerful antioxidant and recent studies have shown it also inhibits vitamin K2 absorption
- Antibiotics have also been shown to disrupt the microbiome
As you can see, there are multiple different reasons why there are common nutritional deficiencies that exist in the western world.
Q: How do you know if you have a nutritional deficiency?
To find out for certain, you can take a functional nutritional test but at a glance, the most common symptoms of nutritional deficiency are:
- Thinning and/or loss of hair
- Poor cognitive function, such as changes in memory, concentration, thinking or behaviour
- Weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath
- Low libido
- Hormonal imbalance: Irregular menstruation, amenorrhea
- Poor thyroid function
- Pale and dry skin
- Red, swollen, bleeding gums
- Heart arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats
- Slow wound healing, yellowing of the skin and bruising
- Impaired immune function
- Mood changes, irritability
- Bone and joint pains and in some cases bone fractures, muscle pain/cramps
- Dry eyes and vision changes
- Poor Methylation (Methylation is a key mechanism that contributes to a wide range of crucial body functions: Detoxification, immune function, maintaining DNA, energy production, mood balancing and controlling inflammation)
It may be some of these symptoms feel quite familiar to you, so let’s look at the most common nutrient deficiencies associated with these symptoms.
The 10 Most Common Missing Nutrients + Their Effect On Your Body
(Listed in no particular order)
- Low thyroid function
- Upset stomach
- Mouth ulcers
- Disturbed vision
- Mood changes
- Pain and needles/neuropathy
- Poor methylation
- Anxiety, depression
- hair loss
- bone loss, muscle pain & back pain
- weight gain, muscle
- Weakened immune system
- Insulin resistance
- Osteoporosis (I will be focusing on this in my next blog!)
- Brittle bones
- Cardiovascular problems – blood pressure and heart rhythms
- Blood clotting problems
- Poor appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Numbness or tingling in skin
- Muscle cramps
- Abnormal heart rate
- poor memory
- dry, flaky skin
- heart problems
- mood swings or depression
- poor circulation
- unexpected weight gain
- fatigue, hair loss
- flaky dry skin,
- changes in heart rate
- heavy or irregular periods
- Folate (Vitamin B9)
- Low energy/tiredness
- Poor immune system
- Poor digestion
- Changes in mood
- Premature grey hair
- Development problems during pregnancy and infancy
- Poor methylation
- Chronic pain
- Swelling, bleeding gums
- Easy bruising
- Low collagen production
- Loss of taste or smell
- Poor appetite
- Depressed mood
- Decreased immunity
- Delayed wound healing
- Hair loss
- Sluggish thyroid
It can feel overwhelming to consider that we might be missing key nutrients from our bodies, but there are several things in your control that you can do to improve. Keep reading to find out how!
6 Ways to Mitigate Nutritional Deficiencies
Below are my 7 tips to combat nutritional deficiencies and bring your body back into balance.
1. Choose Locally Produced Organic
Food that is grown locally (less transportation required) and is labelled as Organic is much more likely to have higher nutritional content than non-organic imported food.
(If you want to understand what Organic really means, take a look at this article from The Soil Association: Understanding Organic)
2. Choose Food Combinations That Enhance Absorption
Certain foods and nutrients work much more efficiently when paired with others that boost their absorption. Here are a few examples:
Vitamins A, D, E and K require fat for absorption.
Food Pairing Suggestion: Red/orange foods like carrots, red peppers, and sweet potatoes are rich in provitamin A carotenoids which is converted into Vitamin A when combined with some olive oil, avocado, nuts or salmon
Vitamin C + Iron
To improve iron absorption, combine Vitamin C rich sources with non-heme iron foods (aka plant-based iron) or with heme iron foods (aka animal-based iron).
Food Pairing Suggestion: Combine your favourite dark leafy greens drizzled with lemon, or your grass-fed beef steak with vitamin C-rich food sources such as parsley, bell peppers or some dark leafy greens. Try to avoid calcium-rich food (e.g. milk, cheese) and coffee when eating high iron-rich food as they might inhibit iron absorption.
Vitamin D, Calcium + Magnesium
Another trio which favour mutual absorption.
Food Pairing Suggestion: Pair salmon or eggs with shiitake mushrooms (vitamin D-rich food) with dark leafy greens and/or almonds (calcium-rich food) and sunflowers seeds and/or dark chocolate as a dessert (Magnesium-rich food).
3. Repair your gut
I could write a whole separate article on this, but it’s best to speak to your health practitioner about potential strategies. And if you’re unsure whether you have a problem, you can have a comprehensive stool test
4. Feed your microbiome
You can feed your gut microbiome by adding a wide variety of plant foods that are high in fibre and phytonutrients (compounds which protect the plant and our health).
Both are crucial to supercharge your microbiome – the good bugs that line your skin, nasal passageway, and digestive system which are essentially barriers to prevent pathogens from getting into your body. They also have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial potential.
5. Reduce your Stress
Easier said than done, I know! There are however many strategies to reduce chronic stress, so do talk to your health practitioner to discover what is best for you as everyone is different and will respond better to different interventions.
6. Top up deficiencies with supplements
Taking supplements isn’t as straightforward as it can often sound, so do make sure you are guided by a health practitioner that can provide the best advice for you–and ensure you’re not wasting your money on something that won’t help!
So, what should you do now?
This article is here as a reference to help you understand more about the most common nutrient deficiencies and begin to uncover what nutrients you might be missing.
If this is something you are concerned about, I highly recommend you take a functional nutritional test for early recognition of your specific nutritional deficiencies and insufficiencies that are holding you back from optimal health.
Knowing your own personal nutritional profile will help you take the appropriate preventative actions that will help you feel better.
You are also more than welcome to book in a discovery call with me if you would like to find out more about how I can help you with your own specific needs.
THE ROLE OF NUTRIENTS + YOUR GENES
When it comes to your overall health, your genes play an important role. However, the study of epigenetics is showing that your behaviours and ‘environment’ can also affect the way your genes work. This in effect means that nutritional deficiencies also play a huge role in turning off certain genes in our DNA.
THOSE MOST AT RISK OF NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCY
Children, adolescent girls, women 19–50 years, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly, individuals on drastic diets and those who are ill might be at the highest risk of nutritional deficiencies.
- Effects of Gut Microbes on Nutrient Absorption and Energy Regulation. Nutr Clin Pract. 2012 Apr; 27(2): 201–214. Published online 2012 Feb24. doi: 10.1177/0884533611436116
- Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/
- Soil and the intensification of agriculture for global food security https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2019.105078
- Magnesium Status and Stress: The Vicious Circle Concept Revisited. doi: 10.3390/nu12123672
- Long-term Metformin Use and Vitamin B12 Deficiency in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-3754
- Oral contraceptives and changes in nutritional requirements https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23852908
- Statins https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25655639/ 2015 Mar;8(2):189-99. doi: 10.1586/17512433.2015.1011125.Epub 2015 Feb 6.
- Paracetamol and glutathione https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01116596
- The role of vitamin C in stress-related disorders. DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2020.108459
- The Effects of Psychological and Environmental Stress on Micronutrient Concentrations in the Body: A Review of the Evidence. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz082
- [Early diagnosis and significance of avitaminoses] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/990571/
- Omega3 fatty acids https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/omega-3-fatty-acids
- Cashman, K, D et al. (2016) Vitamin D Deficiency in Europe: Pandemic? The American Journal of clinical nutritiom:103 (4), pp 1033-1044.
- Global Vitamin C Status and Prevalence of Deficiency: A Cause for Concern? v.12(7); 2020 Jul PMC7400810
- Derbyshire, E. (2018). Micronutrient intakes of British adults across mid-life: A secondary analysis of the UK national diet and nutrition survey. Front. Nutr 5 (55)
- Rogers, L. M et al. (2018) Global folate status in women of reproductive age: a systematic review with emphasis on methodological issues. Annals of the New York Academy of sciences, 1431, p35-57
- Dietary Iron Intake in Women of Reproductive Age in Europe: A Review of 49 Studies from 29 Countries in the Period 1993–2015 v.2019; 2019 PMC6595378
- Suboptimal Micronutrient Intake among Children in Europe 2015 May 13. doi: 10.3390/nu7053524
- Risk of Deficiency in Multiple Concurrent Micronutrients in Children and Adults in the United States 2017 Jun 24. doi: 10.3390/nu9070655