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Common Nutrient Deficiencies: Signs & Symptoms

Updated: May 26, 2023


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Have you ever had vague or strange symptoms that your doctor just couldn't diagnose? Have you ever wondered if your ambiguous symptoms and general malaise could ever be linked to a nutritional deficiency? Unfortunately, nutrient deficiencies and insufficiencies aren't as uncommon as would be expected in developed countries.


Surprised?


You shouldn't be. Studies show that if you're eating a western diet (Standard American Diet or SAD), then you're not getting enough nutrients like magnesium or choline. Sad indeed, right?


The sad (sorry for the puns) reality is that our food supply has been pretty much hijacked by companies that don't necessarily have your best interest in mind. The bottom line, the almighty dollar, is these companies biggest concern, not nutrition.


So how would you know if some of the symptoms you are having are due to nutrient deficiencies? It's not like your doctor will ask for a detailed diet diary and order labs to access nutrient analysis (unless you're seeing a naturopathic doctor).


If you've been having unexplained symptoms that are hard to diagnose, here are some of the most common nutrient deficiencies and insufficiencies with signs and symptoms.


*Note: There's a difference between a deficiency and an insufficiency. A deficiency is considered a clinical disease that needs immediate treatment An insufficiency may not even be recognized by your clinician although you have many signs and symptoms of lacking a specific nutrient or nutrients.


Common Nutrient Deficiencies

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Magnesium

Magnesium is a common nutrient deficiency worldwide with studies estimating that those eating western diets have a dietary magnesium intake up to less than 50% of the recommended daily intake.


Magnesium is a necessary nutrient for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It's needed for protein synthesis, conduction of muscle and nerve cells, and blood sugar control. Just to name a few.


Magnesium deficiency and insufficiency signs

Some of the signs and symptoms of magnesium insufficiency include:

High blood pressure

Migraine headaches

Depression, irritability, and mood disturbances

Poor quality sleep or lack of sleep

Cramps, muscle aches, and pains

Constipation

Insulin resistance

Frank magnesium deficiency can be fatal causing heart arrhythmia, seizures, and low potassium.



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Choline

Choline is a nutrient that can act as a methyl group donor in many different metabolic processes. It also acts as building block for phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, molecules that help build cell membranes.


Choline is also necessary for proper brain and liver function. In fact, choline it's estimated that many adults and children have an inadequate daily intake of choline especially among college students, children with a low socioeconomic status, and adults eating a SAD diet.


Although the National Institutes of Health would say that choline deficiency is rare, there is evidence that the increased prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, that many individuals aren't consuming enough choline.


NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) is caused, in part, by a lack of choline.


Choline Deficiency and Insufficiency signs

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Increased homocysteine levels which is linked to poor cardiovascular health

Muscle weakness

Cognitive decline

Fatigue

Increased sleepiness and daytime sleepiness



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Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is thought to affect 1 billion adults and children worldwide. Vitamin D is an important vitamin that acts more like a steroid hormone in the body.


Sufficient vitamin D levels are necessary for everything from reducing inflammation to improving immunity.


Vitamin D is synthesized by the body from ultraviolet light hitting skin. It's then further processed by the kidneys and the liver to be available for use in the body.


Vitamin D Deficiency and Insufficiency Signs

Body aches and pains

Getting sick more often

Depression, sadness, and low moods

Hair loss

High blood pressure


Addressing Nutrient Insufficiencies

So if you find that you have some of these signs and symptoms, how do you address low nutrient status?


Eating a magnesium rich diet can help improve your total magnesium status. Foods high in magnesium include: pumpkin seeds, spinach, almonds, chia seeds, and cashews.


Choline rich foods include: eggs, especially the yolk, chicken breast, soybeans, and beef liver.


Foods rich in vitamin D include: trout, salmon, cod liver oil, sardines, eggs, and beef liver.


Sometimes diet isn't enough to increase your nutrient status. This is because our foods are grown in nutrient depleted soil, picked before they are ripe, shipped over long distances, and kept in stores for long periods of time to prevent spoilage.


If you find that you can't get enough of the nutrients you need from your diet, you may benefit from taking supplements. While nutrient insufficiencies can be a cause of you hard to explain symptoms, there may be other issues that need to be addressed.


Your naturopathic doctor can help create a personalized plan of action to help you get to feeling your best.



Dr. Candace Mathers, naturopathic doctor, natural medicine doctor, naturopathic doctor near me,

I'm Dr. Candace Mathers, boy mom, girl mom, Down syndrome mom and naturopathic doctor. Life Blossom Wellness will be releasing a NEW self paced online course all about homeopathy! Homeopathy can be a gentle effective treatment for many conditions, especially those that are hard to manage with conventional approaches.

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References

  1. Gröber U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Nutrients. 2015;7(9):8199-8226. Published 2015 Sep 23. doi:10.3390/nu7095388

  2. Serefko A, Szopa A, Poleszak E. Magnesium and depression. Magnes Res. 2016;29(3):112-119. doi:10.1684/mrh.2016.0407

  3. Cao Y, Zhen S, Taylor AW, Appleton S, Atlantis E, Shi Z. Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1354. Published 2018 Sep 21. doi:10.3390/nu10101354

  4. Zeisel SH, da Costa KA. Choline: an essential nutrient for public health. Nutr Rev. 2009;67(11):615-623. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x

  5. Gossell-Williams M, Benjamin J. Choline: are our university students eating enough?. West Indian Med J. 2006;55(3):197-199. doi:10.1590/s0043-31442006000300013

  6. Jun S, Cowan AE, Dodd KW, et al. Association of food insecurity with dietary intakes and nutritional biomarkers among US children, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2011-2016. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021;114(3):1059-1069. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqab113

  7. Holick MF. The vitamin D deficiency pandemic: Approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Rev Endocr Metab Disord. 2017;18(2):153-165. doi:10.1007/s11154-017-9424-1



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