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Common Nutrient Deficiencies and When to Consider Supplements

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In this vast and confusing world of nutrition, we’re faced with choices left and right that make us wonder if we’re getting enough from our diets. Vitamins and other micronutrients in the form of pills hit the shelves as soon as an article about one or another hits the tabloids. And there are just as many articles disputing whether or not taking such supplements is even good for you. It’s hard to know which direction to take when physicians and dieticians can’t even agree upon a consistent answer, and sorting through all of those articles sounds like a lot of work, right? It was— but don’t worry, we did it for you. Here are 4 of the most common deficiencies and when it might be time to supplement:

Vitamin D:

Those most at risk: Vegans, vegetarians, lactose intolerant individuals, those living in Northern regions.

Dietary sources: Milk, fatty fish, eggs, cheese.

The rundown: In a perfect world, we would get most of our vitamin D from the sun; however, because most jobs center around being indoors, this can be hard. For those living in parts of the world where the sun doesn’t shine year-round, deficiencies are common, and for vegans and vegetarians the issue is also prevalent.

Vitamin D is not a nutrient found readily in food, so you might want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement if you fall into one of the aforementioned categories. A deficiency can cause depression and deplete your immune system’s strength, among other things.

Iron:

Those most at risk: Women of menstrual age, vegetarians, vegans, young children.

Dietary sources: Meat, shellfish, beans, seeds, dark greens.

The rundown: Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the world. Young children are not typically consuming iron-rich foods, putting them at risk of iron deficiency. Women of menstrual age are at risk due to the amount of blood lost during menstruation. Vegans and vegetarians lack options for heme (animal-derived) iron, the form most readily-absorbed by your body; although non-heme iron is prevalent in nuts, seeds, beans and greens.

Consistent exhaustion and feeling weak are symptoms of this deficiency. If you’re at risk for a deficiency, you may want to an iron supplement. Left unattended, this problem could lead to anemia, a condition that reduces your red blood cell’s capacity to carry oxygen throughout your body.

Vitamin B12:

Those most at risk: Vegetarians, vegans.

Dietary sources: Eggs, milk, poultry, fish, meat, fortified cereals.

The rundown: Vegans and vegetarians once again find themselves falling short of a recommended daily amount: Vitamin B12. Dietary intake is still an option with fortified cereals available on the market. Symptoms of a B12 deficiency can include weakness and fatigue, lightheadedness, diarrhea, constipation, and depression. If you think you have a B12 deficiency, you may want to consider a B12 supplement to avoid these problems.

Magnesium:

Dietary sources: Greens, beans, seeds, nuts.

The rundown: Magnesium is a mineral that plays an important role in many of your bodily processes; and it’s used by every single organ in your body (kind of like water). It’s a wonder, then, that most people aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diets. Magnesium deficiency can facilitate the development of many other conditions, such as anxiety, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, and muscular weakness. It’s a pretty difficult condition to diagnose, as most of the symptoms can be attributed to other causes.

Generally speaking, there is no demographic more at risk for magnesium deficiency than any other, which also puts everyone at risk as it is a problem that is relatively common throughout the population. Beans, nuts, greens, whole grains, and fish are all good sources of this mineral; but many people do not consume these foods regularly. As it is so prevalent in healthy food sources, we would encourage you to find dietary sources of magnesium before turning to a supplement.
In conclusion:
It can be difficult, especially on a restricted diet, to get all of your daily recommended amounts of nutrients through the foods you’re eating. While a nutrient deficiency might seem likely based on your lifestyle, it’s important to note that only a doctor can diagnose these deficiencies for sure. If you’re concerned with taking a supplement, talk with your doctor beforehand to discuss what the best options for you may be. If you’re looking to incorporate more foods into your diet to avoid a deficiency, we can help! Give us a call to set up an appointment with one of our nutritionists, and we can work to come up with a meal plan that will optimize your nutrient intake.

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