Many of us assume we are sick and need to take medicine when we begin experiencing unexplained symptoms. However, these symptoms may be due to a lack of vital nutrients, which means they can be easily fixed by working more nutrient-rich foods into your diet or taking specific vitamins and supplements.
In this article, we'll go over five of the most common nutrient deficiencies adults experience and how your medication may be causing a nutrient deficiency. If you're wondering whether your symptoms could stem from a lack of certain nutrients, keep reading.
5 Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Adults
Check out the following nutrient deficiencies to find out whether your symptoms may be attributable to nutrients you may be missing. Plus, you'll also learn the foods you can eat to boost your nutrient levels:
Calcium is a vital nutrient for strong bones, which means a calcium deficiency can result in weakened bones and potential breaks or fractures. Calcium also strengthens your teeth and can protect them from damage.
To keep their bones and teeth strong, it is recommended that adults get about 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Once women enter menopause, they should aim to get closer to 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day because their estrogen levels decrease throughout.
You can get the right amount of calcium each day through calcium-rich foods, supplements or vitamins. Foods with a higher concentration of calcium include yogurt, milk, cheese, tofu and salmon.
Those who stick to a diet that restricts dairy are at a higher risk of calcium deficiency, also known as hypocalcemia. Without enough calcium, you may be at risk of developing a disorder like osteoporosis or abnormal heart rhythms.
If you feel fatigued all the time and don't know why, you may not be getting enough iron in your diet. Iron is a crucial mineral that helps the body produce hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that aids in carrying oxygen around the body. Without enough hemoglobin, your muscles and tissues don't have enough oxygen to work effectively, which results in a condition called anemia.
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia worldwide. Common symptoms of this condition include headaches, dizziness, weakness, extremely cold extremities and unusual cravings for ice. To avoid these symptoms, women who have gone through menopause and men should get at least 8.7 milligrams of iron per day, while women who still menstruate should aim for 14.8 daily milligrams to replenish the iron lost when they bleed.
You can get your daily dose of iron through certain foods, such as lean meats, poultry and seafood. For those on plant-based diets, lentils, beans and spinach contain a considerable amount of iron. Try to include a vitamin C-rich food or beverage in your iron-rich meal. Vitamin C increases the body's ability to absorb iron, especially iron from plant-based sources.
3. Vitamin C
Along with helping the body absorb iron, vitamin C is one of the key nutrients for maintaining healthy cells, skin and bones and healing wounds. A vitamin C deficiency is known as scurvy, which can cause weakness, gum disease, skin problems and other medical issues. Early signs of scurvy include easy bruising, bleeding gums and injuries that take an exceptionally long time to heal.
To ensure your daily vitamin C intake is sufficient, incorporate vitamin C-rich foods into your diet, such as fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries, kiwi, papaya, guava and pineapples. Other excellent sources of vitamin C include broccoli, potatoes and bell peppers. Many enriched breads and cereals also serve as a great source of vitamin C. Try to get at least 40 milligrams of vitamin C each day by either eating enough of these vitamin C-rich foods or taking supplements and vitamins.
4. Vitamin D
Because the body needs vitamin D to help it properly absorb calcium, the nutrients provide many of the same perks. The benefits of vitamin D include boosted immunity and better bone health. A deficiency in vitamin D may result in bone pain, muscle weaknesses or an increase in infections.
You can avoid a vitamin D deficiency by getting at least 600 international units (IU) of the nutrient each day. However, older adults should try to get closer to 800 IU per day. Adults can work more vitamin D into their diets by eating fortified dairy products, eggs and nutrient-rich fish like salmon and tuna. Fortified orange juice is also a great beverage for those hoping to increase their daily vitamin D intake.
You can also get more vitamin D by spending time outside in the sunlight. The skin's natural response to being exposed to more sun is to produce more vitamin D, which is what earned the nutrient its nickname as the "sunshine" vitamin. Be sure to always wear the proper sun protection and use sunscreen to limit harmful amounts of sun absorption whenever you're outdoors for an extended amount of time.
5. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for staying healthy and well. Most importantly, vitamin B12 helps the body make DNA and red blood cells and release the energy it receives from food. Adults should aim to get 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day to ensure they receive a sufficient amount of the nutrient.
When the body does not get enough vitamin B12, it becomes prone to health conditions like gastritis, immune system disorders and conditions that negatively impact the small intestine, like celiac disease. Keep in mind that your body doesn't store vitamin B12 for long, so you will need to replenish its supply regularly.
However, the body does not produce vitamin B12 on its own, which means you must obtain the nutrient from animal-based foods or supplements. Foods rich in vitamin B12 include animal products like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy items. Those who adhere to a plant-based diet can look for products fortified with vitamin B12.
Are Your Medications Depleting Your Nutrients?
If you follow a nutrient-rich diet but are still experiencing nutritional deficiency symptoms, your medications may be depleting your body of important nutrients. Those who take multiple prescriptions are especially at risk for negative nutrient-drug interactions that may lead to nutrient deficiencies. Many medications can contribute to dietary deficiencies due to appetite suppression, increased cravings for unhealthy foods or the way the drug and nutrients interact.
Specifically, these medications have been linked to deficiencies in some of the important nutrients covered above:
- Antibiotics: General antibiotics like penicillins can result in low calcium, iron and vitamin B12 levels, causing symptoms such as osteoporosis, anemia and more.
- Cholesterol medication: Many common drugs for lowering cholesterol include the side effects of calcium, iron, vitamin D or vitamin B12 depletion.
- Blood pressure medication: Certain blood pressure medications may cause a drastic drop in calcium and vitamin C levels.
- Diabetes medication: Anti-diabetics are often associated with vitamin B12 depletion.
Those who need to take one or more of these medications may want to consider taking specific supplements to keep their key nutrient levels up. If you think your medication may be causing a nutrient deficiency, make sure you consult with your doctor or pharmacist before switching or stopping your medication or taking supplements.
Create a Nutrition Plan on the Gateway Region YMCA App
You can easily track your daily nutrient intake and monitor your nutrient deficiency symptoms by using the Gateway Region YMCA app. On the app, you can create a nutrition plan to help you map out a meal schedule tailored to your nutrient needs. In addition to tracking your nutrition, you can use the app to find workout classes and stay up to date on all the fun activities happening at the Y.
Start leading a healthier lifestyle by downloading the Gateway Region YMCA app today.