Spot the tell-tale signs of vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may be impacting your health.
Do you often feel dizzy or exhausted? Is it a struggle to keep up with your kids? Have you noticed any sudden or weird changes in your skin, hair or nails? Can it sometimes be hard to breathe after physical activity? These signs may be your body’s way of telling you that you’re missing out on one or more essential vitamins, and a visit to your doctor may be in order.
In the meantime, here are some common symptoms of nutrient deficiencies you need to watch out for.
1. Unexplained fatigue
Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia, which is indicated by low levels of red blood cells. If you feel constantly sapped of energy, you may be lacking in nutrients such as iron, vitamin D, copper, magnesium, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin E or potassium.
2. Bone pain and muscle aches or weakness
A lack of vitamin D can lead to achy bones, sore muscles and stiff joints, especially when you’re getting up in the morning. Vitamin D regulates calcium in the body and helps maintain strong bones and healthy muscle movement. A long-term vitamin D deficiency can eventually lead to soft bones and weak muscles.
3. Tingling, prickling or numbness in your hands, legs and feet
The “pins and needles” feeling in your extremities may be caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency. If this deficiency is not addressed, it can lead to permanent nerve damage and loss of reflexes.
4. Shortness of breath
Lacking in two key vitamins – B12 and vitamin C – can cause shortness of breath. Chronic vitamin C deficiency will lead to scurvy, which if left untreated can result in swollen gums, severe joint swelling, shortness of breath and slow-healing wounds.
5. Brittle hair and nails
Nails that suddenly start cracking or splitting, or hair that begins falling out or feels brittle may signal a deficiency in B vitamins, particularly biotin (B7) and B12, as well as calcium, zinc and essential fatty acids.
6. Cracks at the corners of your mouth
Mouth problems may be a warning sign of a riboflavin (B2) or iron deficiency. Watch out for cracking or inflammation at the corners of the mouth, or an unusually pale or swollen tongue.
7. Wounds that heal poorly
Slow or impaired wound healing can be linked to a vitamin C or zinc deficiency. These two nutrients are essential not only for helping repair wounds but also for fighting off infections.
Improving your diet is a must
With today’s busy lifestyles and processed food diets, it’s easy to be vitamin-deficient. You might be worried that your family is eating properly, while you yourself resort to quick meals that lack a variety or adequate nutrients.
No matter how hectic your schedule may be, a healthy and balanced diet is something you should always maintain.
To ensure you’re getting what your body needs, follow the ‘rainbow plate’ guide. Fill your plate with different coloured foods, from bright fruits and vegetables to browns (whole-grains) and whites/yellows (milk, cheese and healthy oils).
Make changes to your food choices as well as your buying and cooking habits. Bake or grill meat instead of frying it, or choose wholegrain breads instead of refined or white breads. In the supermarket, always read nutrition labels first.
Get extra nutritional support through multivitamin supplements. Make sure you choose supplements specifically made for women and tailored to your needs and age. It’s also a good idea to ensure any supplements you take are made from a complete formula of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and natural herb extracts that can support your health.
Having too few vitamins or minerals prevents your body from functioning optimally, so always make sure to get your recommended dose of vitamins and minerals every day.