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Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies: What Your Doctor May Not See


The average face-to-face time with the doctor during an office visit is about 20 minutes. At a retail walk-in clinic, the face time is even shorter—only about 7 minutes. You’re lucky to have your major concerns addressed in so little time, so it’s no wonder that some symptoms that might signal nutritional deficiencies are often overlooked.

If you have any of these symptoms, and especially, if you have several of them, it’s time for a nutritional assessment.

1. Poor Night Time Vision

If you have trouble seeing in the dark or recovering your nighttime vision after exposure to bright light, you may have a vitamin A and/or a zinc deficiency.

  • What to Take: Get vitamin A from orange-yellow foods and supplemental beta-carotene and mixed carotenoids, or from a multivitamin with a mix of both beta-carotene (2,500 IU) and preformed vitamin A (2,500 IU, but not more than 3,500 IU total). Get zinc from foods like seafood and meat and from a supplement containing at least 20 mg of zinc.

2. Muscle Pain and Weakness

If you’ve got more than your share, it’s worth checking out two things: vitamin D deficiency, which has been linked to muscle pain and weakness and CoQ10, which can help to alleviate muscle pain and weakness caused by cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

  • What to Take: Get at least 1,000-2,000 IU a day of vitamin D and 100-300 mg of CoQ10.

3. Depression

Even when you have good reasons to feel grumpy, your mood can be aggravated by poor diet. Good nutrition can also help antidepressant drugs work better.

  • What to Take: At least 1,000 IU of supplemental vitamin D, 500 mcg of vitamin B12 and 400-800 mcg of folic acid. Take 1,400 mg a day of fish oil.

4. Easy Bruising

People bruise more easily as they age, because they have less protective fat under their skin.

  • What to Take: Quercetin (600 mg) and vitamin C (500-1,000 mg a day) may help. Both improve capillary fragility. Vitamin K2 is also important. Get at least 100 mcg a day from leafy greens or a supplement. Other nutrients to take daily:  copper (2 mg), zinc (20 mg), natural vitamin E (400 IU), vitamin B12 (500 mcg) and folic acid (400-800 mcg).

5. Tingly Feet and Wobbly Walking

Especially when it’s accompanied by a loss of balance, tingly feet can be a sign of low vitamin B12. Low vitamin E or folic acid can also cause problems with the nerves in your feet.

  • What to Take: See your doctor for a complete work-up, and be sure to get at least 500 mcg of B12, 400-800 mcg of folic acid, and 400 IU of natural vitamin E every day.

6. Jumpiness

Both magnesium and thiamine deficiencies can cause an exaggerated sensitivity to noise, called a pronounced startle response. People who abuse alcohol are most likely to be deficient.

  • What to Take: At least 300-500 mg of magnesium and 50 mg of thiamine a day.

7. Burning Mouth

Symptoms may come and go, and include numbness and tingling.

  • What to Take: Get your iron levels checked. Take extra iron as recommended by your doctor. Take a multivitamin with at least 500 mcg of B12 and 400-800 mcg of folic acid.

8. Cracks in the Corners of Your Mouth

The medical term is angular cheilitis. These cracks look like paper cuts and are just as painful. They can lead to fungal, yeast or bacterial infection.

  • What to Take: A multivitamin with all eight B vitamins: thiamine (25 mg), riboflavin (25 mg), niacin (25 mg), vitamin B6 (50 mg), folic acid (400-800 mcg), B12 (500 mcg), biotin (300 mcg) and pantothenic acid (50 mg).

9. Bad Hair Every Day

Thinning, dry, brittle hair can be your cue to tune into your diet.

  • What to Take: 3-6 g of flax seed oil a day, plus a multi that has at least 300 mcg of biotin. Getting enough protein is important too.

10. Fragile Fingernails

White spots on nails can signal zinc deficiency. Spoon-shaped nails (they bend backwards) can mean low iron. Brittle, splitting nails can mean low calcium, zinc or a fatty acid deficiency.

  • Remedy: Get checked for an iron deficiency and use supplemental iron as needed. Get 20 mg of zinc and 800-1,000 mg of calcium, and 6 g of flax seed oil a day.

11. Frequent Infections

We’re all bombarded by germs, but people who are well-nourished do a better job of fending them off, because their immune systems have the resources they need to fight back.

  • What to Take: A multivitamin containing at least 500 mg of vitamin C and 20 mg of zinc, along with 1,000-2,000 IU of vitamin D.

The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Nutritional deficiencies can seriously compromise your wellbeing and set the stage for many diseases. While symptoms can have many causes, poor nutrition is a cause that is often overlooked and easily corrected with the right supplements and better eating habits. Tune in to your body and take charge of your health so that you can live the longest, healthiest life possible.

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