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Physical Signs of Nutritional Deficiencies

By Shannon Sinsheimer, ND

Nutritional deficiencies often go unnoticed or undiscovered in routine lab work and annual physicals. However, each vitamin, mineral, and nutrient has specific deficiency signs and symptoms that commonly occur. By paying attention to changes in our body’s physical health, deficiencies can be assessed before any long-term complications. A list of common nutritional deficiencies below is a helpful reminder of how small changes in the body can indicate changes in nutritional status.1

Vitamin A: night blindness, dry eyes, poor wound healing, reduced immunity

Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): mental confusion, muscle weakness and wasting, poor appetite

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): swollen or painful tongue or mouth, cracks in sides of mouth

Vitamin B3 (Niacin): dementia, irritability, headaches, diarrhea, skin inflammation

Vitamin B6: irritability, depression, nausea, heightened PMS symptoms

Vitamin B12: anemia, fatigue, enhanced peripheral neuropathies, depression, confusion

Vitamin C: fatigue, weakness, muscle cramps, easy bruising

Vitamin D: osteoporosis, depression, reduced immunity

Vitamin E: dry skin, easy bruising, bone pain, nighttime leg cramping

Omega 3 Fatty Acids: dry skin, dandruff, cracking or peeling fingertips, allergy prone

Calcium: muscle spasms, anxiety, insomnia

Magnesium: fatigue, irritability, weakness, muscle spasms, insomnia

Zinc: decreased taste and smell, delayed wound healing, inflammation at corners of mouth, chronic skin irritation

Nutritional deficiencies result from key diet and health issues. A poor quality diet, low in plant-based foods or high in processed foods, can quickly lead to a decline in nutritional status. Sub-optimal digestion with limited digestive enzyme activity, or low probiotic content, can limit nutrient absorption from the diet. Long-term pharmaceutical medication use can reduce certain nutrients, such as lowered vitamin B6 levels from taking oral birth control pills.

Optimizing nutrient uptake comes from maintaining an organic, plant-based whole foods diet, good digestion, and correcting nutritional deficiencies caused by medications.

In addition to physical signs and symptoms of nutritional deficiencies, functional lab tests can be ordered to assess complete nutritional status. Yearly assessment of nutritional status with labs and appropriate physical exams offers highly preventative care. It also guides individualized nutritional supplemental protocols and dietary plans. Visit with a qualified healthcare provider for optimal nutritional assessment and treatment recommendations.

Dr. Sinsheimer is a Naturopathic Doctor with Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568.2598.

Reference: 1) Russel Marz, ND, Medical Nutrition from Marz (Portland, OR: Omni-Press 2002)

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