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7 Signs of Nutritional Deficiencies

Have you ever thought about what your hair, skin, and nails may be telling you?

Most of us at some point in time have experienced at least one of the following: dry and brittle hair, hair loss, oily skin, dry and scaly skin, rashes, acne, brittle cracking nails, or nail discoloration.

What do you do? Most often, we seek out new hair, skin, and nail products to cover up the nasty appearance or start using a new magical formula that promises to correct what’s wrong. We mask the symptom but skip the investigation into WHAT is causing it in the first place.

Today I’ll uncover seven common nutritional deficiencies and their physical signs. I’ll also share ways to discern the “root” cause and steps to re-balance your body from the inside to optimize your health on the outside!

Protein Deficiency 

Protein deficiency can develop as a result of inadequate protein consumption, poor digestion and/or absorption (digestive dysfunction), or increased protein needs related to toxin load and/or excess exercise. You may notice thin, brittle nails that crack easily and have ridges, or your hair may be dry and brittle as well as discolored.

Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency 

EFA deficiency results from inadequate omega-3 consumption (e.g. wild, cold water fish, flaxseed, olive oil, fish oil supplementation) along with too much omega-6 intake through processed foods and conventionally-raised animals with unnatural diets. You may notice dry, scaly skin or acne on your back, arms, face, and shoulders. You may also have dry hair and thin, easily bendable, cracking/chipping nails as well as splitting skin on your fingertips.

Vitamin D Deficiency 

This deficiency can occur with poor dietary intake (e.g. cod liver oil, wild, cold water fish, fortified milk products), inadequate exposure to sunshine without sunscreen, or poor internal production due to low cholesterol levels. The physical signs are a little more general when it comes to Vitamin D. You may notice less energy, restless sleep, general muscle and joint pain, headaches and poor concentration, as well as weight gain. 

Magnesium Deficiency 

Magnesium deficiency develops with inadequate dietary intake of magnesium-rich foods (e.g. dark, leafy greens, sea vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, fish, whole grains), from an overly processed diet and/or from impaired absorption. Think of this mineral as your “relaxation” nutrient: if your body or mind feels irritated, agitated, tight or stiff, magnesium may be in short supply. Typical signs are muscle cramps or twitches, restless leg syndrome, numbness/tingling, anxiety, insomnia, PMS, headaches, or constipation.  

Iron Deficiency 

Iron deficiency can occur when you don’t eat enough iron-rich foods (e.g. red meat, poultry, fish, beans/legumes), when your body isn’t absorbing enough, or when you are losing more iron than your body can replace, which typically happens through excess blood loss or during developmental stages in life like adolescence, pregnancy, or breastfeeding. You may notice you feel more fatigued and/or short of breath upon exertion. Your muscles may feel weak, you may have pale skin color, or your fingernails may become ridged, flat, and spoon shaped.

Zinc Deficiency 

This deficiency can develop with inadequate zinc intake (e.g. oysters, red meat, poultry, and nuts) or with decreased absorption, which oftentimes is related to phytates in our diet (found in breads, cereals, legumes). You may notice decreased appetite or suppressed immune function. You may get sick more often and/or can’t shake it as quickly as before. In more severe cases, you may notice hair loss, diarrhea, or taste abnormalities.

Calcium Deficiency 

Calcium deficiency can come with inadequate nutritional intake of calcium-rich foods (e.g. dairy products, tofu, salmon) and/or with poor absorption in the body. Caffeine, sodium, alcohol, phosphorus from soda, as well as phytic and oxalic acids (from dark leafy greens, beans, whole grains, nuts) may decrease your body’s absorption of calcium. You may notice your teeth get a mottled appearance or your fingernails become weak. Additional signs include numbness/tingling in the fingers or muscle cramps.

Now that we have uncovered seven common nutritional deficiencies, why they may be happening, and what types of physical symptoms they may be causing, it’s time to discuss what’s next. Here are three simple ways to help confirm and resolve nutritional deficiencies:

  • Get tested. Check out Life Time Lab Testing to determine which test is best for you. A few options include our Anabolic Amino Acids test to assess your protein status, a Comprehensive Vitamin D test, and Core Health test to assess calcium, iron, protein and other mineral status.
  • Optimize your diet. Replace processed, convenient, nutrient-poor foods with more whole, natural foods. Include a balance of grass-fed, pasture-raised, wild sources of meat and fish, more raw or steamed vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and ground flaxseed or chia seeds in your diet.
  • Use supplementation. No matter how hard we try, it’s difficult to achieve an optimal balance of nutrients. The fact is, our lifestyles take a toll on our health, increasing our nutritional needs through stress, lack of sleep, exercise, and environmental toxins. Why not enhance your body’s health with the support system of supplementation? I suggest a High-quality Multivitamin, Omega-3 fish oil, Vitamin D and Protein Powder at minimum. Depending on your nutrient status, you may benefit from additional vitamin and/or mineral supplementation.

Are you interested in learning more about your body's nutritional status and personalized supplementation? Talk with one of our registered dietitians today. Thanks for reading, everyone. 

In health, Cindi Lockhart - Senior Program Manager of Health and Nutrition Coaching

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.


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