Everyone knows that the body needs vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. But how do you know you’re not meeting your body’s needs?
“There are many symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies,” says Patricia Graham, MD, an internist at Rush University Medical Center. “But the good news is that if you take steps to correct the deficiency, the symptoms will improve or disappear altogether.”
Here, Graham goes through six possible red flags and explains how to fix the flaws he finds.
- Severe hair loss
Everyone sheds about 100 hairs a day, but it’s worth telling your doctor if a clump of hair suddenly appears on the pillow or in the shower. This could be a sign of a larger problem, such as low iron levels that are affecting your energy, or thyroid disease, which can cause unexpected weight gain or loss.
“Always check it,” Graham said. “We’ll do a blood test to check your iron levels.”
If your iron levels are low, you will feel cold all the time, have headaches, and feel dizzy all the time. If you have a thyroid disorder, you may experience muscle weakness, joint pain, and dry and pale skin.
Eliminate iron deficiency
The good news is that you can correct iron deficiency through supplementation. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 8 mg for men and 18 mg for women over the age of 18.
“It will take three to four months to fix, but it can be done,” Graham said. Also, be sure to include iron-rich foods like spinach and beans in your diet.
- Burning sensation in feet or tongue
“If you’re experiencing this, it should raise the alarm,” Graham said. Talk to your doctor about a blood test to check your B12 levels. You almost certainly have problems with balance, constipation and dry skin.
B12 plays an important role in your health by making hemoglobin, a part of red blood cells that helps your body’s cells get life-giving oxygen. This vitamin is necessary for the normal functioning of various systems, including the digestive tract.
In addition, B12 deficiency can cause mild cognitive impairment, so see your doctor if you experience any changes in memory, thinking, or behavior. Over time, B12 deficiency can permanently damage the nervous system, spreading to the spine and brain.
Vegans take special care: A plant-based diet eliminates most B12-rich foods (meat, dairy) and increases the risk of deficiency. But you can get your daily dose from almond milk, nutritional yeast, fortified soy, and coconut milk.
“It takes a long time to become deficient in B12, it can take up to three years for the liver to deplete this important vitamin,” he said. “But over time, insufficient B12 can cause serious damage to vital functions, so it needs to be addressed.”