In my years as a nutritionist I saw a core group of deficiencies repeatedly in women. Interestingly the most common were mineral deficiencies, as opposed to vitamins.
Mineral deficiencies take longer to amend because you’re essentially asking your body to absorb rocks. Many of the signs and symptoms of these deficiencies aren’t commonly known. Others are overlooked as just the result of a stressful lifestyle. Here are 4 nutrient deficiencies and the unexpected signs that accompany them
Hearing calcium instantly makes you think of your skeleton and for good reason. 99% of the calcium in your body is in your skeleton. Do not underestimate that other 1% of your calcium.1That other 1% is used for maintaining a regular heartbeat, muscle function, and blood clotting.
Because of calcium’s roles in both bone and muscle health, a deficiency can cause:
- unnecessary strain
- inflammation in muscles and joints particularly the knees and hips.
While this was seen a lot in my physically active clients, I also experienced its effects in my personal life. By chance, I figured out that a calcium deficiency had been ruining my yoga practice and quality of life for months. After weeks of creating calcium rich recipes and taking a plant-based calcium supplement.2I went to sink into a yoga pose (utkatasana to be exact) and was elated to discover my knees didn’t hurt!
Women tend to avoid dairy for a variety of reasons: calories, skin breakouts, inflammation and/or sensitivity/allergy. While dairy foods may be rich in calcium, they’re not the only ones. Here are some other foods that are rich in calcium:
- Canned fish with bones in
- Leafy greens
- Sesame seeds
Iron is the one mineral women are educated about time and time again, especially in our childbearing years. It’s needed to get oxygen to all the tissues in the body, a healthy immune system and healthy pregnancies.
Most people think of being tired when it comes to iron deficiency anemia, which is one of the major symptoms. The overall biggest sign and symptom of low iron is a generally poor quality of life. That may sound strange, but low iron can have the following effects:3
- Decreased cognitive function
- Increased irritability, making interactions and daily functions difficult.
- Decline in mood.
- Chronically getting sick.
- Constantly feeling cold.
- Hair loss, brittle nails and pale appearance.
Plant based sources of iron include:
- pumpkin seeds
- black beans
- chili peppers
- black olives
The key is pairing these with foods rich in vitamin C like tomatoes, citrus and bell peppers to maximize iron absorption. With the exception of a few genetic conditions, all women, even vegetarians, can have a healthy iron level by eating foods rich in iron throughout the day on a regular basis.
Because of its many roles in nerve and muscle function, the following can be caused by a deficiency in magnesium:
- muscle cramps
- heart palpitations/flutters
- tender bones and muscles
Here are some tests to determine if you have magnesium deficiency:
- When you’re sitting on something with a square edge and when you come down from it, your rear has a sharp pain.
- When someone pats or bumps into you and it not only hurts unexpectedly, but the pain lingers.
- Press on your sternum and/or the front of your shin bone. Press, not jab. If it’s tender to the touch that can be a sign of magnesium deficiency.
- Ask yourself how often you eat seeds, nuts and beans which are the richest sources of magnesium.
Here are some ways to add more magnesium into your body:
- Pumpkin seeds which are the most concentrate source of magnesium
- Foods such as raspberries, cucumbers, zucchini and strawberries which have edible seeds.
- An Epsom salt bath can help with magnesium because Epsom salt has magnesium in it and you’ll absorb it through your skin. However, practice caution. Magnesium is an electrolyte and a sudden influx can make you feel woozy. Start out with a small amount and a shorter time duration in the bath.
Note: Only supplement with magnesium if your healthcare provider advises you to do so and offers a form that won’t cause severe diarrhea.
In 8 years of seeing clients I only had 23 clients who did NOT have a magnesium deficiency. That’s jarring in-and-of-itself, but it’s even more alarming when you take into consideration that magnesium is needed for over 300 functions in the human body! With that many functions depending on magnesium severe health problems can and will start to pop up.
Clients deficient in potassium would often mention that they had the following symptoms:
- cravings for foods that were sweet, bready and/or crunchy
- poor energy levels.
Why Does A Potassium Deficiency Cause Tiredness And Cravings?
In nature, fruits and vegetables are the only foods that fulfill the criteria of sweet, bready and they are loaded with potassium to get you back on track. It is nature’s method of alerting you to your needs. However in today’s world, reaching for junk, to satiate those cravings doesn’t help. The body continues with the cravings in hopes that you’ll start eating potassium rich foods instead
When you’re deficient in potassium, to conserve energy, your body quickly starts to prioritize your skeletal muscles over the smooth muscles(which is the muscle tissue that lines the gastrointestinal tract) and the cardiac muscle(the heart). This is because the skeletal muscles account for the biggest amount of muscle tissue in the body. Thus the brain signals you to slow down.
As a result this is a significant decrease in potassium usage, but unfortunately it’s also a decrease in physical activity. Here are some potassium rich foods you can include in your diet to combat those cravings:
- sweet potatoes and squash.
Note: Do not supplement with potassium unless prescribed to do so by your healthcare provider. Potassium is an electrolyte and improper supplementation can affect your heart.
For one reason or another, women frequently show a mineral deficiency. And their health, waistlines and quality of life suffer. Often the root of all this was reaching for faux healthy foods, the latest diet trend. Or choosing diet foods – think low-fat/no-fat/diet/reduced sugar.
Following healthy eating tips until they become healthy habits will help you amend your nutrient deficiencies. As a bonus, these nutrients are found in healthy foods that nourish your body with additional nutrients that give you healthy skin and help you maintain a healthy weight. That translates into you feeling better and enjoying life more. Switching to eating fruits, vegetables and legumes on a regular basis can do wonders for your health. While you’re at it, add some spice in there for a nutritional and flavor bonus.
|↑1||Calcium In Diet. MedlinePlus|
|↑2||Kaats, Gilbert R., Harry G. Preuss, Sidney Stohs, and Nicholas Perricone. “A 7-Year Longitudinal Trial of the Safety and Efficacy of a Vitamin/Mineral Enhanced Plant-Sourced Calcium Supplement.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 35, no. 2 (2016): 91-99.|
|↑3||Micronutrient deficiencies. World Health Organisation|