There’s a reason why experts harp on about following a well-balanced diet: a menu full of fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, whole grains and some dairy will nourish your body with the nutrients it needs. And without the right amounts of these food groups, your body might not receive the vitamins and minerals it requires to run effectively. But how are you supposed to know if your body is lacking in vital vitamins? Well, if you suffer from any of these 20 symptoms, you might want to consider reconfiguring your diet – because you could have a nutrient deficiency.
>You should always consult your doctor or health-care professional if you are having issues with your health, including any dietary concerns. Please don’t ignore or wait to get health advice from a medical professional because of something you may have read online.
20. Brittle nails and hair
Do you have a glamorous set of long, sturdy nails? Or do you instead possess dull nails that sometimes crack and break? And what about your hair? After all, undernourished hair might manifest as frizzy locks or tresses plagued with dead ends. So if your brittle hair and nails don’t look great, it could be because you’re deficient in one particular vitamin.
Yes, a lack of vitamin B7 – more commonly known as biotin – could be to blame for brittle hair and nails. This is because the nutrient helps your anatomy change what you eat into energy. And when you don’t get enough B7, your hair and nails can get brittle and unhealthy as a result. You’re also at a higher risk of a biotin deficiency if you’ve been pregnant recently – or if you smoke or drink heavily. So replenish your reserves with B7-rich foods including fish, sweet potatoes, bananas and spinach.
19. Burning sensations in your feet or tongue
Ouch – a burning sensation in your mouth doesn’t always have to do with spicy foods. And a similar feeling in your feet could have nothing to do with uncomfortable shoes, either. Dr. Patricia Graham, a primary care professional at Rush University Medical Center, told the hospital’s website, “If you’re experiencing [these symptoms], it should definitely sound an alarm.”
Either one of these conditions should prompt your doctor to test your vitamin B12 levels, in fact. It can, however, take up to three years for your liver to become deficient in B12 – but you’ll feel it once you are. A burning tongue or feet could actually be the least of your concerns at that point. This is because B12 helps the body produce hemoglobin – an element required for cells to take in oxygen.
18. Irregular heartbeat
Normally, you’d barely notice your cardiovascular system pumping blood through your body. But if you’ve realized that your heart isn’t beating in time or that your ticker has started thumping at an irregular pace, this could be a problem. And while such a sensation can be scary enough on its own, it can also bring chest pain.
One thing your irregular heartbeat could be down to is a calcium deficiency – since calcium helps regulate the pace of your ticker. A lack of this mineral might also cause facial or mouth-based twitching, muscle cramps or bone fractures. If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, then, count up your daily calcium intake. Adults should get about 1,000 mg from dairy products, salmon, broccoli or supplements.
17. High blood pressure
About one-third of Americans have high blood pressure – and 16 million of them don’t even know they suffer from the condition. If you have it, though, you’ll know how it feels. For instance, high blood pressure can send a pounding sensation through your chest or head. People might also suffer from dizziness and lightheadedness as their blood pressures spike.
Interestingly, a lack of potassium can contribute to high blood pressure. This mineral actually works to relax blood vessels, thus reducing the tension within the system. So a couple of things you could do to help boost your potassium levels is reach for a banana with your breakfast or dig into a baked potato later in the day. After all, either option – and eating foods like them – could potentially calm your blood vessels, when combined with other lifestyle changes.
16. Mouth ulcers
Mouth ulcers – also known as canker sores – will pop up on the gum line or in the mouth’s soft tissues, never on your lips. The good news is that they aren’t contagious. But they can be painful, and you might have trouble speaking or eating until a mouth ulcer dissipates.
Canker sores might appear because you’re deficient in iron, B vitamins or both. Yet even without such painful bumps on your gums, your mouth might show other symptoms to signal that you need more of these nutrients. For instance, do you have dry corners of your mouth that crack open and bleed? Well, those could be down to a lack of iron and B vitamins, too.
15. Muscle cramps
We’re not talking about an achy leg or arm; a bona fide cramp sends a painful, intense contraction through a muscle. The grueling sensation can last for a few seconds or a few minutes. Most of the time, too, such pains shoot through the leg – and that’s called a charley horse.
If been pregnant, you probably know that the mineral potentially responsible for soothing muscle cramps is magnesium. When a woman is with child, you see, she tends to have depleted supplies of magnesium – and this can lead to cramps and twitches. So if you’re suffering cramps, too, you could consider re-upping your magnesium levels with a daily supplement or by noshing on whole grains, citrus fruit or cacao-laden dark chocolate.
14. Bruising or bleeding easily
Now, where’d that bruise come from? If you regularly find purpley, painful marks on your body, you might have a particular vitamin deficiency. The same goes for scrapes, scratches and cuts, too. And if you find yourself bleeding more than the average person, you could be missing a very important nutrient.
Dietician Kaitlyn Bruschi spoke on the subject of nutrient deficiencies to The Huffington Post Australia – and noted that a lack of vitamin K can be responsible for these symptoms. Without it, she said, you bruise and bleed more liberally because it “helps with blood coagulation and prevents clotting issues.” So, fill up on Brussels sprouts, cauliflower or soybeans to get your vitamin K fix.
13. Red or white bumps on the skin
Children come down with keratosis pilaris, a skin condition that causes small bumps to spread across the arms, thighs, buttocks or cheeks. And these pinkish or white dots – similar to goosebumps – sometimes contain tiny ingrown hairs. Yet while doctors don’t know why kids develop keratosis pilaris, the good news is that the condition subsides as they enter adulthood.
Research has, however, shown that keratosis pilaris has a genetic element. Yes, if a family member has had the condition, the child’s likelier to have it, too. But further studies have found that a lack of vitamins A and C might also play into the condition. So, you could perhaps serve your kids plenty of yellow veggies, eggs, dairy and fruit to boost their nutrient supply and smooth out their skin. Medicated ointment can help as well.
12. Bone pain
Of course, achy joints get a lot of the attention, but sometimes you can feel aches in your bones as well. Dr. Patricia Graham described to Rush.edu how it feels to have bone pain. She said, “If you’re an adult, and it feels like you’re having growing pains – like you had as a kid – tell your doctor.”
Your doctor will then probably test your vitamin D levels, as a deficiency here can leave bones feeling achy. Interestingly, though, you don’t necessarily have to get this nutrient from food. That’s because a ten-minute stroll in the sunshine three or four times each week can allow your body to soak up all of the vitamin D that it needs. Just be sure to slather on some sunscreen if you’re going to be outside for longer than that. Otherwise, you can always get a supplement.
11. Bleeding gums
If after brushing your teeth you find that your spit is mottled with blood, your gums are probably bleeding. Yet this doesn’t always happen because you’re brushing too hard. That’s right, if you’re deficient in one particular vitamin, your gums can grow sensitive – and your teeth might start to fall out, too. And no one wants that.
With a lack of vitamin C, you see, your gums can become more prone to bleeding. This nutrient performs a lot of important roles, in fact. It boosts your immunity, for one, and vitamin C helps prevent cell damage, too. But remember that your body cannot produce vitamin C; it instead requires you to get the vitamin from what you eat and drink. You should therefore eat plenty of fruit and veggies each day.
10. Hair loss
If you suffer from hair loss, it could mean that you wake up to find clumps of hair on your pillow. Or perhaps when you comb your hair, strands quickly come off with the brush. You might even have to clean out your shower’s plug hole regularly because of your fallen tresses. But whatever the case, hair loss is a condition that half of adults face by the time they turn 50.
And six different elements can come into play if your hair’s falling out. A lack of iron, is one. Iron helps hair follicles to perform DNA synthesis – and without it, tresses could stop growing. Meanwhile, zinc processes protein and aids in cell division, which are vital steps in the growth process. Linoleic and alpha-linoleic fatty acids help lengthen your mane, too, as do niacin and biotin. A hair-loss supplement will probably include all of these elements to help you. But remember, hair loss isn’t necessarily down to vitamin deficiency and often has genetic and hormonal factors.
9. Restless leg syndrome
Can’t keep still? You might have restless leg syndrome (RLS). This causes uncomfortable sensations through your lower limbs and gives you the urge to move them constantly. It’s especially bothersome at night or when trying to relax, for most sufferers. And the condition affects about 10 percent of the U.S. population – although women are more likely to have it than men.
Experts aren’t entirely sure why, but RLS seems to have a connection to a person’s iron levels. For example, some studies revealed that smaller amounts of blood iron equalled a greater intensity of RLS symptoms. And the studies seemingly showed that iron supplementation helped those with the condition, too. So you could contemplate stocking up on iron-laden foods, such as meat, seeds, legumes, fish and dark, leafy greens.
8. Mood swings
If you were feeling happy before suddenly feeling angry or sad – whether you can pinpoint the reason or not – you’ve had a mood swing. And this is not something that you’ll want to continue suffering from. For one thing, it could affect your working and personal relationships, especially with people who don’t know what you’re going through. So you might want to boost your intake of this vitamin to try to even things out.
Sometimes, you see, your mood could change because of a nutrient deficiency. Yes, the irritability and lack of energy that can contribute to mood swings can be outward signs that something’s off balance inside. You might therefore want to boost your levels of B vitamins. To do this, fill your plate with lean meats as well as legumes and leafy greens.
Usually, you can credit a bout of diarrhea to something such as a rich meal or a stomach bug that’s been going around. Yet on some occasions, you just can’t seem to pinpoint the reason you’ve got loose bowels. So these instances could be signs that you’re nutrient-deficient.
When you have diarrhea, then, it should ring an alarm bell that your body’s not necessarily retaining the nutrients you’re putting in. At the very least, keep yourself hydrated until the stomach pains pass. But the condition could also be caused by a zinc deficiency. You can help reverse this with foods such as shellfish, mushrooms and beef.
6. Bad night vision
This is one for people who find it tough to see when the lights go down. Yes, squinting your way through dusk and into the night could mean that you have poor night vision. So grab your glasses and read on to understand how one nutrient in particular could improve your vision at night and during the day.
For you see, vitamin A plays a pivotal role in sharpening your vision – especially at night. That’s because it’s an ingredient in your body’s production of rhodopsin. And this pigment appears in your retinas and helps crystallize your sight when the sun goes down. Luckily, deficiency in vitamin A tends to be rare. But you can get more from yellow and orange veggies as well as dairy, fish and eggs. So, as it turns out, carrots really are good for the eyes.
5. Slow-healing wounds
Not all wounds heal at the same pace, but if yours always seem to take a long time to do so, it could be a sign of a wider problem. So if even something as simple as flossing your teeth might leave your gums swollen and achy, it could be worth re-evaluating your diet to add in a bit more of one particular vitamin – as well as seeking medical advice.
As Dr. Patricia Graham told Rush.edu, “Vitamin C is like a cement. It pulls the cells together and makes wounds heal.” So try incorporating more of this nutrient into your diet. Fortunately, then, fruits and veggies all tend to have high vitamin C levels – and oranges, kiwis and bell peppers will give you an even bigger boost. Aim for 60 mg per day.
Approximately 20 percent of Americans say they suffer fatigue to the point that it interrupts their day-to-day lives. It is, after all, difficult to lead a normal life if you constantly feel devoid of energy – either physically, mentally or both. Fatigue isn’t necessarily just sleepiness, either; sufferers might feel apathetic toward most things because they’re so unmotivated.
A lack of iron might have a hand in how much fatigue you feel. That’s because iron helps the body shuttle oxygen to every corner, and this helps your brain and body stay alert. So try noshing on iron-rich foods, such as lentils, spinach and meat. Also, be sure to speak to your doctor about fatigue, because iron deficiency isn’t the only reason why you might feel this way.
3. Swollen tongue
Ouch! A swollen tongue is hard to ignore; you’ll feel it when you chew, speak and swallow. It can be a sign of vitamin deficiency, too – as can a few other tongue-related conditions. For one thing, a super-red tongue can point to a need for nutrients. And if the bumps on your tongue seem to smooth out, that’s a red flag as well.
All of these tongue-related symptoms can come down to a deficiency in vitamin B12. This nutrient helps the body to create red blood cells. And when you don’t have enough, your tongue smooths out, swells up or takes on a new shade of red. You can potentially reverse any one of these conditions by filling up on seafood or fortified fare, such as B12-infused cereals.
Although dandruff isn’t a serious condition, it can be one that causes you embarrassment. For instance, your scalp could start to itch and, when you scratch it, dead skin could detach and sprinkle onto your shoulders. The exact cause of this condition has yet to be pinpointed, but some experts have linked it to deficiency in a few different nutrients.
Namely, those with low levels of vitamins B2, B3, B6 and zinc might see more dandruff flakes. But the links between these four elements and dandruff have yet to be understood. Still, if you find your scalp shedding dead skin, try loading up on legumes, nuts, meat and dairy products.
Couples who’ve tried to conceive for at least a year without success could be suffering from infertility. For example, it might be that the man fails to make viable sperm or that the woman’s eggs aren’t healthy. And these couples aren’t alone. Up to 15 percent of American couples struggle with conception, in fact.
Dietician Kaitlyn Bruschi, who spoke to The Huffington Post Australia, explained the importance of vitamin E. She said, “[It] is an antioxidant that protects the body’s cells from damage, muscle weakness and neurological issues.” And fertility issues stand as one symptom of deficiency in vitamin E. So in addition to seeking advice from a health-care professional, you can potentially help yourself out by loading up on avocado, broccoli, plant-based oils and kiwi.
With all the pressures of modern life, keeping tabs on your diet can of course prove tricky. It’s certainly easy enough to lose track of whether you’re getting enough of the right vitamins to stay healthy. And at this point, it’s worth considering if you’re getting enough vitamin B12. If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, then, you may want to up your B12 intake.
It’s no secret that a balanced diet is key to a healthy lifestyle. After all, eating the right food can affect your energy levels, weight and overall sense of wellbeing. According to the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency, a balanced diet means eating “a variety of foods, basing meals on starchy foods and eating at least five portions of fruit and veg a day.”
Even with that in mind, though, getting the right quantities of important vitamins and minerals into your diet isn’t as easy as it sounds. And while, for example, vitamin C is in lots of fruit and vegetables – including oranges, strawberries, potatoes and peppers – vitamin D is altogether trickier to consume. In fact, vitamin D is “difficult to get enough of from foods alone,” as dietitian Leah Kleinschrodt told food magazine Cooking Light in August 2018.
As a result, you may find yourself experiencing a vitamin deficiency. For instance, an extraordinary one in four people in the world reportedly suffer from a lack of iron, while a whopping 42 percent of people in the U.S. are thought to be vitamin D deficient. And not getting enough vitamin D may have severe repercussions: those affected are more at risk of getting cancer, for a start.
Of all the vitamins, though, B12 is of particular importance when it comes to diet. That’s because it’s crucial to every single cell that makes up our bodies, impacting things like our nervous system and brain. And yet we can’t make B12 naturally; instead, we have to ensure that we’re getting enough from external sources such as food.
With a couple of minor exceptions, vitamin B12 is only present in meat and other animal foods, such as fish, eggs, cheese and milk. Vegetarians and vegans, then, are at particularly high risk of having a B12 deficiency. In fact, it’s been estimated that as many as 80 to 90 percent of people who don’t consume meat may be lacking in the vitamin.
There are other risk factors too, such as old age, since the ability to absorb B12 reduces the older you get. And even for younger people, there are certain conditions that may hinder absorption rates – predominantly because vitamin B12 is already inherently tricky to take in to the body. If you’re lacking in intrinsic factor, a certain protein made in the stomach, for example, then you may have a hard time getting enough B12.
In the U.K., the country’s health authority, the NHS, recommends that adults – which it defines as people between the ages of 19 and 64 years old – get around 1.5 micrograms of B12 per day. And while you should hit that goal if you eat plenty of meat and dairy products, there’s still a chance you could fall short. Knowing how to spot a deficiency, then, can help you decide whether you need to supplement your B12 intake.
Fortunately, a vitamin B12 deficiency can throw up all sorts of symptoms, making it easy to identify. Many of these are linked to anemia, a condition that sees your blood having a decreased red blood cell count. Helpfully, though, anemia has a long list of symptoms. And these ailments in turn can help you figure out whether or not you’re a sufferer.
One such symptom is overwhelming fatigue. If you’re feeling more tired than usual – even after a decent night’s sleep – then you may want to start monitoring your B12 intake. Hand in hand with that is weakness of the muscles, where even simple activities can result in aches and pains.
Thanks to the lower levels of oxygen running through their blood, anemic people may also find themselves breathless all the time – not just after strenuous activity. And fewer red blood cells also means that their skin doesn’t look quite as rosy as other people’s.
It’s not just anemia that a lack of vitamin B12 can trigger, though. In fact, there are all sorts of separate warning signs that you would be wise not to ignore. For instance, while practically everyone gets “pins and needles” – that tingling you experience after having fallen asleep on your arm – now and again, more frequent occurrences of this feeling could indicate a B12 deficiency.
That’s because a B12 shortage can affect your nerve endings, which in turn triggers the pins-and-needles sensation. And another potentially more serious consequence of the damage to your nerve endings is impaired vision. That’s right: your sight can take a hit without sufficient levels of B12. In extreme cases, lack of B12 can even result in irreversible sight loss in the long run.
There are other physical signals of B12 deficiency too – including on your tongue. Traditionally, of course, the tongue is a shade between pink and red and with a somewhat puckered surface. If you don’t take in enough B12, however, the tongue can turn a more vibrant red, swell up and seem to be smoother – even the flavor of food can change. So, it’s worth keeping an eye out for such features.
Of course, looking at your tongue requires inspecting a part of your body that you probably don’t bother with often. But there are easier physical warning signs to spot, such as jaundice. This yellowing condition can affect adults as well as babies – especially if you have a B12 deficiency. That’s because lack of red blood cells in your system can lead to an accumulation of bilirubin, which causes jaundice.
However, not every symptom of a B12 deficiency is physical. Because the vitamin assists in maintaining serotonin levels in your body, a lack of it may affect your moods. In practice, this generally translates into disorders such as depression or anxiety, although these can also be caused by a multitude of other things.
One of the most severe consequences of a B12 deficiency is memory loss and palpable confusion. For instance, you may forget why you’ve gone somewhere, or even how you got there at all. And as older people are particularly susceptible to a lack of B12, this particular symptom could be mistaken for dementia. In fact, that actually happened to one New York-based woman in 2009 before doctors realized what the real problem was.
However, there are plenty of ways to top up your levels of B12 if you think you have a deficiency. For instance, you can increase intake of meat, fish and dairy products – particularly salmon, cod and eggs – in your diet. And if you’re vegan or vegetarian, there are supplements you can take in moderation.
However, if you’re unsure whether the symptoms you’re experiencing really are linked to a lack of B12, there are ways to tell – such as through blood tests. The important thing, though, is to get a clear diagnosis, since certain symptoms may be irreversible.
It’s worth taking any warning signs that do crop up seriously, then. Indeed, ignoring them could have serious consequences. And while some ailments may have other causes, there’s no harm in ruling out a vitamin B12 deficiency, particularly if you know you may be more vulnerable – whether through age or your diet.