Common Nutritional Deficiencies

Have you ever experienced strange feelings, like numb, tingling fingers, cold hands and feet, muscle weakness and/or constipation on a regular basis? These can all be due to micronutrients that your body is missing. Yes, in the last article I talked about how micro- and macronutrients can affect you mentally. Now I am going to touch on some of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the US and how they can affect you physically, along with some ways to help improve them. I am only going to list some, but the rest can be found through the links that I have used to write this article that can be found at the bottom. As always, be sure to discuss any of these symptoms that you may be noticing with your doctor or physician, as well as ways to improve them. However, adding bananas or greens, or anything that you are not allergic to, wouldn’t hurt to try. 

Calcium deficiency is a very common problem, and yet it is essential to supporting your cells, bone growth and controlling muscle and nerve function. This was something that many of us Americans learned growing up, that was hammered on us by our parents.; “Signs of severely low calcium include numbness, tingling fingers and abnormal heart rhythms,” says the Cleveland Clinic. That said, there are no short-term, obvious symptoms of calcium deficiency.(1)

Sources of calcium include dairy, which are the obvious ones, milk and cheese; boned fish such as sardines; and dark green vegetables such as kale, spinach, bok choy, and broccoli. “The effectiveness and safety of calcium supplements have been somewhat debated in the last few years. Some studies demonstrate an increased risk of heart disease in people taking calcium supplements, although other studies have found no effects.” (2)

Iron deficiency is the next common one, and iron is necessary in producing red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body. This is a common deficiency found throughout the world, not just in the US. A very common consequence of iron deficiency is anemia, where iron levels are too low, leaving you feeling fatigued, suffering shortness of breath, pale skin, cold hands and feet and brittle nails, to name a few. “Other people who have an increased risk of developing an iron deficiency include those with certain stomach or intestinal conditions that either cause bleeding or reduce the absorption of iron from food.” (3)

To boost iron levels, Patton recommends eating iron-fortified cereal, beef, oysters, beans (especially lima, navy, and kidney beans), lentils, and spinach. Adult men and women over 50 need 8 mg per day, and adult women younger than 50 need 18 mg each day, according to the NIH. (1)

Potassium deficiency is the last one I am going to touch on in this article. Potassium helps to regulate your heart, nerves, muscles, etc. to work. Along with something that I just learned, which is beneficial to me and my high blood pressure, “Potassium is a useful nutrient that helps offset sodium’s negative impact on your blood pressure.” (1) Have you ever been lying in bed and your calf cramps up, and you are unable to release the cramp, leaving you in pure agony? That is a sure sign your potassium levels are too low, and you might need a banana right away.

Below are some other signs of low potassium and what to eat in order to help improve those levels. You can guarantee that I am going to be adding more of these to my diet. “You could become low in potassium in the short term because of diarrhea or vomiting; excessive sweating; antibiotics, laxatives, or diuretics; excessive alcohol consumption; or because of a chronic condition such as kidney disease, per the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of a deficiency include muscle weakness, twitches, or cramps; constipation; tingling and numbness; and an abnormal heart rhythm or palpitations,” says MedlinePlus.

For natural potassium sources, try bananas, milk, acorn squash, lentils, kidney beans, and other legumes. Adult men need 3,400 mg each day, and women need 2,600 mg, according to the NIH. (1) Hopefully reading this article, which I have created with the help of these other articles, and having access to them will help you decide if you need to add these to your daily diet or talk with your physician. I know it has for me!

By LTjg Becky McDaniel Chief Medical Officer

(1) 7 Common Nutrient Deficiencies: Know the Signs
By Elizabeth Shimer Bowers and Moira Lawler
Medically Reviewed by Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES
Reviewed: March 9, 2021
(2) 7 Nutrient Deficiencies That Are Incredibly Common
Written by Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice) on May 21, 2019
(3) 9 common nutrient deficiencies in the U.S.
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Hudson, APRN, NP-C, CDCES
By Zoey Larsen | May. 9, 2017