Top Common Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies aren’t something that we normally think of as affecting the health of our otherwise well-fed neighbors, friends, and even selves. Mostly, people think of vitamin deficiencies as gruesome things that happen to people in third world countries while well-dressed Westerners plead with you to just “send what you can.” But the truth is that nutritional deficiencies can happen to anyone! Learn to recognize some of the signs and symptoms of common vitamin deficiencies so that you can easily correct them with a dietary change or supplement before they become too severe.

Calcium

From a young age, we are taught the importance of calcium in building strong and healthy bones. Likely, your mother made you drink a fair few glasses of milk with a promise of it making you “grow big and strong.” However, somewhere along the path to adulthood, this habit often gets lost and calcium deficiency sets in. Symptoms of a calcium deficiency may include fatigue, muscle cramps, abnormal heart rhythms, and a poor appetite. Good sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified orange juice, and dark, leafy greens, so make sure you get at least three servings of these per day!

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is also critical for skeletal health and aids in the absorption of other vitamins. A long-term shortage of vitamin D can even lead to the softening of bones. Chronic fatigue, muscle aches, weakness, or even seasonal affective disorder may be attributed to a deficiency of Vitamin D. To counteract this, try having three servings of fortified milk or yogurt per day, eating fatty fish, like salmon or tuna, twice a week, and spending about 15 minutes per day outside in the sunshine.

Potassium

Potassium is vital to the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, liver, and other organs, so you’ll definitely want to make sure that you’re getting enough of it. Diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, antibiotic use, eating disorders, or kidney disease may cause a potassium deficiency. Symptoms of this deficiency include weight loss, constipation, muscle weakness or cramping, and, in severe cases, even an abnormal heart rhythm. Bananas, whole grains, milk, vegetables, beans, and peas are all great sources of potassium, as well as some types of electrolyte-replenishing sports drinks or powders.

Iron

Iron is a major player in helping your body to develop red blood cells. If iron levels in the body get too low, your blood will no longer be able to carry oxygen effectively, which may result in fatigue, anemia, pale skin, and dull, sparse, or thinning hair. Eggs, iron-fortified cereal, beef, oysters, white beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans, lentils, and spinach can all help you boost your iron levels.

Vitamin B12

This is one that vegans in particular have to be diligent about getting the necessary amount in their diets, as well as people who have had weight loss surgery in the past. The best sources of vitamin B12 are animal-based, like chicken, fish, milk, and yogurt, but those with special dietary restrictions can source it from things like meat substitutes, non-dairy milk, and breakfast cereals that have all been fortified with additional B12.