top of page

All About Nutrient Deficiencies

With the lack of variety in countless nutrition plans and the health of food dependent upon the ever-diminishing nutrients in soil, it’s no wonder that we’d be concerned with nutrient deficiencies. Add regular bouts of exercise, stress and medications to the mix, and all of the sudden we have a recipe for major nutrient scarcity.

How do you know if you’re deficient in nutrients?

Are your lips cracked? You may be deficient in riboflavin, niacin or pyridoxine.

Nutrient deficiencies can have a variety of effects throughout the body. Often the signs are subtle — perhaps you feel a bit “off” or your skin doesn’t look quite as glowing as it could. Occasionally the signs are more obvious. (For instance, it’s kind of hard to ignore your feet tingling, or uncontrolled muscle spasms.)

Now don’t worry — we’re not trying to scare you into buying stock with GNC and loading up on vitamin pills, or trying to turn you into a nutrient hypochondriac. We simply want to highlight some of the physical manifestations of nutrient deficiencies.

As you read through the following, you may fit the criteria for some of the deficiency symptoms. Instead of self-diagnosing and slamming a bottle of “vitamin [fill in the blank],” your concern should simply warrant further investigation into eating patterns and habits. If you notice any of the symptoms/signs fit you, then jot down some notes and initiate a dialogue with your dietitian, naturopath, chiropractor or physician (whoever you work with and trust).

Try to find a “food form” of your desired nutrient before you stock up on supplement bottles. Research suggests that nutrients tend to work better together, and are found in more complex forms in nature. For example, there are over six hundred known carotenoids, which give plants their red or orange colours. We don’t know what all of them do yet, but we’re pretty sure that many are important. Just taking a beta-carotene supplement on its own probably isn’t the same — in fact, as a few high-profile studies have shown, it may be actively harmful.

Also, as we indicate below, taking extra doses of certain vitamins doesn’t necessarily make things better. Nutrients work in complicated ways in the body, and they’re often related to one another (for example, as the amount of X increases, the body may make or absorb less of Y).

Here’s a handy guide to common deficiencies. Part 1 is organized by the body part affected, and alphabetized by part for easier navigation. Part 2 is organized by health conditions and people at risk for deficiencies.

Deficiencies by body part

If you have…You may be or have…AnklesSwollen anklesOver-hydratedBrainMemory problems, disorientation or dementiaNiacin (B3), vitamin B12, or thiamine (B1) deficiencyEyesPuffy, swollen eyesOver-hydratedSunken, dull or dry eyesVitamin A or zinc deficiency; under-hydrationDry eyes with gray spotsVitamin A deficiencyRed or difficult-to-control eyesRiboflavin (B2), pyridoxine (B6), thiamine (B1) or phosphorus deficiencyFaceAcneVitamin C deficiencyFeetTingling feetPyridoxine (B6) or vitamin B12 deficiencyGumsSore and spongy or red and swollenVitamin C deficiencyHandsTingling handsPyridoxine (B6) or vitamin B12 deficiencyLipsCracked lipsRiboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), or pyridoxine (B6) deficiencyLungsShortness of breathOver-hydratedMouth and mucous membranesDry mucous membranesUnder-hydratedSore mouthPyridoxine (B6) or vitamin B12 deficiencyMusclesMuscle spasmsCalcium, magnesium or vitamin D deficiencyNailsBrittle, thin nailsIron deficiencySalivaSticky saliva / dry mouthUnder-hydratedSkinMoist skinOver-hydratedDry, scaly, pale or bruises easilyIron, vitamin A, C, K, zinc, essential fatty acid or protein deficiencyRed spots under your skin’s surfaceVitamin C deficiencyCool, pale, clammy skinUnder-hydratedScaly, greasy skinVitamin A, zinc or riboflavin (B2) deficiencyTonguePurple, white, or smooth and slick; painfulRiboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), folic acid (B9), B12, zinc or iron deficiencySore tonguePyridoxine (B6) or Vitamin B12 deficiencyUrineLight-coloured urineOver-hydratedDark coloured urineUnder-hydrated

Part 2: Who’s at risk?

Health conditionDeficiency riskAIDSVitamin B12AlcoholismThiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin, folic acid (B9)Blood lossIronCrohn’s diseaseVitamin ADiabetes mellitusRiboflavin (B2)DiarrheaSeleniumExcessive consumption of goitrogenic foods (cassava, cabbage, rutabagas, turnips, among others)IodineGastric bypassVitamin B12GastritisVitamin B12Gluten intolerance (untreated)Vitamin AGut flora irritation/alterationVitamin AHyperparathyroidismPyridoxine (B6)Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)Vitamin CHypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)Riboflavin (B2)Increased energy needs (illness, intense training, injury rehabilitation, etc.)Vitamin AInflammatory bowel diseasePantothenic acid (B5)LactationVitamin CLiving in endemic areas with un-supplemented food suppliesIodineMenstruation (heavy or lengthy periods)IronPregnancyVitamin C, ironRaw egg white consumption (excessive amounts)BiotinRheumatoid arthritisZincSickle cell anemiaZincSmokingVitamin CStress (excessive amounts)IodineSun exposure (insufficient amounts)Vitamin DVegan dietVitamin B12

Medication use

Aminosalicylic acid – Vitamin B12 deficiency Amitryptyline – riboflavin deficiency Anticoagulant therapy – vitamin K deficiency Anticonvulsants – vitamin D deficiency, folic acid deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency Anti-thyroid therapy (methimazole, propylthiouracil) – iodine deficiency Barbiturates – vitamin C deficiency Carbamazepine – biotin deficiency Cholestyramine – vitamin D deficiency Colchicines – vitamin B12 deficiency Colestipol – vitamin D deficiency Corticosteroids – vitamin D deficiency Cycloserine – pyridoxine deficiency, folic acid deficiency Diethylenetriamine – zinc deficiency Diuretics – zinc deficiency D-penicillamine – zinc deficiency EPO use – iron deficiency Estrogen/oral contraceptives – vitamin C deficiency, folic acid deficiency Ethionamide – pyridoxine deficiency Hydralazine – pyridoxine deficiency Imipramine – riboflavin deficiency Iron megadoses – copper deficiency Isoniazid – vitamin D deficiency, niacin deficiency, pyridoxine deficiency Metformin – vitamin B12 deficiency Methotrexate – folic acid deficiency Neomycin – vitamin B12 deficiency Nitrous oxide – vitamin B12 deficiency Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) – iron deficiency Omeprazole – vitamin B12 deficiency Penicillamine – pyridoxine deficiency Pentamidine – folic acid deficiency Phenothiazines – riboflavin deficiency Phenytoin – biotin deficiency Primidone – biotin deficiency Probenecid – riboflavin deficiency Pyrazinamide – pyridoxine deficiency Pyrimethamine – folic acid deficiency Salicylates – vitamin C deficiency, iron deficiency Sulfasalazine – folic acid deficiency Tetracycline – vitamin C deficiency Triamterene – folic acid deficiency Tricyclic antidepressants – riboflavin deficiency Trimethoprim – folic acid deficiency Valproate – zinc deficiency Vitamin A megadoses – vitamin K deficiency Vitamin E megadoses – vitamin K deficiency Zinc megadoses – copper deficiency

There you have it. You’re now armed with more information than you ever wanted about nutrient deficiencies.

Again, if you are concerned about something, take notes and make an appointment with your health care provider.



Eat, move, and live… better.©

The health and fitness world can sometimes be a confusing place. But it doesn’t have to be.

Let us help you make sense of it all with this free special report.

In it you’ll learn the best eating, exercise, and lifestyle strategies — unique and personal — for you.

45 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page