5 Nutrient Deficiencies You Have...and Don't Know It

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Eating a nutrient-dense Paleo diet will get you a long way towards something called "nutrient sufficiency" (essentially the opposite of nutrient deficiency). But your diet isn't the only thing that impacts your overall nutrient status. Unfortunately, some of these things are out of your control. 

Unfortunately, one of the major contributors to nutrient deficiency is a lack of nutrients in the food itself. The nutrients that are in the food can be further degraded depending on the length of time between transport and when they end up on your plate. So even if you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (which you should be) you can still not be getting adequate amounts of necessary nutrients. 

Other factors, such as age, health conditions, and digestive issues can also contribute to your ability to absorb the nutrients that are available in your food. 

The risk of deficiency is even higher if you are not already eating a diet, such as a Paleo diet, that focuses on nutrient-dense, whole foods. 

The following are some of the most common nutrient deficiencies that I see in my clients. 

5 Common Nutrient Deficiencies

1. MAGNESIUM (MINERAL)

A 2012 study found that 48% of Americans get less than the recommended amount of Magnesium needed to maintain optimal levels. Chronically low levels of magnesium are lined to a variety of health conditions from type 2 diabetes to asthma and osteoporosis. 

Magnesium is needed for more than 300 different reactions in your body. These reactions include everything from protein synthesis, metabolism, and your heart rhythm

Signs of deficiency

Where to get it

Leafy greens like spinach, kale, or swiss chard, nuts (one ounce of roasted almonds have 20% of your recommended intake), avocado, bananas, dark chocolate, mineral water, or epsom salt baths. 

Recommended Daily Amounts of Magnesium

The National Institute of Health recommends 300 milligrams of magnesium for adult women daily and 400 milligrams for men (32). But those are minimums. Most people do best with 400 to 1000 mg daily. The most absorbable forms are magnesium citrate, glycinate, taurate, or aspartate. Magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide are generally poorly absorbed. 

2. GLYCINE (AMINO ACID)

Glycine is an amino acid (building block of protein) that is necessary for neutralizing detoxification reactions that occur in the liver. Your body especially relies on glycine when you aren't getting enough nutrients overall making getting enough especially important. 

Signs of deficiency

  • You have blood sugar and gut issues. Constipation can also be a sign of deficiency.
  • You have excess weight, PMS, or other hormonal issues.
  • You have low thyroid or feel fatigued. 

Where to get it

Meat and fish, bone broth, gelatin, or collagen hydrolysate are all great sources of glycine. Because this is an amino acid, it is typically found in foods that are high in protein. 

3. Vitamin K2 (FAT-SOLUBLE VITAMIN)

Vitamin K2 is important for your heart, bones, and your brain. Without vitamin K2, your body will deposit calcium in places you don't want it like your arteries and soft tissue instead of your bone and teeth. 

Signs of deficiency

  • You have osteoperosis.
  • You have tartar build-up on your teeth, crooked teeth, or get frequent cavities
  • You have frequent kidney stones

Where to get it

Egg yolks, liver, cod liver oil, aged cheese, and grass-fed butter. 

Recommended Daily Amounts of K2

There is no recommended daily intake amount for vitamin K2, but the RDA for vitamin K in general is 90 micrograms per day for women and 120 micrograms per day for men

4. VITAMIN A (FAT-SOLUBLE VITAMIN)

Vitamin A is important in immune health, healthy vision, hormone synthesis, and cellular communication. Vitamin A also plays a role in the production of thyroid hormones (specifically T3).

You may have heard that you should eat your carrots to support your vision, because they contain beta carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A. However, it is important to understand that the conversion of beta carotene is an extremely inefficient process and you should not consume beta carotene in lieu of vitamin A or your will risk further deficiency. 

Signs of deficiency

  • You have cavities.
  • You have PMS or other hormonal imbalances
  • You have thyroid problems or low energy. 

Where to get it

Salmon, eggs, butter, whole milk, cream, liver, or cod liver oil.  

Recommended Daily Amounts of Vitamin A

The minimum amount of vitamin A you should get daily (depending on your reproductive status) is 5000 IUs (more if you are pregnant or nursing) from a variety of both plant and animal sources (plant sources include beta carotene). 

5. Vitamin D

Some statistics estimate that over one billion people in the world aren't getting adequate amounts of vitamin D. Between 50% and 90% of the vitamin D in your body is produced as a result of exposure to sunlight. So working inside puts you at greater risk for deficiency. Darker skin and older age also puts you at greater risk for deficiency. 

Vitamin D functions more as a hormone than a vitamin and plays a role in calcium absorption, immune health, bone health, mental health, and affects over 200 genes in your body. 

Signs of deficiency

Where to get it

Make sure you get some sunlight exposure every day because naturally produced vitamin D is the best source for your body.  Aim for 15 to 20 minutes around noon without sunscreen. Uncover a good portion of your legs, arms, and/or back for maximum benefits. Other good sources of vitamin D are fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and sardines), beef liver, and eggs. 

Remember that while it's important to get some vitamin D in your diet, dietary sources are not adequate to keep you from having a deficiency. And if you live in a northern climate, you may still need supplementation. 

Recommended Daily Amounts of vitamin D

There is not a lot of agreement on how much vitamin D we need. The RDA is between 400 and 800 IUs daily. But these are only dietary allowances, and RDAs are the bare minimum we need to not experience adverse effects.

Researchers from UC San Diego and Creighton University challenged the guidelines suggesting that they underestimate the need for vitamin D by a factor of ten. These researchers supports an RDA of about 7,000 IU/day from all sources.

Overall I do not suggest meeting nutrient needs with supplementation. Listen to episode #12 of The Paleo NP Podcast to learn more about why. Rather, I suggest that you support your body's needs for specific nutrients with foods when possible (this isn't always possible in the short term, especially whe severe deficiencies are present).