By Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP
Never before in history has so much food been so readily available. With the click of a mouse, many of us can have nutritious, quick to prepare meals delivered right to our door. And, thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to learn about our bodies’ needs and what we should be eating. So nutritional deficiencies should be a thing of the past, shouldn’t they?
That’s not what medical practitioners are seeing. In fact, nutritional deficiencies are on the rise.
The Most Common Nutritional Deficiencies Medical Practitioners Are Seeing Now:
Some of the most common nutritional deficiencies include folate which comes from leafy green vegetables, vitamins A and D which come from oily fish, orange fruits and vegetables and sunlight-grown mushrooms, as well as iron and vitamin B12 from properly digested fish, poultry and meat.
Since low levels of these nutrients can impact overall health and vitality, the rise in nutritional deficiencies is not only puzzling, it carries important ramifications for public health.
How To tell if you Have a Nutritional Deficiency
The signs of a nutritional deficiency will depend on which nutrients you are missing, however, there are some common red flags including:
- Low energy levels
- “Foggy thinking”
- Unexplained food cravings
- Digestive difficulties
- Skin problems (including unusual paleness)
- Hair loss
- Memory problems and concentration issues
- Heart palpitations
- White spots or ridges on your nails
Why are we So Deficient These Days?
What’s behind the prevalence of nutritional shortages? Let’s take a look at some of the causes and how you can address them in your own life.
Did you know that the produce you ate as a child was likely more nutritious than the fruits and vegetables you buy at the supermarket today? It’s true. Modern farming practices have lowered soil quality, and, consequently, the nutrients in the food grown in that soil. Here’s a scary fact: Some scientists say that we would have to eat eight oranges to receive the amount of vitamin A our grandparents enjoyed from just a single orange.
Are you getting what you need from your food? Research suggests that the standard diet isn’t meeting most people’s needs. With supposedly healthy vegetables being grown too big too fast using toxic pesticides and fertilizers that feed the plant but do not allow for vitamins and minerals in the finished product, we are often eating plump, beautiful food that is simply devoid of nutrition.
The 1992 Earth Summit Report stated that “Soil depletion levels of minerals in Europe (are) now at 72%, over the last 100 years”. That was almost 30 years ago and conventional farming practices have not improved. Thankfully, the organic food industry has boomed in the meantime, so getting your vegetables from a small-scale local organic producer has never been easier.
Grocery stores are filled with an astonishing variety of food that can meet any dietary needs. But, let’s face it: Sometimes it’s easier to get a fast-food cheeseburger. Of course, an occasional fast-food treat is convenient, but relying too much on quick meals can lead to trouble. As a striking example, an often-overlooked component to dietary health is fiber. We need fiber to keep our gut healthy, but many people fall short of their daily needs.
If you make a drastic change in your diet, you have to keep an eye on your nutrient balance. For example, there are many great reasons to adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet. However, vegans are often short of vitamin B12 unless they make a specific effort to get enough of this essential vitamin through supplementation. Let’s take a look at the popular Keto Diet- too much fat, not enough fiber and leafy greens delivering essential nutrients can start to affect other areas of your health like your bowels, your energy, your hormone metabolism and more. That’s why it’s essential to talk to a healthcare provider before making big changes to your diet.
Stress and digestive difficulties
It’s both ironic and frustrating: We need more nutrients when we’re stressed, but our bodies actually become less efficient at absorbing those vital nutrients when we’re under stress. And being short of some nutrients can raise our anxiety levels. The result can be a difficult cycle to break.
When you’re going through a hard time, it’s important to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods in a calming environment and seek out any necessary supplements. However, when we are extremely busy it’s often difficult to even recognize that we need to take the time to look after our own needs.
Absorption Problems and Leaky Gut
Nutrients are absorbed into the body from our gut, but many factors can negatively affect gut health and lead to absorption difficulties. Without enough “good” bacteria lining the gut, we can have trouble getting what we need from our meals as well as any supplements we take. Factors such as a high-carb diet or stress can lead to an imbalance in the microbiome and inflammation in the gut, hampering the absorption of nutrients.
More drastically, it can also lead to a condition called “leaky gut” where instead of being absorbed through the cells that line the intestine as they should be, food molecules escape the gut in the gaps between those cells, straight into the bloodstream. Leaky gut can trigger an immune reaction and even lead to autoimmune issues.
Counterfeit or Poor Quality Supplements
In today’s health-conscious world, supplements are big business. Unfortunately, some less-than-honest people take advantage of our eagerness to fix our health problems. That’s why it’s important to buy any supplements from a trusted, reputable source. It’s surprisingly easy to sell poor-quality, and even counterfeit supplements online. Supplements aren’t subject to the same strict regulations as medications, so it’s important to know who you’re buying from.
Several commonly prescribed conventional medications can lower your ability to absorb nutrients. If you take any form of medication, be sure to review any possibly dietary implications with your healthcare practitioner. If you are curious about what nutrients may be leeched by your medications, you can check out this online resource for more info
As you can see, many factors are at play these days that were not an issue in the past. These changes in our food systems and lifestyles can mean that an otherwise healthy eater may still come up short on essential nutrients which can lead to larger health issues. Fortunately, there are many ways to optimize our diet and our bodies. In fact, there is even testing that can identify what minerals and nutrients are deficient in your system and we can help you get your levels balanced with a customized plan.
At our office, we offer testing to assess for nutritional deficiencies when needed. Give a call if you think you need help!
Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP, is a woman’s hormone expert and the owner of Wise Woman Wellness LLC, an innovative wellness and hormone care center at 1480 Swan Road, De Pere. Mann is the author of the eBook: A Guide to Gluten and Going Gluten Free. She is a board certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner, one of a handful in Wisconsin and less than 1600 worldwide to achieve this distinction. She combines the best of conventional, functional and integrative medicine to help women with female, thyroid and adrenal hormone issues to live healthier, more abundant, joy-filled lives using a blend of compassion, cutting edge science, practical guidance and humor. Contact her at 920-339-5252 or via the Internet at www.wisewomanwellness.com. Attend the introductory seminar, “End Hormone Havoc – Crazy Hormones Cause Fatigue, Weight Gain and Brain Fog and How to Fix Them!”, offered monthly, to learn about specialized thyroid, adrenal and female hormone testing and customized, bioidentical hormone treatments to achieve lifelong optimal hormone balance, increased vitality and longevity.