When we say micronutrients, we are referring to the vitamins and minerals that our body needs in small amounts. However, even though we only need them in small quantities, it doesn’t mean that they are not important. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), micronutrients are essential for healthy development, disease prevention, and wellbeing. Hence, if we develop nutrient deficiency diseases, our body will not be able to function properly.
The Most Common Nutrient Deficiency Diseases
Below are the most common micronutrient deficiencies along with their associated diseases.
Iron is a micronutrient that helps us make hemoglobin, a substance in our blood involved in carrying oxygen throughout the body. Lack of iron may lead to iron deficiency anemia – one of the most common and widespread nutritional problems across the globe.
Iron deficiency is common among children and women of reproductive age. It often results from inadequate consumption of foods rich in iron, such as lean meat, seafood, and poultry. Symptoms of this condition include fatigue, headache, chilly hands and feet, and paleness.
Many Filipinos understand that iodine is important for thyroid health. That’s why people who lack iodine often develop “goiter” – the abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland.
However, other parts of the body, like the mammary glands and the stomach lining, use iodine, too. They use it primarily to produce vital hormones that our bodies need to function well.
Since we cannot make iodine on our own, we really need to get it from our diet. So it’s a good thing that most of our table salts are already “iodized” or iodine-fortified. Some of the symptoms of iodine deficiency are irregular period, dry skin, weight gain, and changes in heartbeat.
One of the most common nutritional problems, especially among children, is Vitamin A deficiency. Not only is this vitamin important for healthy vision, but it’s also vital for strong immunity and replacement of skin cells.
Children with Vitamin A deficiency face an increased risk for blindness and death, due to infections such as measles and those that cause diarrhea. For adults, lack of Vitamin A may result in night-blindness.
Vitamin D is essential for bone health because it helps in calcium absorption. Additionally, this micronutrient also functions to promote nerve health and strong immunity. Vitamin D is unique in a way that we can get it from food and moderate sun exposure.
People who have Vitamin D deficiency can become sickly and experience hormonal imbalance, high blood pressure, as well as bone diseases like rickets (children) and osteomalacia (adults).
Calcium deficiency is also one of the most common nutrient deficiency diseases. Although well-known for its importance in promoting strong bones, calcium is also essential for hormone regulation. It also helps control our muscles and nerves.
Typically, the insufficiency in this micronutrient results from a calcium-deficient diet and Vitamin D deficiency. At times, diseases involving the kidneys and thyroid may also cause this condition. If you lack calcium, you may suffer from dental and bone problems, pins and needles, brittle fingernails, and muscle cramping.
We understand that Vitamin C is important for a strong immune system, but it also has many other functions. For instance, vitamin C helps in the formation of amino acids and some hormones. It also helps in the absorption of iron.
People who don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables are at risk of developing Vitamin C deficiency. If you have a wound that seems to heal very slowly, and if you suffer from bleeding gums and easy bruising, you may have Vitamin C deficiency.
Another of the most common nutritional problems is the development of Vitamin B12 deficiency. Like iodine, our body cannot produce this micronutrient, hence the need to get it from our diet.
Although Vitamin B12 is known for helping maintain nerve health, it’s also important in DNA production and brain function regulation.
Since B12 is abundant in animal products, those who are vegans and vegetarians are at a higher risk for B12 deficiency.
However, even people who regularly consume animal protein could also lack this vitamin in their bodies. If you suffer from B12 deficiency, you may have symptoms like brain fog, constipation or diarrhea, tingling and numbness, and pale skin.
Unlike the other vitamins and minerals that we have already discussed, magnesium is not as widely known. In fact, experts state that even the nutritional value of magnesium is “underappreciated.”
However, it is an important nutrient for many metabolic processes, including nerve and muscle function.
One of the reasons magnesium deficiency is among the common nutritional problems is because the soil where crops grow is no longer as magnesium-rich as before.
Additionally, magnesium is a “bulky” nutrient – hence, manufacturers of supplements tend to include them only in small amounts. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include worsened PMS symptoms, restless leg syndrome, headaches and migraines, and development of cavities.
Zinc is highly important to promote a strong immune system. People who have enough zinc in their body have better chances of resisting infections, such as malaria, and those that cause pneumonia and diarrhea.
People who have a zinc deficiency may suffer from impaired immunity, loss of appetite, and for children, growth retardation.
Folate or Vitamin B9 is essential in pregnancy to boost the baby’s brain health and prevent neural tube defects. Aside from helping boost health during pregnancy, folate can help prevent certain heart diseases and anemia.
The symptoms of folate deficiency are somehow similar to the signs of iron-deficiency anemia. They include shortness of breath, fatigue, and hair loss. People who have inadequate fruits and vegetables in their diet are at risk for folate deficiency.
The best way to determine if you have nutrient deficiency diseases is to talk to your doctor. After thoroughly assessing you, they can recommend measures to ensure that you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals. They can give you a multivitamin supplement or help you devise a diet plan that provides you with enough micronutrients.
As a final tip to prevent the occurrence of common nutritional problems, remember to have a well-balanced diet. Doctors emphasize that if you have a healthy diet, there’s probably no need for you to take any multivitamin supplements.
Learn more about Healthy Eating here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.