If you are feeling tired or rundown it could simply be that you are running low on vital nutrients.
What is a nutrient deficiency? A nutritional deficiency occurs when the body lacks nutrients that are essential for the healthy functioning of the body.
It is a cultural myth that nutritional deficiencies are rare in western countries. A high availability of food or overeating does not protect against nutritional deficiencies. It has been reported that approximately 3.6 million people in the UK now suffer from malnutrition and it is widespread around Europe. In March 2006 the United Nations acknowledged a new kind of malnutrition; “the overweight are just as malnourished as the starving.”
Diet has a huge impact on health. It is the quality and variety of food in our daily diet that is important. Nutritional deficiencies can be due to an insufficient intake of nutrient rich foods or a health condition that prevents the proper absorption of certain nutrients through the digestive system. In addition, the declining nutritional values of natural food sources in the UK are a growing area of concern. A major reason for these declining values is a lack of nutrients in the soil. The levels present in the soil can vary dramatically from region to region.
Mass productions methods mean that our food is not getting the same amount of important micro-nutrients from the soil as 1940. Some nutrient levels have reduced by 76% since 1940. Organic foods are known to have higher levels of micro-nutrients. In addition to a balanced diet, nutritional supplements can also help to provide the missing micro-nutrients in our diet.
Common symptoms of malnutrition include a low BMI score (<18.5), listlessness, fatigue, cold sensitivity, loss of muscle mass, poor wound healing and pressure sores/ulcers. In children, deficiencies can also cause low weight, slow growth (in particular height), and behavioural changes such as irritability, anxiety and attention deficit.
Learn more about the symptoms of common nutrient deficiencies in the UK:
The role of iron in the body: Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the UK. Iron is essential for the formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin. It also contributes to healthy cognitive function and the body’s production of energy. Recent statistics suggest that 40% of pre-menopausal women have seriously low intakes of iron. This is due in part to iron losses during menstruation.
Symptoms of deficiency: Symptoms include decreased appetite, lethargy, developmental delay, behavioural problems, brittle nails, fatigue, shortness of breath, poor endurance, dizzy spells.
Food sources: Red meats, spinach, nuts, seeds, liver products, eggs, an iron food supplement.
The role of iodine in the body: Iodine is vital for the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland. It also contributes to normal cognitive and neurological function, and helps to reduce feelings of tiredness and fatigue. Iodine is also important for the maintenance of healthy skin.
Signs of a deficiency: Symptoms include unexplained weight gain, difficulty losing weight, fatigue, high cholesterol levels, hair loss, dry skin, loss of libido.
Food sources: Seafood, in particular shellfish and seaweed, an iodine food supplement.
The role of calcium in the body: Calcium is essential for the growth and maintenance of strong bones and teeth. It also contributes to healthy muscle function.
Signs of a deficiency: Symptoms include tooth decay, weak bones, muscle weakness and cramps.
Food sources: Dairy products, almonds, sesame seeds, leafy green vegetables, a calcium food supplement.
The role of magnesium in the body: Magnesium increases energy production in the body. It also contributes to the healthy functioning of the nervous system, muscle function and psychological function.
Signs of a deficiency: Symptoms include an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, anxiety, muscle cramps and insomnia.
Food sources: Dark green vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, a magnesium food supplement.
The role of vitamin D in the body: Vitamin D is essential for the body’s absorption and use of calcium and phosphorous. It also contributes to normal muscle function and maintenance of the immune system. Experts suggest around 50% of the UK population may have a vitamin D deficiency.
Signs of a deficiency: Symptoms include weak bones, frequent illness such as colds and flu, diabetes, and a calcium deficiency.
Food sources: Cod liver oil, egg yolk, a vitamin D food supplement.
The role of folic acid in the body: Folic acid is responsible for the growth of healthy maternal tissue during pregnancy and reduces the risk of birth defects. Healthy levels of folic acid are also required for normal psychological functions and can reduce feelings of tiredness and fatigue. A deficiency can lower the levels of 5htp (the brain hormone serotonin) and can lead to depression.
Signs of a deficiency: Symptoms include fatigue, irritability, mood swings, poor memory, birth defects and complications during pregnancy.
Food sources: Leafy green vegetables, lentils, a folic acid food supplement.
The role of vitamin B6 in the body: A lack of particular nutrients of one of the most common causes of depression or anxiety. Vitamin B6 is essential in converting tryptophan to serotonin. Research has found strong links between low levels of vitamin B6 and depression. It is also important for the proper functioning of the nervous system, a healthy immune system, and the regulation of hormonal activity.
Signs of a deficiency: Symptoms include nerve pain, mood swings, depression, fatigue and irritability.
Food sources: Whole grains, meats, bananas, potatoes, a vitamin B6 food supplement.
The role of vitamin B12 in the body: Vitamin B12 contributes to the body’s production of energy. It also supports the healthy function of the nervous system and the healthy formation of red blood cells.
Signs of a deficiency: Symptoms include fatigue, reduced appetite, and increased mental confusion.
Food sources: Meats, eggs, dairy products, a vitamin B12 food supplement.
The role of vitamin C in the body: Vitamin C is essential for the healthy function of the immune system. It also supports the formation of collagen and the maintenance of skin. Vitamin C has been shown to help protect cells from the damage caused by oxidative stress. The presence of vitamin C also improves the body’s absorption of iron.
Signs of a deficiency: Symptoms include frequent infections (colds and flu), bleeding gums and slow wound healing.
Food sources: Variety of fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, strawberries and tomatoes, a vitamin C food supplement.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
The role of essential fatty acids in the body: These ‘good’ fats are required for healthy brain function, cardiovascular system and nervous system.
Signs of a deficiency: Symptoms include dry skin or rashes, hair loss, joint inflammation, depression or anxiety, cold hands and feet.
Food sources: Oily fish, including salmon, seeds (flaxseeds, sunflower seeds), nuts, soybeans, a fish oil food supplement.
ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
The role of amino acids in the body: Essential amino acids are the building blocks of neurotransmitters. These chemical messengers send messages around the body through the nervous system. They are also required to produce energy and to repair muscle and organ tissue.
Signs of a deficiency: Symptoms include chronic joint pain (in particular back pain), fatigue, mood swings, and delayed recovery from muscle strains.
Food sources: Meat, seafood, dairy products, soy proteins, an amino acid food supplement.
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