Understanding The Most Usual Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies In Women
Cold all the time? Feeling exhausted, even after a great night sleep? The truth is, we often write these symptoms off as things we just have to live with, like PMS. When in reality, these symptoms are caused by vitamin deficiencies and just like with PMS, we don’t have to live with them.
It’s important to remember that you don’t need all of the following symptoms to self diagnose yourself with a vitamin or mineral deficiency. For example, you might not have a swollen tongue but you have weak muscles.
I’ll be mentioning the common amount of milligrams you’ll need of each vitamin to be on track, to calculate the amount per food there is a fun site.
Here are the most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies in women today!
1- Folate (Symptoms include:)
- Gray hair
- mouth sores
- tongue swelling
- growth problems
More obvious symptoms being:
- Persistent fatigue
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
Folate (also known as vitamin B-9 or folic acid) can be found in dark leafy green vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, spinach, and brussel sprouts. It can also be found in different peas like black-eyed peas, green peas and chick peas. As for liquids, drinking orange juice will increase your levels of folic acid.
Typically, after you’ve gone through puberty as a woman, your folate intake should be 400-600 micrograms a day. If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s important to maintain good folate levels before you conceive.
This is one of the reasons why experts advise women to start taking a prenatal vitamin to ensure folate levels are high enough before conception.
2- Vitamin B-12 (Symptoms Include:)
- Muscle weakness
- Tingling and numbness in your hands, feet or legs
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Swollen tongue
Vitamin B-12 can be found in beef, liver and chicken, fish such as trout, salmon, tuna fish and clams.
It can also be found in eggs, yogurt and cheese. This can make it very hard for women who are vegan as many foods with vitamin B-12 are animal products.
After puberty, a woman’s daily intake should be 2.4 mcg (micrograms) and this number goes up to 2.6 mcg a day if pregnant.
3- Iron (Symptoms include:)
- -Brittle nails
- Extreme fatigue
- A sore or swollen tongue
Food that is rich in iron: Shellfish, spinach, liver, red meat, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, eggs, chickpeas, soybeans and turkey.
Menstruation causes us to lose blood which makes women very vulnerable to iron deficiencies.
Pregnant women are extremely vulnerable to low iron. Women between 18-50 need about 18 mg (milligrams) of iron a day (which is more than what men need by 10mg). Pregnant women need about 27mg of iron a day but women over the age of 51 need less iron, something around 8 mg.
It turns out, what you eat with iron rich foods, actually changes how your body absorbs the iron.
If you have vitamin C or citric acid (like 100% orange juice) while eating those chickpeas and shellfish (lol sounds so gross) it will actually help your body process the iron in those foods.
A better idea might be adding some lemon juice to your shellfish or doing a lemon sauce on your chickpeas and spinach dish, now I’m getting hungry.
4- Calcium (Symptoms include:)
*Symptoms often don’t show until it’s too late (often when a bone breaks and you’re already at the doctors office).
What you should eat to increase your calcium levels: milk, yogurt and cheese are high in calcium. If you’re drinking soy or almond milk which calcium is added to, shake it before using it as the calcium often settles at the bottom.
Calcium is super critical! It’s crucial for bone health but also a lot of other things. Calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract and our heart to beat according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Our bodies don’t produce calcium but we use it and lose it though our skin, nails, sweat, and when we use the restroom. Which is why it’s so important for us to get enough calcium in our diet.
If you’re 50 or younger, you need about 1000 mg (milligrams) of calcium a day, and if you’re older than 51, you need about 1,200 mg of calcium per day but get this… you want to try and have calcium rich foods throughout your day, not all at once. Your body absorbs calcium best when taken in amounts of about 500mg or less (this is the same for calcium found in food and or if you’re taking a calcium supplement - complicated right? As if we don’t have enough to deal with).
It’s also best, if you’re using a calcium supplement, to take it with food as your stomach acid helps your body absorb the calcium supplement.
5- Vitamin D (Symptoms include:)
- Getting sick or getting infections often
- Slow healing of wounds
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain
Vitamin D plays an important role in your immune system, helping you fight off viruses and bacteria. Found in foods like fatty fish and dairy products, egg yolk and orange juice.
You can also get enough vitamin D from spending 15-30 minutes in the sun a day. Your body makes vitamin D from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin D deficiencies are very common, in fact we’ve talked about the importance of Vitamin D before in this blog.
6- Iodine (Symptoms include:)
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold all the time
- Thinning hair
- Swelling of the neck
- Dry, flaky skin
- Changes in your Heart Rate
- Trouble learning or remembering
- Problems during pregnancy
- Heavy or Irregular periods
Iodine can be found in low fat yogurt, low fat milk, and enriched white bread, seaweed, and dried prunes. It’s also common for iodine to be added to salt. It’s an essential mineral found in a lot of seafood.
You’re body uses it in your thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones.
This is used in your body to control growth, repair damaged cells and support a healthy metabolism. Iodine deficiencies are actually rare in the United States as a lot of the mineral is in our food supply.
If you’re pregnant, you might be at a higher risk to have an Iodine deficiency. If you have an underachieve thyroid you might be feeling fatigue or your unable to get warm. In your baby, an iodine deficiency could stunt your babies brain development and physical growth *Please consult a doctor if you’re pregnant and worried about this deficiency.
Heavy periods? If you have heavy periods it’s possible you have low thyroid hormone levels and are experiencing heavy bleeding paired with more frequent menstrual cycles from an iodine deficiency.
This happens because low thyroid hormone levels disrupt the signals of your hormones that are part of your menstrual cycle.
These 6 vitamin and mineral deficiencies are something you can mostly likely solve on your own with the correct diet but it’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing severe symptoms in order to figure out the best course of action. Symptoms like fatigue might be hard to pinpoint when so many deficiencies result in that particular symptom, verses something like feeling cold where you can start to narrow it down and test your theories. Keeping a food journal and being consistent with a change in order to see if it has a direct result is a great way to self heal. Give your body some time to adjust to the changes. As I mentioned in a previous blog, it took no time at all to feel better after cutting Gluten out of my diet but it took three years of being on the diet before my immune system returned to a normal state and started protecting me as it should have from the beginning. Just remember, everyone’s body is different, give your body time to adjust to new changes and good luck.