Vitamin deficiencies are prevalent, some even reaching epidemic status in the United States. Deficiencies that are common in developing countries are appearing en masse for many of the same reasons: (1) Dietary consumption of nutrients is inadequate due to overconsumption of meat, processed, and convenience foods and (2) under consumption of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Many Americans underestimate the importance and impact of nutrient deficiencies on health. Below are five common nutrient deficiencies and how to correct them.
Iodine is a mineral that is necessary for the thyroid gland to function properly. Without it, the thyroid hormone will not be produced which can result in hypothyroidism, possibly a goiter, and cretinism, if a woman is deficient during pregnancy. It is estimated that forty percent of the worldwide population is iodine deficient. Low iodine is also been associated with many diseases, especially cancer.
Iodine deficiency is believed to be caused by several factors. (1) Low concentration of iodine in the soil; coastal areas tend to have greater amounts due to the atmospheric absorption, (2) insufficient intake of iodine rich foods, seaweed and seafood, and (3) excessive intake of foods containing goitrogen and bromine. Food sources of iodine include water-dwelling fish and seaweed, such as hijiki, kelp, and spirulina.
Vitamin K2 is essential for optimal health. It helps with bone strength, health of arteries and blood vessels. It is intimately involved with tissue renewal, cell growth, healthy pregnancy, and cancer prevention. Without vitamin K2, vitamin D cannot work efficiently. Vitamin K2 is found in fermented foods, as opposed to vitamin K1 which is found in green leafy vegetables. Symptoms of Vitamin K2 deficiency include tarter buildup on the teeth, osteoporosis, and a calcification of blood vessels.
Vitamin K2 comes from grass-fed animal products as well as fermented soy products. K2 can also be obtained via supplements. Since this vitamin has not been studied thoroughly, the optimum dose has yet to be recommended, however studies use fairly high doses, about 45 mg/day.
Almost eighty percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium. This is due to the underconsumption of plant foods, as well as depletion of magnesium in the soil. Magnesium is essential for many metabolic processes. As the magnesium supply in the body dwindles, the cellular metabolism slows, causing other health conditions. Low magnesium levels are associated with high levels of insulin, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, ADHD, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, sleep problems, migraines, cluster headaches, osteoporosis, premenstrual syndrome, chest pain (angina), cardiac arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, hypertension, and type II diabetes.
Magnesium is essential for detoxification and also important in the prevention of migraines and heart disease. It is been shown that high magnesium levels reduce all causes of death. Seaweed and green-leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds are great sources of this important mineral.
Since very little vitamin D is found in plants and animals, the only way to get the proper amount of vitamin D is from sun exposure. Since many Americans work inside and wear products with sunscreen, vitamin D is not produced in adequate amounts. Researchers estimate that over fifty percent of the population is deficient in vitamin D. Certain populations, such as those over fifty, having darker skin, and the overweight/obese have a greater chance of becoming deficient. Food sources include cod liver oil, fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, and vitamin D fortified foods. Many people need to supplement their diets with vitamin D to maintain adequate amounts. Vitamin D3 is the most efficiently used form.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Most Americans eat too many omega-6 fatty acids, offsetting the balance between different types of this nutrient and causing an inflammatory response. This, in turn, leads to heart disease, cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. Increasing the amount of omega-3s in your body and decreasing the consumption of omega-6 will provide optimal health protection. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids as well as consuming fatty fish, flax seeds, and chia seeds will help restore the balance of omega-3 fatty acids.
Many nutrient deficiencies can be avoided by simply eating the foods containing the appropriate nutrients; however, the standard American diet does not contain adequate amounts of the above mentioned nutrients to maintain health. These vitamins and minerals are critical to proper function and responsible for many pathologic conditions. Since the food supply is depleted, and with sedentary lifestyles becoming more common, I recommend a high-quality multivitamin, omega-3, and vitamin D supplement, in addition to a healthy diet for prevention of nutrient deficiencies.
About Scott Schreiber
Dr. Scott Schreiber has been practicing in Newark, Delaware for over 11 years. He is a chiropractic physician, double board certified in rehabilitation and clinical nutrition, a certified nutrition specialist, and a licensed dietitian/nutritionist. He can be contacted via his website www.drscottschreiber.com.