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5 Common Signs of Vitamin Deficiency

  blog post author icon   blog post published date icon   05/11/21

Nutrition  Supplements  

You would think with the abundance of foods available to us that we would all be well nourished. Sadly, about 50% of the foods we eat are heavily processed and nutritionally void. How can you tell if you have a deficiency without taking a blood test? Let's take a look at some of the common signs of vitamin deficiency and how to introduce better nutrition into our lives.

a collection of citrus fruits including oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes

5 Common Signs of Vitamin Deficiency

  blog post author icon   blog post published date icon   05/11/21

Nutrition  Supplements  

You would think with the abundance of foods available to us that we would all be well nourished. Sadly, about 50% of the foods we eat are heavily processed and nutritionally void. How can you tell if you have a deficiency without taking a blood test? Let's take a look at some of the common signs of vitamin deficiency and how to introduce better nutrition into our lives.

This dependence on convenience foods has led to an epidemic in the USA. The foods we eat regularly are full of salt, sugar, and unhealthy, processed oils. This has led to nearly a third of the population becoming deficient in at least one type of vitamin.

Introducing important vitamins into your diet shouldn't be hard. You just need to know how to make it work for you.

Why are vitamins important? They are essential for many of the chemical processes our bodies do on a daily basis.

Vitamins are essential to boost our immune systems, heal wounds and help to convert food into energy. They are used for maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails. Our vital organs also require vitamins to function correctly.

Vitamin Deficiency Symptoms

The most common vitamins people in the US don't have enough of are vitamin D, vitamin B6, B12, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and folate.

So that's pretty much all the vitamins we need for healthy day-to-day bodily functions!

There are many reasons we all likely have some sort of deficiency. This can be our poor diets or even the fact the soil where our food grows is much less nutrient-dense than it was 50 years ago.

These are some of the signs your body gives you to tell you aren't getting enough vitamins:

1. Sleepiness and Exhaustion

One of the main minerals we are deficient in is iron. Many women, in particular, have an iron deficiency, or extreme iron deficiency, which is called anemia. A total of 6% of the population have deficient iron levels.

We need iron for our red blood cells to produce hemoglobin to transport oxygen to our cells. If we don't have enough iron, our body has trouble transporting the oxygen.

This leads to extreme fatigue and leaves you feeling exhausted. Other symptoms that show a lack of iron include pale skin, a swollen tongue, and restless leg syndrome. This is when you get the urge to constantly move your legs.

Did you know that pregnant women need the most amount of iron for their baby to develop? Sometimes, pregnant women who are low in iron start craving non-food substances such as dirt, clay, and chalk. This phenomenon is known as pica.

Lack of vitamin B12 has a similar effect on people and causes drowsiness and sometimes exhaustion. If you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, you should always take a B12 supplement. This vitamin is usually obtained from meat and dairy foods that vegans and vegetarians don't eat.

2. Ulcers in the Mouth and Bleeding Gums

Having mouth ulcers is usually a sign that something isn't right with your body. Ulcers could be indicating too many toxins in your body or that you are fighting an infection. They can also signify low levels of B vitamins and low iron.

The ulcers are generally round sores on the insides of the cheek or on the tongue. They make eating and drinking painful. You can treat them with antibiotics, but also by making sure you have more balanced nutrition.

If your gums start to bleed, this usually signifies a deficiency of vitamin C. Most people should get enough vitamin C by eating fruit and vegetables daily. However, 21 million Americans have a severe vitamin C deficiency.

You can avoid many deficiencies by eating at least five different fruit and vegetables every day. You should try and vary the fresh produce you eat throughout the week to get as many nutrients as possible.

3. Muscle Weakness

If your muscles feel weak for no reason, it may be a sign of a vitamin deficiency. Fatigue, in general, is often a symptom of some deficiency, but when it spreads specifically to the muscles, it can be a lack of vitamin D or magnesium.

If your muscles, particularly your legs, are experiencing cramps and spasms, you likely have some sort of deficiency. This symptom still makes it hard to tell which nutrient you lack specifically.

Speak to your doctor if this symptom persists. They will be able to help you diagnose the issue.

Try to eat more magnesium-rich foods to avoid muscle cramps.

4. Hair Loss, Brittle Hair, and Nails

For healthy skin, hair and nails, we need enough vitamins and minerals in our diet. Hair loss is a common sign you lack essential nutrients. Iron and zinc are the nutrients most associated with healthy hair.

Vitamins B2 and B7 are also essential for maintaining a luscious head of hair. A lack of B vitamins may also show up as dandruff or flaky skin.

B7 is also known as Biotin and is crucial for us to convert food into energy. One of the most notable signs you are low in B7 is that your nails become brittle and break easily.

5. Low Mood

The importance of vitamins is not just for the physical aspects of our health but also for our mental health.

Deficiency in specific vitamins and minerals can also lead to low mood and feeling sad. There is a strong link between vitamin D and mental health.

Having a balance of vitamins and minerals is crucial for both our body and mind.

How to Avoid Vitamin Deficiency

With so much processed and convenience food available, it can be tough to maintain a balanced, healthy diet. The best way to ensure you don't become deficient in any vitamins is to take these simple steps:

Use a Varied and Balanced Diet to Get Important Vitamins

If you want to avoid any of the problems mentioned above, your best solution is to eat well. It sounds simple but eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables is essential for maintaining your overall health.

Build your plate with mostly vegetables, learn how to cook vegetables well so they taste nice and you don't dread eating them! Learn to make some meals that are both nourishing and delicious.

For a balance of vitamins, try to include the following foods in your diet:

  • For iron, eat leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale
  • For vitamin C eat citrus fruits such as oranges
  • For iron and B vitamins, eat root vegetables such as sweet potatoes
  • For vitamin B and iron, eat nuts such as walnuts and cashews
  • For zinc and omegas, eat seeds such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds
  • For magnesium, eat whole grains such as brown rice
  • For vitamin B3 and iron, eat poultry
  • For B12, eat lean meat
  • For Vitamin A and D, eat Oily fish
  • For calcium, vitamin A and B vitamins, eat eggs

If you eat a balanced combination of these foods every week, you will increase your vitamin intake exponentially.

It doesn't mean you can never eat treats or convenience food. Just try to keep your consumption of these foods to a minimum.

Take Extra Vitamins and Supplements

If you aren't sure you are getting all the nutrients you need from your diet, you can always take supplements. Taking daily supplements is a great way to ensure you are getting the nutrients you require to maintain optimal health.

Which supplements should you take? That depends on you, and it varies significantly from person to person.

If you live in a colder climate, where there is not much sun in winter, you should be taking a vitamin D supplement.

If you a vegetarian or vegan, you should most likely be taking an iron and B12 supplement.

Talk with your doctor about your needs before you start to take any dietary supplements. Check supplement relief for more information on supplements.

Learn About Your Deficiencies

The symptoms listed above are all common afflictions that may show signs of a vitamin deficiency. However, they could also be signs of other problems; it is often hard to tell. 

If you think you may be suffering from a deficiency, speak to your doctor, they will be able to advise you and run some tests. Once you have concrete evidence you are deficient in important vitamins, you can then work on solving the problem.

Whether you choose to eat more fruit and vegetables or take supplements is up to you. Just remember, optimal health is achieved with a varied and balanced diet, regular exercise, and some supplements.

Not sure where to get started with vitamin supplements? Shop our wide range of dietary supplements here

headshot of Jay Todtenbier 2018

Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. He is also a tennis instructor and gospel musician. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups and major corporations having gone through the tech boom in Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges including depression, auto-immune disorders, and being overweight that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been an advocate for healthier living encouraging others to live better through making small, gradual changes to lifestyle behaviors relating to whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, proper sleep, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.

Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.

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