How do you know if you have a nutrient deficiency?

Sep 18 2020Anne

How do you know if you have a nutrient deficiency?

Some nutrient deficiencies come with a range of nasty symptoms which can be hard to ignore; others can be more difficult to spot. So, how do you know if you actually have a nutrient deficiency? When should you consider increasing your intake of nutrients, either through your diet or supplements?

In this article, I’ll discuss 4 common nutrient deficiencies; the signs and symptoms that you’re deficient, who is most at risk and why it’s important to give your body all the things it needs to stay in tip-top condition. I’ll also suggest how you can boost your intake of these 4 important nutrients: iron, vitamins D and B12 and iodine.


Signs you might have a deficiency

  • Lack of energy
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold hands and feet

Who is at risk?

  • Menstruating women, especially those who have heavy periods. Any loss of blood can deplete iron levels, not to mention bleeding every month during your period!
  • Vegetarians and vegans. Plant sources of iron (non-heme iron) are more difficult to absorb than meat sources (which contain both heme and non-heme iron). Those who don’t eat meat regularly, or at all, could be more at risk of iron deficiency, even if they eat eggs and dairy.
  • Those who don’t eat enough fruit and veg. No matter how much meat you are consuming, if you don’t also include a wide range of fruit and vegetables in your diet, your body won’t be able to absorb sufficient quantities of iron. Vitamins A and C and beta-carotene are important nutrients which can help to increase the absorption of iron.
  • People who have digestive issues. Digestive conditions such as IBS and Crohn’s can affect how well you absorb nutrients such as iron from your food.

Why is it important to get enough iron?

Iron is required to make haemoglobin, the substance that binds to oxygen in the blood and delivers this all-important element to your cells, tissues and organs. An iron deficiency can cause anaemia, the condition behind many symptoms such as a lack of energy, pale skin and shortness of breath.

Your immune system can also suffer if your body doesn’t have sufficient iron levels. Your body’s first line of defence against viruses and bacteria requires iron, and if you don’t have enough then you will be less able to fight these off. If you have an iron deficiency, you might find that you suffer from colds and infections more often.

Low blood pressure can also be linked to iron deficiency, as a lack of iron can drive your blood pressure down and cause dizziness, fainting and poor circulation. This is why people who are iron deficient often suffer from cold hands and feet.

Finally, iron is required for your body to produce vital enzymes, such as those for digestion. So, without sufficient iron in your diet, you could find yourself suffering from digestive issues like diarrhoea and constipation more regularly.

How can you up your iron intake?

As always, the best way to increase your intake of nutrients and minerals is to consume them in your diet. Good food sources of iron include:

  • Beef and chicken liver
  • Clams and mussels
  • Kidney beans, lima beans and chickpeas
  • Leafy greens like spinach and kale

However, not many people eat liver and shellfish regularly and, as we know, plant sources of (non-heme) iron are more difficult to absorb. So, another great way to increase your iron intake is BetterYou’s Iron Oral Spray. Or, if you're looking for a convenient way to top up on several important nutrients at once, why not try their Vegan Health Oral Spray? It contains a combination of iron, vitamin B12, iodine and vitamin D3, all of which are important for your health.

Vitamin D

Signs you might have a deficiency

It’s not uncommon for someone to be deficient in vitamin D without even knowing it. However, common symptoms associated with a vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Brittle bones
  • Muscle weakness
  • Rising blood pressure
  • Changes in mood

Who is at risk?

More than 1/3 of the entire population is deficient in vitamin D, since it’s a hormone which we can’t produce without adequate dietary sources and exposure to sunlight. However, those most at risk of vitamin D deficiency are:

  • People who spend most of their time indoors and are not often exposed to the sun, whether they work in an office, do lots of night-time shifts or have limited mobility.
  • Everyone in the UK, during autumn and winter months! At this time of year, the sun isn’t strong enough to provide your body with enough vitamin D. The NHS recommends that everyone take a vitamin D supplement from late September until early April.
  • Those who have a darker skin tone. They require more sunlight than people who have lighter skin, in order to produce enough vitamin D.
  • People who wear clothes or sunscreen to cover their skin fully every time they are outside in the sun. We need sunlight on our bare skin in order to produce enough vitamin D.
  • Sufferers of Crohn’s disease or other conditions which affect gut health. These could affect how well your gut absorbs vitamin D from food sources.
  • Vegans and vegetarians. Most dietary sources of vitamin D are found in fish, eggs and dairy. Although certain vegetables contain vitamin D, animal products generally have a higher concentration of this vitamin and it will be easier to get an adequate supply.

Why is it important to get enough vitamin D?

Firstly, we need vitamin D for healthy bones, muscles and teeth because, without it, our bodies can’t regulate calcium and phosphate levels. We need to absorb plenty of calcium in order to maintain strong bones; while excess phosphate can weaken the bones and increase your risk of osteoporosis.

Vitamin D is also thought to be linked to heart health and regulating blood pressure. While the exact relationship is unclear, people with sufficient levels of vitamin D tend to have lower blood pressure and are less likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure).

A deficiency in vitamin D could also have repercussions for your immune system which, in turn, could affect your skin. Vitamin D has been linked to skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis, all of which can be affected by a weakened immune system.

How can you up your intake?

The best way to increase your body’s production of vitamin D is to increase your exposure to the sun in the summer months when the sun is at its strongest. Spending a short time in the sun without sun protection will boost your vitamin D production. But be sure to protect yourself from the sun if you’re outside for longer periods or have sensitive, pale skin.

During the autumn and winter months, you can get vitamin D from food sources such as:

  • Mackerel, salmon, tuna, cod liver oil
  • Egg yolks and cow’s milk
  • Mushrooms
  • Soy milk
  • Orange juice

As I’ve mentioned, the NHS recommends that you should also be taking a supplement during the autumn and winter months, to ensure that your body is getting enough vitamin D. We would recommend BetterYou’s Vitamin D Oral Spray, which delivers vitamin D straight to your bloodstream. This is suitable for vegetarians.

For those who are vegan, why not try BetterYou’s Vegan Health Oral Spray? Containing a combination of iron, iodine, vitamins B12 and D3 (from a vegan source!), it’s a handy daily dose of vital nutrients to keep your health in tip-top shape!

Vitamin B12

Signs you might have a deficiency

  • Weakness/tiredness
  • Light-headedness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Pins and needles
  • Memory loss

Who is at risk?

  • People with digestive problems, such as Crohn’s disease or gastritis who struggle to absorb sufficient levels of nutrients and vitamins from food.
  • Vegans and vegetarians. Naturally, vitamin B12 is found in animal sources such as eggs, fish, meat and dairy. If you only eat small amounts or eat none of these, you may struggle to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet.
  • Older people, possibly because they are more prone to disorders like gastritis, which makes it more difficult to absorb nutrients.

Why is it important to get enough vitamin B12?

Like iron deficiency, a lack of vitamin B12 can cause anaemia, which can leave you feeling tired, weak and light-headed. This is because a lack of B12 can cause the body to produce abnormal red blood cells which cannot function as they should and, as a result, sufficient oxygen isn’t delivered to the cells.

Vitamin B12 also plays an important role in the development and function of brain and nerve cells. All of your nerves are protected by a fatty substance known as the myelin sheath, which helps them to perform their proper function and transmit nerve impulses effectively. Without B12, this sheath can be damaged and fail to do its job properly, which could affect the brain and nervous system.

How can you up your intake?

Vitamin B12 can be found naturally in:

  • Liver
  • Salmon
  • Beef
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Eggs 

If you can’t or don’t eat these foods, for dietary reasons or because you are vegan or vegetarian, you should aim to boost your levels of vitamin B12 with a supplement like BetterYou’s Vegan Health Oral Spray which is designed to fill any nutrient gaps left by a vegan diet.


Signs you might have a deficiency

  • Swelling in the neck
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Low energy
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin

Who is at risk?

  • Pregnant women, as they need extra iodine (around 50%) in order to provide iodine for their growing baby.
  • Vegans and vegetarians. Seafood, eggs and dairy products contain the highest quantities of iodine, so those who don’t consume these products are more at risk of an iodine deficiency.

Why is it important to get enough iodine?

Iodine is used by your thyroid to make hormones which repair damaged cells, support metabolism and help new cells to grow. A lack of iodine can lead to problems with the thyroid, such as swollen glands in the neck.

As the thyroid is important for so many bodily processes, thyroid issues can result in a range of symptoms, from weakness and lack of energy to reduced concentration and alertness.

How can you up your intake?

Iodine is most commonly found in seafood, such as:

  • Cod
  • Lobster
  • Shrimp

Other dietary sources include:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Cheese

Iodine supplements can be used if you don’t have enough high-iodine sources in your diet. BetterYou’s Vegan Health Oral Spray contains iodine, as well as other nutrients which are likely to be lacking from a vegan or vegetarian diet.