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Are You Missing Essential Nutrients? How to Spot and Fix Nutrient Deficiencies

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Michigan Health and Wellness

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Did you know that around 2 billion people worldwide are estimated to lack essential nutrients, often without even realizing it? Nutrient deficiencies are surprisingly common and can lurk silently until noticeable symptoms or health issues crop up. Not getting enough critical vitamins and minerals can seriously undermine your well-being, whether due to a less-than-ideal diet, certain lifestyle factors, or underlying health conditions.

This article will explain how to recognize the telltale signs of nutrient deficiencies, why they occur, and, most importantly, what you can do to remedy them. Let’s explore how to nourish your body with the fuel it needs to thrive.

Understanding Nutrient Deficiencies

At their core, nutrient deficiencies happen when your body doesn’t get adequate amounts of the essential vitamins and minerals it requires to function at its best. These nutrients act as crucial catalysts for a wide array of bodily processes — from converting food into energy and healing cellular damage to bolstering your immune system and brain function.

Several factors can contribute to nutrient deficiencies, such as:
  • Diets lacking variety or high in processed foods
  • Lifestyle habits like heavy drinking or smoking
  • Health issues that hinder nutrient absorption or increase nutrient needs (e.g., digestive disorders, pregnancy, chronic illnesses)

Spotting the Signs: Common Nutrient Deficiency Symptoms

What red flags might signal that you’re running low on essential nutrients? Here are some of the most common deficiencies and their hallmark symptoms:

Iron Deficiency

Iron is a crucial component of hemoglobin, transporting oxygen in your blood. Telltale signs of low iron include:

  • Persistent fatigue and weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anemia (in severe cases)

Vitamin D Deficiency

Dubbed the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is vital for sturdy bones, a robust immune system, and a stable mood. Insufficient vitamin D can lead to:

  • Softening and weakening of bones
  • Muscle weakness and aches
  • Increased risk of depression and mood issues

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Deficiency

These healthy fats are essential for brain health, heart function, and keeping inflammation in check. An omega-3 shortfall may cause:

  • Rough, dry skin and dandruff
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Stiff, achy joints

Magnesium Deficiency

Involved in a remarkable 300+ biochemical reactions in your body, magnesium deficits can trigger:

  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Anxiety and sleep troubles
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue and low energy

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Critical for healthy nerves, blood cell production, and DNA synthesis, inadequate B12 may lead to:

  • Numbness and tingling sensations
  • Unsteady gait and balance issues
  • Anemia and fatigue
  • Mental confusion and forgetfulness

If any of those symptoms sound familiar, don’t panic – you’re not powerless against nutrient deficiencies. With the right knowledge and proactive steps, you can get the necessary vitamins and minerals to get back on track.

While anyone can develop a nutrient deficiency, some people have a higher risk due to various factors like:

  • Restrictive diets: Individuals following restrictive diets may not get a balanced intake of essential nutrients. For example, a vegan may lack adequate B12, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, predominantly found in animal products.
  • Digestive disorders: Conditions like Crohn’s & Celiac disease can hamper nutrient absorption.
  • Pregnancy & breastfeeding: Increases the need for nutrients like folate, iron, calcium, and vitamin D.
  • Smoking & drinking: Can impede your body’s ability to absorb and use nutrients properly.
  • Post-surgery patients and individuals on long-term medications: Surgery, especially involving the digestive system, can affect nutrient absorption and metabolism. Similarly, long-term use of certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, corticosteroids, and some diabetes medications, can alter nutrient levels and increase the risk of deficiencies.

By recognizing these risk factors, you can proactively ensure your body gets the nourishment it needs to feel and function at its prime.

Getting Back on Track: Fixing Nutrient Deficiencies

Do you think you might be running low on some essential nutrients? The first step is identifying the signs and working with a healthcare practitioner to pinpoint any deficits through a comprehensive health history, diet analysis, and specific blood tests that measure nutrient levels.

From there, the cornerstone of correcting most deficiencies is upgrading your diet. Focus on eating a diverse range of nutrient-dense whole foods like:

  • Colorful fruits and veggies
  • Lean proteins
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts, seeds, and healthy fats

A functional medicine doctor or nutritionist may recommend targeted supplements to bridge any nutritional gaps, tailoring the approach to your specific health profile and individual needs.

Beyond diet, making some lifestyle adjustments can go a long way in boosting nutrient absorption and overall health, such as:

  • Cutting back on alcohol
  • Quitting smoking
  • Practicing stress management
  • Staying active with regular exercise
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Regular sunlight exposure
  • Ensuring adequate and quality sleep

Ultimately, tuning into your body’s signals and adopting a well-rounded approach to nourishing yourself is the surest path to vibrant health. By recognizing the red flags of nutrient deficiencies and taking purposeful steps with your food choices and lifestyle, you can give your body the nutritional support it craves to thrive.


Nutrient deficiencies are sneaky — they can creep up gradually and hide in plain sight, silently undermining your health until symptoms emerge. However, knowledge is power, and understanding the signs and risk factors allows you to become your greatest health advocate.

Instead of feeling discouraged if you spot deficiency red flags, view it as a positive wake-up call and an opportunity to make meaningful changes in your nutrition. Expanding your diet to include whole, nutrient-packed foods and cultivating healthy lifestyle behaviors can set the stage for improved well-being.

If making these adjustments feels overwhelming, we encourage you to contact us at Michigan Health and Wellness Center. With comprehensive testing and personalized strategies, Dr. Tony Aboudib can help you create a plan that addresses your unique nutritional needs and health goals.

Taking proactive steps to fuel your body with the essential nutrients it needs can pave the way for more vibrant health, abundant energy, and feeling your absolute best. You have the power!


1. National Institutes of Health (NIH). (n.d.). Office of Dietary Supplements – Iron. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/

2. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (n.d.). The Nutrition Source – Vitamin D. Retrieved

from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/

3. Healthline. (2021, April 28). 7 Nutrient Deficiencies That Are Incredibly Common. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-common-nutrient-deficiencies

4. American Family Physician. (2017, November 15). Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Recognition and Management. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0915/p384.html

5. National Institutes of Health (NIH). (n.d.). Office of Dietary Supplements – Calcium. Retrieved

from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/

6. WHO. (2022). WHO/WFP/UNICEF Joint Statement on Preventing and Controlling Micronutrient Deficiencies in Populations Affected by an Emergency. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/publications/m/item/WHO-WFP-UNICEF-statement-micronutrients-deficiencies-emergency