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Top 3 Nutrient deficiencies at a glance
What does iron do in the body?
Iron has lots of functions in our body. On the one hand, it is necessary for creating hemoglobin which is in turn responsible for transporting oxygen through our body).
Beyond that, it is necessary for synthesising several enzymes and proteins which not only contribute to our immune system and our brain functioning well, but are also important for good physical performance.
Who is at risk of iron deficiency?
- The two major risk factors for developing an iron deficiency:
1. Being a woman from the moment you get your first period - and start losing quite a bit of iron with each of those periods - to the moment when you stop menstruating
- 2. Not taking in enough iron through your food, which is often the case for vegans and vegetarians
A less common reason for iron deficiency is that your body needs more iron than normal which is the case during pregnancy or for elite athletes.
In some cases, your body might also have issues with absorbing iron you take in through your food. This can be caused by specific medications like PPIs or medical conditions like chronic gastritis.
- The two major risk factors for developing an iron deficiency:
Symptoms of iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency can cause a whole lot of not-so-awesome symptoms like:
- diminished cognitive function
- fatigue - that means always being tired
- impaired memory
- diminished exercise tolerance
- muscle and joint pain
- weight gain
Treatment of iron deficiency?
Step 2: If things are all good on that front, an iron deficiency is treated with supplements. Supplements can be taken in the form of pills or, especially if you have a severe iron deficiency, your doctor might prescribe you an iron drip.
Step 3: Beyond that, you might want to get some dietary advice to up your iron intake with your daily food. That is also a good way to prevent iron deficiency in the future.
Prevention of iron deficiency?
The best way to prevent iron deficiency is to
- test regularly
- and to fix the root cause of your iron deficiency - which is mostly a lack of iron in your diet.
By testing regularly, you can track, if you ferritin value - which is measured to determine your iron status - is sinking or might even already put you in a deficiency risk zone.
If you know this, you can avoid developing an iron deficiency by increasing your iron intake or taking supplements before you get into a deficiency zone.
What does Vitamin B12 do in the body?
Vitamin B12 has various jobs in our body.
For example, it is necessary for DNA synthesis, maintenance of myelin sheaths (very important for our nerves to function properly), synthesis of neurotransmitters, blood cell production and important for overall brain health.
Who is at risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products such as meat, fish and milk.
Therefore, if you are vegetarian or even vegan, you are very likely to not take in enough vitamin B12 through your diet.
Other causes can be issues with absorption of vitamin B12 in your intestines due to gastrointestinal diseases like Morbus Crohn, medication such as PPI, H2-receptor blockers or if you had gastric bypass surgery.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency?
Common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include tingling in the hands and feet, problems with balance, confusion, dementia, weakness, loss of appetite as well as anemia.
Treatment of Vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency is treated by "re-filling" your vitamin B12 stores through supplements or vitamin B12 injections.
If you are willing to eat animal products, you can also adjust your diet to increase you vitamin B12 intake on a daily basis. A nutritionist can help you with that!
Prevention of Vitamin B12 deficiency?
If you eat animal products, you can adjust your diet to take in enough vitamin B12 on a daily basis with the help of a nutritionist. Additionally, you should test your vitamin B12 levels once a year to catch low vitamin B12 levels before they develop into a deficiency.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency
What does Vitamin D do in your body?
Vitamin D has multiple functions in your body.
It is is not only essential for keeping your bones strong and healthy, but also plays a role in regulating muscle contractions and keeping your immune system working well.
Who is at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?
The major cause of Vitamin D deficiency is not getting enough sun: Our body needs UV light from sun rays to produce Vitamin D.
If we don´t get enough of that light, no Vitamin D for you.
In Central Europe, we basically never get enough sun during the winter, because from October to March, the local UV-Index is too low for our body to be able to use it to synthesise Vitamin D.
If you on top of that spend a lot of your time indoors or only go out with sun protection like clothes, hats and sun screen, you have an even higher risk of getting a Vitamin D deficiency.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency?
Common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency range from always being tired and feeling low or depressed to issues with the structural integrity of your bones, being susceptible to infectious diseases - noone wants that in the middle of a pandemic! - or even having problems with fertility.
Treatment of Vitamin D deficiency?
The natural way to treat your Vitamin D deficiency, is to get more sun exposure to your body can create enough Vitamin D (you remember, no sunshine, no Vitamin D production).
The best way to do that, is to spend 15-20 minutes in direct sunlight 2-3 times per week without covering your head and ideally your upper body and without sun screen. Emphasis is on 15-20 minutes (!) - otherwise you are at risk of sunburn, skin cancer and all those not so nice things.Beyond that, you can also take Vitamin D supplements to replenish your Vitamin D levels. Most commonly, that is done with drops.
Prevention of Vitamin D deficiency?
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How to treat nutrient deficiencies
Change your behavior
The most common way to treat nutrient and vitamin D deficiencies are supplements.
Supplements can come in the forms of pills or drops you take regularly at home or in the shape of a drip or an injection at the doctor´s office. Generally, injections or drips are only necessary if you have very severe deficiency.
For some vitamins like Vitamin B12, there are also products you use or eat every day like toothpaste or muesli which are enriched with for example Vitamin B12.
Change the way you eat & act
With Vitamin D, it is a bit different. Your body can only produce Vitamin D if you get enough sun light. The ideal way to do that is to hang out in the sun without having your head and your upper body covered and without wearing sun screen (for max. 20 minute at a time!).
So especially if you are an office worker, we recommend to make an effort to spend more time outdoors in the summer.
Learn more about vitamins & nutrients
How to sustainably avoid iron deficiency in 3 steps
Iron deficiency can be an annoying, re-occurring issue, especially if you are a woman - thank you, menstruation - or if you a vegan or vegetarian. But it doesn´t have to be!
Why you should get in the habit of taking a Vitamin D test in the fall
Does your mood regularly tank during the winter months? Vitamin D deficiency might be at fault! Find out why and what you can do to avoid winter blues this year.
For Vegans & Vegetarians: What Vitamin B12 is all about
You are a vegan or a vegetarian? Good for your! One of the few drawbacks of a plant-based diet is a high risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency. Understand what you can do to prevent it!