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Lack of nutrients - causes, symptoms and treatment

Lack of nutrients - causes, symptoms and treatment


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When there is a lack of nutrients, the body is not adequately supplied with all the important nutrients. So that all metabolic processes and functions can run optimally, the human organism needs not only macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins, but also micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Accordingly, a distinction is made between a macro and a micronutrient deficiency. The lack of nutrients can occur in isolation or affect several nutrients. Protein, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, folic acid and iron are often lacking. The symptoms depend on which nutrient is missing in which amount.

Lack of nutrients - the symptoms

A lack of nutrients does not arise suddenly, but rather creeps. The complaints are initially very unspecific, so the deficiency often remains undetected for a long time. The lack of nutrients is often accompanied by symptoms such as fatigue, exhaustion or increased susceptibility to infections. External changes such as thin hair or pale skin can also indicate a deficiency.

Symptoms of a protein deficiency

Proteins, also known as proteins, are the elementary building blocks in the body. They are part of cells and tissues, and also enzymes, the antibodies of the immune system and various hormones consist of proteins. Since our body cells and our tissues in the body are constantly renewed, the organism is dependent on a regular protein supply. A protein deficiency can cause the following symptoms:

  • marked weakness and fatigue,
  • Muscle loss,
  • an increased susceptibility to infections,
  • Water retention in the lungs and tissues.

Complaints about iron deficiency

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in western industrialized countries. Due to the monthly bleeding, women are particularly affected by an iron deficiency. Iron plays a role above all for the transport of oxygen and for the provision of energy. With an iron deficiency, the skin and especially the mucous membranes appear pale. Those affected are tired, tired and complain of headaches and dizziness. Decreased performance, poor concentration, brittle nails and hair loss are also possible symptoms.

Magnesium deficiency - the symptoms

Magnesium is important for the electrolyte balance in the body. The mineral in the muscles ensures a balanced ratio of relaxation and tension. Humans also need magnesium for normal energy metabolism. A magnesium deficiency is primarily characterized by neuromuscular symptoms such as calf cramps, increased muscle tension or muscle twitching. But sleep disorders, nervousness and fatigue can also be based on a magnesium deficiency.

Fatigue and tingling from lack of B12

Vitamin B12 is an important vital substance from the group of B vitamins. The water-soluble vitamin is important for the functioning of the nervous system and also plays a crucial role in the formation of red blood cells (erythrocytes). Fatigue, difficulty concentrating and even depressed moods are just as much possible complaints with a vitamin B12 deficiency as tingling in the limbs and feelings of numbness.

Symptoms of folate deficiency

Folic acid is also a B vitamin. Like vitamin B12, it is important for blood formation and also for the development of the cells. A folic acid deficiency can have serious consequences, especially during pregnancy. A lack of folic acid, for example, favors the development of a neural tube defect in the embryo. The cleft lip and palate can also be the result of a mother's lack of folic acid during pregnancy. In adults, the deficiency leads to anemia (anemia) with symptoms such as tiredness, susceptibility to infection and burning tongue.

Vitamin D3 deficiency in children and adults

The body can produce vitamin D itself, provided it comes into contact with UV rays frequently enough. It is estimated that around a third of the population in the EU countries has a vitamin D deficiency. Possible symptoms include muscle weakness and bone pain. A pronounced deficiency can lead to bone loss in adults (osteoporosis). In children, skeletal changes such as bent bones are a possible consequence of the deficiency.

Immunodeficiency due to zinc deficiency

Zinc is an important trace element. Although it only occurs in small amounts in the body, it is of great importance for numerous biochemical functions. A zinc deficiency can lead to wound healing disorders and dry skin. If the zinc intake is insufficient, the immune system is also limited in its function. Possible consequences are an increased susceptibility to infections and the increased occurrence of skin fungi.

Symptoms of vitamin C deficiency

From the 16th to the 19th century, vitamin C deficiency was widespread, especially among seafarers, and was known as scurvy. A deficiency leads to bleeding gums, among other things. Wound healing disorders and bleeding on the skin can also occur with a vitamin C deficiency.

Lack of nutrients - the causes

There are many causes for a lack of nutrients. In addition to an unbalanced diet, an increased need or various diseases can also cause a deficiency situation.

Low-nutrient diet

Many of the foods we eat today are high in calories but low in vitamins and minerals. Finished products and fast food in particular contain hardly any vital substances. Certain forms of nutrition can also promote the development of a deficiency. For example, vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products. People who eat vegan are therefore at an increased risk of suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency. And long-term, one-sided diets can also result in a lack of nutrients. Another risk group are older people: on the one hand, appetite often disappears with increasing age, on the other hand, some seniors are no longer able to provide themselves with a balanced diet.

Increased need

Even with a balanced diet, the need for vitamins and minerals cannot always be met. Among other things, there is an increased need:

  • pregnant and breastfeeding women,
  • Smokers,
  • People who do intense sports
  • People taking certain medications (e.g. hormonal contraceptives)
  • Patients with chronic illnesses.

Lack of nutrients due to gastric and intestinal diseases

Nutrients are absorbed into the body in the intestine. Stomach and intestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis can hinder absorption and cause a deficiency. The body also needs the so-called intrinsic factor to absorb vitamin B12. This is formed in the stomach. Chronic inflammation of the gastric mucosa leads to a reduced production of the intrinsic factor and thus to a lack of absorption of vitamin B12.

A common cause of reduced absorption, so-called malabsorption, is inadequate production of digestive enzymes. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes that are needed to digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Diseases such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency lead to poor digestion. If the body cannot properly absorb the fat from food, the supply of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins E, D, K or A is also at risk.

Treatment of nutrient deficiency

At best, a nutritional deficiency can be treated by adjusting the diet. A low iron value can be corrected, for example, by iron-containing foods such as meat, millet or beetroot. If you have too little folic acid in your body, you should use green vegetables such as kale or spinach. However, adjusting your diet is not always enough.

Substitution in the event of nutrient deficiency

A substitution of the appropriate vitamin or mineral may be necessary, especially if there is a high need or a very pronounced deficiency. Anyone suffering from a vitamin D deficiency will take a vitamin D supplement. An iron deficiency requires the intake of iron-containing tablets or capsules. Iron can also be added by infusion.

Depending on the cause, nutritional substitution is not sufficient. If the cause is not dealt with, the lack of nutrients will show up again after a certain period of time. If there is an iron deficiency due to a very heavy menstrual bleeding, this must be treated. Bleeding in the digestive tract can also lead to iron loss. Here it is important to find and stop the bleeding. If inflammation in the intestine hinders the absorption of nutrients, appropriate therapy is also required here.

Treatment with nutrients can be difficult, especially for stomach and intestinal diseases. Even high-dose food supplements are not tolerated by the patient or the nutrients contained are not or only insufficiently absorbed. In the event of a severe intake disorder, the missing nutrients must therefore be administered by infusion if possible.

Synthetic versus natural vitamins

Whether vitamins and minerals should be synthetic or natural is still a matter of debate. Proponents of the natural variant argue that they always get into the body in a combination of enzymes, co-enzymes and phytochemicals. The organism should be able to better utilize this form of vital substances. Here it is assumed that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. This means that synergistic effects occur, which means that the individual components can support and intensify their effects. For example, in addition to ascorbic acid, natural vitamin C also contains the enzyme tyrosinase and a bioflavonoid complex. In contrast, synthetic vitamin C often consists exclusively of the sub-substance ascorbic acid.

When taking the vitamins and minerals, there are also some things to consider. In this way, nutrients can hinder or support each other in their absorption. The absorption of iron can be promoted, for example, by taking vitamin C at the same time.

Colon cleansing for better nutrient absorption

People who do not suffer from chronic intestinal inflammation can also have poor intestinal absorption. Often there is a so-called dysbiosis behind the lack of nutrients. Billions of bacteria colonize the human gut. This complex bacterial ecosystem is also known as a microbiome or intestinal flora. Lactobacilli, enterobacteria or Escherichia coli are part of the intestinal flora. The microbiome plays a crucial role not only for the function of the immune system, but also for the supply of vitamins. On the one hand, the bacteria produce nutrients such as vitamin K and partly also vitamin B12, on the other hand they support the digestion of the food.

Disorders of the intestinal flora, so-called dysbiosis, can result in a lack of nutrient intake and inadequate vitamin production. Therefore, especially in alternative medicine, intestinal health is an important prerequisite for a good nutrient supply. Dysbiosis can be treated with probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are viable microorganisms that colonize the intestine or improve the intestinal milieu. Prebiotics such as inulin, on the other hand, serve as food for the bacteria in the intestine and can thus support their reproduction.

Medicinal plants against nutrient deficiency

Medicinal plants can counteract a lack of nutrients in various ways. On the one hand, there are plants that can have a positive effect on digestive performance and thus also on nutrient absorption. Many of these plants contain bitter substances or essential oils that stimulate the release of digestive juices. In addition to dandelions, these digestive plants also include yarrow, fennel, wormwood and caraway seeds.

On the other hand, there are plants that are themselves rich in nutrients. A prime example is field horsetail, which contains up to ten percent silica. This in turn mainly consists of silicon. In its organic form, silicon is involved in many metabolic processes in the body. With its high content of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E and the amino acids it contains, aloe vera is also one of the nutrient-rich plants. The medicinal plant also contains a considerable amount of iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and zinc.

Minerals, trace elements and also vitamins partially dissolve in tea preparation and can thus be absorbed. With some medicinal plants such as aloe, however, processing as plant juice is advisable. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters

Swell:

  • German Nutrition Society V .: Selected questions and answers on vitamin D, (accessed 03.07.2019), DGE
  • Landesärztekammer Baden-Württemberg: How does iron shortage come about? (Accessed on 03.07.2019), Medical Association
  • Consumer Center NRW e.V .: Aloe Vera - the plant for beauty and health? (Call 03.07.2019), consumer center
  • Jean Guy LeBlanc, Christian Milani, Graciela Savoy de Giori, Fernando Sesma, Douwe van Sinderen, Marco Ventura: Bacteria as vitamin suppliers to their host: a gut microbiota perspective, Current Opinion in Biotechnology, (accessed 03.07.2019), Sciencedirect
  • R.J.Thiel: Natural vitamins may be superior to synthetic ones, Medical Hypotheses, (accessed 03.07.2019), NCBI


Video: Vitamin B12 deficiency - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology (June 2022).