5 Common Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies in Women
Debunking that Unwell Feeling
Women require a wide array of vitamins & minerals to support mood and specific body systems, especially hormonal fluctuations during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. And while each phase of life guides which specific vitamins and minerals we need, regardless of age, we are still largely lacking in so many nutrients.
More and more women are coming up deficient – in key vitamins and minerals. We’ve been told by various experts for years on end, to get our nutrition solely from food sources.
That is great advice, but what do we do when our food sources have been tainted?
There is toxic run-off from factories that gets into our soil and water. There are old lead paints on fences and homes that have deteriorated with time and have contaminated soil in many places. The way food is grown now - genetically modified foods, with pesticides – causes massive amounts of natural nutrients to be depleted from the soil and the soil fertility to decline when crops are not properly rotated. The way animals are farmed, raised, and killed, drastically affects the quality of the meat, and what kind of nutrition we are getting from its consumption.
So what are we lacking and what can we do?
Let’s look at the 5 most common deficiencies and how they affect us:
This key nutrient is used by the thyroid gland to make T3 and T4 which power the cells of the body and are responsible for metabolism. Iodine levels must be sufficient for the thyroid gland to function properly. Otherwise, women can suffer from fatigue, weight gain, anxiety, brain fog, and depression. When thyroid levels drop, the pituitary gland releases TSH, or thyroid-stimulating hormone, in response which helps to regulate heart rate, muscle strength, metabolism, and hormones related to the menstrual cycle.
It is very important to get your thyroid levels checked, especially if you are unusually fatigued, as this could indicate hypothyroidism. If your diet is lacking in iodine-rich foods, it can easily be ingested by consuming clean seaweed, eggs, tuna, shrimp, prunes, and cod.
This is an essential mineral that regulates blood cell productions and function. Hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the bloodstream from the lungs to our tissues, contains 4 atoms of iron. Although there are some great sources of plant-based iron, it is most readily available by consuming animal protein. During the menstruation years, women lose blood regularly and these stores of iron-bound blood must be mindfully replenished. By eating a plant-based diet and not being conscious of which foods will replete iron stores, women are becoming increasingly iron deficient. This can often be alleviated by eating a more organic and whole-foods diet- increasing the ingestion of nuts and seeds, organic legumes like chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils, and including more organic vegetables like mushrooms, pumpkins, olives, and very dark leafy greens, which are often high in iron. Cooking in a cast-iron skillet will also help raise iron levels. Be sure to have your iron, ferritin, TIBC, and Complete Blood Count tested regularly, as the symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia can mimic hypothyroidism.
The eight B vitamins- B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12 - play an important role in maintaining homeostasis in the body. Generally speaking, B-12, B-9 (folic acid, very important especially for pregnant women), and B-6 are all very important in blood synthesis, energy levels, metabolizing proteins, nervous system function, skin health, and blood cell function. More and more, women are not properly absorbing the B vitamins because of digestive issues caused by leaky gut, IBS, Crohn’s, or food sensitivities, or due to inadequate dietary ingestion of B vitamin-rich foods. A vegan or vegetarian diet might also cause a deficiency in one or more of these nutrients. While I prefer to administer an intramuscular injection of B12 and B Complex, the next best choice is taking a liquid or sublingual B complex supplement. A balanced, whole foods diet that includes fish, eggs, legumes, brown rice, dark leafy greens, mushrooms, and healthy organic dairy will also help ensure that all of these vitamin requirements are met.
Magnesium deficiency, although not necessarily an epidemic, is often overlooked in lab testing. A magnesium deficiency often manifests as vague symptoms that are uncomfortable and mimic other types of illness. Symptoms like fatigue, poor cognitive functioning, sleep issues, general malaise, and aching joints and muscles might indicate a deficiency of this superstar nutrient. Magnesium is nature’s natural muscle relaxer! It not only helps with daily aches and pains but also acts to stimulate and soften the bowels. I recommend taking magnesium citrate nightly to ensure a good night’s sleep AND a morning bowel movement. Magnesium-rich foods include nuts, dark chocolate, avocados, and beans. For proper relaxation and help with muscle aches and sleep, magnesium is essential.
Calcium & Vitamin D
I list these two together because they go hand in hand. I see vitamin D deficiency in about 90% of the patients whom I test. Vitamin D deficiency is a major problem in older women, as is calcium, and in order to absorb calcium, sufficient amounts of vitamin D must be present in the body.
In order to prevent bone issues like osteoporosis or severe forms of arthritis, having proper levels of calcium and vitamin D is extremely important. Not only do they ensure proper bone health, but also support the health of the blood, heart, and nervous system. Both can be taken in supplement form, but it’s best to synthesize Vitamin D by getting about 15 minutes of sunshine a day, and for calcium, foods like seeds and nuts, organic dairy, fatty fish, and dark leafy greens can help keep adequate body stores.
Being sure your vitamin and mineral levels are optimized is essential for day-to-day health, and also to ensure longevity while aging gracefully. Seeing your Naturopathic Doctor for regular check-ins and blood tests will ensure that you are supported in optimal health so that you can put your best body forward!
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