Health Insights column: Is your diet lacking vitamins and minerals?
Nutritional deficiencies have become a major issue because our soils are depleted in minerals required to grow nutritionally dense foods. Based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, more than 40 percent of adults have low levels of vitamins A, C, D and E, calcium and magnesium for their age and gender. Vitamin deficiencies are common in teenagers, ages 14 to 18, and younger children are often low in calcium, vitamin D and E.
Most people do not get enough calcium in their diets, which can be a main cause of osteoporosis. In addition, many people are on pharmaceutical medications for health issues that may be nutritional deficiencies. Nutritional deficiencies are also known side effects for many pharmaceuticals. This is why everyone should take a good multivitamin.
Some of the main nutritional deficiencies include the following:
• Vitamin B6 and folate, especially if the person is on birth control pills. Many people with anxiety and/or depression are deficient in B6 and folate, and they may have methylation issues in which they do not absorb B6 or folate. Individuals with high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, are deficient in methylated B6 and folate.
• Vitamin B12 deficiency is common, especially in the elderly and if an individual is fatigued and has memory, neurological or mood issues. Vegetarians and individuals with high homocysteine may have B12 deficiencies. Blood tests are not accurate for B12 deficiencies.
• Vitamin D is our sunshine vitamin. It also regulates inflammation in the body. About 80 percent of the patients I see are deficient in vitamin D. Blood test are recommended for vitamin D because it is a fat-soluble vitamin that stays in our systems longer, so when you take too much, it can cause problems. Vitamin D can prevent asthma, flu, osteoporosis, breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer.
• Magnesium is the No. 1 mineral deficiency today. It can help with muscle aches, pain, constipation and sleep.
• Iron deficiency is common in menstruating women, children with insufficient diets, athletes, individuals with celiac disease and the elderly. Low energy and depression are common signs of anemia. In fact, studies show that 1 in 10 Hispanic children are anemic. This can affect concentration and performance in school.
Studies show that nutrition can play a key role in the onset, as well as the severity of, depression. Many individuals who are depressed, or have other mental illnesses, often have a poor appetite, skip meals and crave sugar. The general population in many countries shows deficiencies in many nutrients, especially essential vitamins, minerals, neurotransmitters and omega-3 fatty acids.
Many times, correcting the nutritional deficiencies will improve mental states such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders and anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and addiction. Most prescription drugs used for mental health, including common antidepressants, lead to side effects. This usually causes the patients to skip taking their medications. (“Nutritional therapies for mental disorders,” Nutrition Journal, 2008).
Our immune systems are depleted. This is evident when I do white blood cell labs on my patients. The white blood cells are our immune system, and they are low in most patients I test. This is because our immune system is always fighting viruses, bacteria, parasites, chemicals and free radicals in our environment. So to protect our immune systems, we need the antioxidants Vitamin A, C, D, E and selenium. If an individual gets repeated colds, he or she is probably low in antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent cancer and heart disease.
Since there are so many nutritional deficiencies, we all should be taking a good multivitamin. It is like buying an insurance policy for our health. Prevention can help one avoid a lot of unnecessary health issues and unnecessary medications. If you feel you have any of the symptoms above, you should go to a doctor who specializes in nutritional deficiencies because you may need a higher dose of a vitamin than what is in a multivitamin.
What should you look for in a good multivitamin? You should be taking a vitamin with no added sugar, food sources, coloring or preservatives. It should only contain vitamins and minerals, with no herbs or supplements. Vitamins and minerals should always be taken with a meal for better absorption. For a recommendation on dosages of a multivitamin, see the Riverwalk Natural Health blog.
Deborah Wiancek is a naturopathic physician who has had a family practice at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic & Pharmacy for 18 years. She can be reached at 970-926-7606 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit riverwalknaturalhealth.blogspot.com or follow twitter.com/riverwalk.