Most Americans are oblivious to what a “good diet” really is. Many confuse edible with food. As a result, nutrient deficiencies are becoming more common. In fact, the standard American diet is filled with sugar and is primarily refined or processed junk. This is NOT real food. These types of foods lack the nutrients our bodies fundamentally need. Some could even argue that these foods are poisonous.
Our standard American diet is creating a wide variety of nutrient deficiencies in millions of Americans, not to mention its contribution to a slew of different chronic diseases. It doesn’t help that the TV continues to push the wrong messages about what “healthy” is and it doesn’t help that we continue to find shortcuts in our eating habits.
I’m not going to preach too much today but I do think that it is important for you to be aware of some of the more common nutrient deficiencies so that you can keep an eye out for some of the associated problems. The great news is that if you simply supplement your diet or alter your diet in such a way that you can incorporate the necessary sources of nutrition, you can greatly reduce the risk of the chronic diseases that accompany the deficiencies.
It may come as a shock to you, but sodium deficiency is actually quite common. It’s called “Hyponatremia” and it affects millions of Americans every year. Not getting enough sodium can contribute to many conditions such as muscle weakness, spasms, and cramps to more serious conditions such as coma and even death.
I know, the television doctor said to avoid salt. Well, keep in mind that the body has to have sodium to help keep fluids in balance. Also, keep in mind that you sweat salt, you pee salt, you cry salt and the first thing that a REAL doctor is going to do if you wind up in the hospital is stick some in your veins. This is because your body doesn’t make it and you need a constant supply of it in order to remain healthy. Salt does so much for us, like keeping your hormones in balance or even ensuring proper brain function.
With that being said, it is probably best to avoid refined salts if at all possible. Stick to colored salts (pink or gray). These colors represent minerals that your body could use as well.
Did you know that iodine deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world? It’s true! According to the WHO, iodine deficiency affects 72 percent of the world’s population. Of course, you wouldn’t know it if you were relying on the mainstream media.
Every tissue in the body uses iodine so it is essential that we continue to get some in the system. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t make iodine and there is increasing evidence that low iodine in the body is related to numerous diseases such as cancer. Symptoms of deficiency include goiter, an increased heart rate, shortness of breath, or even weight gain. These are just a few symptoms though.
The risks associated with iodine deficiency are one of the reasons why companies add iodine to the salt supply. In fact, it was this practice that would later be credited with increases in intellect. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, people began to follow the dumb advice of avoiding salt and the results speak for themselves.
Consuming more iodized salt doesn’t fix the problem though. In order to get the amount of iodine you really need from it, you would have to consume dangerous amounts of salt. So it’s probably not best to rely on salt for your iodine. Instead, try getting your iodine from fish or seaweed. If you need to supplement iodine, you can do that too. I really like Lugol’s iodine but kelp pills work great as well. That being said, there are potentially serious risks from taking too much iodine as well. So just don’t overdo it.
Dealing with general weakness, loss of appetite, constipation, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, difficulty maintaining balance, and shortness of breath? Or maybe you have brain fog, memory loss, depression, anxiety, confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, and schizophrenia. If you are dealing with any of these… you may have a B12 deficiency.
This is actually one of my favorite nutritional topics to discuss. Vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin), is a powerhouse and it’s a really good idea to ensure that you are getting enough of it. This is because it is essential for blood formation and for brain and nerve function. In fact, it’s actually essential for every cell.
The irony is that much like salt or iodine, the body does not make B12. Also, like salt or iodine, B12 is essential for normal body function. This means that if you don’t have enough, your body is not going to like the results. This is especially true in the brain.
B12 keeps the brain healthy. It is required for normal capacities in memory, focus, and concentration. This is a contributing factor to why some with a B12 deficiency get a little “loopy” from time to time. Additionally, B12 is required for the formation of serotonin and dopamine and this is why people with low levels often have depression. The list goes on and on though. Yet somehow, millions of Americans are suffering from a deficiency and they don’t even realize it.
With few exceptions, quality Vitamin B12 can only be absorbed via the digestion of animal products. The two best sources are clams and liver but you can get a decent supply from beef, poultry, pork, fish, seafood, dairy, and eggs. Of course, this means that people who do not eat meat are at greater risk of creating a deficiency. In fact, studies have demonstrated that vegetarians and vegans are highly likely to be deficient in vitamin B12. The elderly are also at risk because they tend to have digestion or absorption issues. Yes, you can supplement to fill any gaps… but it comes with a warning!
DON’T BE FOOLED! There are some health gurus that suggest that things like spirulina, fermented soy products, or brewer’s yeast are plant sources of vitamin B12. This is not entirely accurate. Yes, these things contain B12 analogs but these analogs bind with B12 receptors in your body and block the intake of REAL B12. This actually makes any B12 deficiency much worse.
Supplementing B12 is a good idea almost without exception. However, if you decide to do so, be sure to look for supplements that contain methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin. It’s just a personal preference but I would avoid the products that contain Cyanocobalamin.
Calcium, Vitamin D, K2, and Magnesium
These nutrients work in tandem so I’m going to address them as one.
Vitamin D is a silent deficiency. Millions of Americans are simply not getting enough and you usually will not know how much of an issue it is until it kicks you in the hip. Many will experience muscle weakness, bone loss, and an increased risk of fractures. Others will have reduced immune function and an increased risk of cancer. The irony is that with a good level of D (specifically D3) in your system, not only can you avoid all that trouble, but it will actually help you fight infectious bacteria and viruses. Sensible sun exposure is the best way to get your D. If you have to supplement, Cod Liver Oil is probably your best bet. This is just one of those things that prove that nature had a plan.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body but an estimated 80 percent of Americans are not getting enough. Unfortunately, there’s no easily available commercial lab test that will give you an accurate reading of your magnesium status. However, if you are consuming plenty of seaweed and green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard, or pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds, you might be okay. If you’re not, you may want to consider adding some of that into your diet or supplementing.
Now, vitamin D cannot work properly without K2. Additionally, vitamins D and K2 work synergistically with magnesium and calcium. The best way to square this away is to have a glass of raw kefir with a spinach salad out on the patio on a sunny day. Wouldn’t that be nice? Raw dairy products produced from grass-fed animals such as certain cheeses, raw butter, and kefir contain high amounts of K2 and calcium. These are great natural sources. Note that I said “raw” and “grass-fed” though. If you cannot make this happen regularly, you may need to supplement.
My personal recommendations for supplements are simple. For magnesium, it’s magnesium chloride and/or Epsom salt baths once in a while. D3 would be a 5k to 10K dose along with a K2 supplement, specifically Menaquinone-7 (MK-7). Many people are already consuming enough calcium so you may want to get your levels checked before adding in a supplement. Let me stress that the natural forms of these nutrients will always be best and all supplements should be taken in moderation.
I wanted to throw this in here because it is interesting. However, due to the health risks associated with this issue (either way), I’ll just tell you that too much iron is just as dangerous as not enough. You need to get this checked out with a Ferritin Test if you suspect an issue either way. You may have low levels if you have fatigue, decreased immunity, or anemia. High levels are simply toxic and you may not feel well in general. Deficiencies are usually addressed with supplementation and some doctors have found that high iron levels can be normalized by removing about a pint of blood a year via therapeutic phlebotomy. Either way, it’s better to find out early and prevent major issues than to treat it after it causes a problem.
The results of dealing with nutrient deficiencies are not fun. Thankfully, they can usually be dealt with by incorporating the right foods into our diet or supplementing when necessary. Getting your levels checked regularly is not a bad idea. Ignoring advice from television is also a decent suggestion.
Check out my article titled “So Many Diets to Choose From – Which is best?”
Dr. Robertson is a health researcher and educator, not a physician. The information provided here is not medical advice, a professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or service to you or any other individual. The information provided is for educational and anecdotal purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation, or the advice of your physician or other healthcare providers. Dr. Robertson is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or additional information, services, or product you obtain or utilize. IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, YOU SHOULD IMMEDIATELY CALL 911 OR YOUR PHYSICIAN.