With all the quick eats out there these days, it’s easy to slip into a diet with few nutrients to nourish your body. Everyone needs a processed snack now and again, but if you don’t have enough vitamin intake, you can start to experience symptoms that will hold you back.
If you recognize the signs, you can make dietary changes that will right the nutrient balance in your body and get you back on track.
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1. Brittle nails and hair
While there are many factors involved in brittle hair and nails, one of the big ones is a decreased level of biotin, otherwise known as vitamin B7.
Brittle, thinning and splitting hair and nails can indicate a lack of B7, along with chronic fatigue, muscle pain and cramps, and tingling in the extremities. If you are pregnant, a heavy smoker or drinking or have a digestive disorder, you are at higher risk for this deficiency. If you are using anti-seizure medication or antibiotics over a long period of time, your risk level is increased as well.
Be careful about eating raw egg whites, too, because they contain a protein that binds to biotin, reducing its absorption in the body.
To get your B7 levels up, eat egg yolks, fish, meats, dairy, seeds, broccoli, sweet potatoes, whole grains or bananas. There are also supplements available, but there are few studies which verify the benefits of such supplements.
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2. Hair loss
If your hair is falling out, that can indicate a shortage of a number of nutrients, including: iron, zinc, linoleic acid, and niacin (B3), in addition to biotin (B7). Iron helps because it is involved in DNA synthesis, particularly that in hair follicles. Too little of it and hair can stop growing or fall out. Zinc works with protein synthesis and cell division, both of which are needed for hair growth.
Meat, fish, eggs, beans and dark leafy vegetables can fortify your zinc and iron levels, and also increase biotin and niacin. Nuts, seeds and whole grains can also replenish these nutrients.
Hair loss is actually quite common; up to 50 percent of people report losing some hair by the time they reach age 50. Watch out for hair loss supplements, though. Some have vitamin A and selenium added, both of which can add to hair loss.
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3. Dandruff or patchy scalp
Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis typically affect infants, teens going through puberty and those in mid-adulthood. They present as dry, itchy, flaking skin because they affect the oil-producing areas of the body.
These symptoms again can indicate low zinc or niacin levels, or possibly low riboflavin (B2) and pyridoxine (B6). To increase your levels of these nutrients, try eating whole grains, poultry, meat, fish, eggs, dairy or starchy vegetables.
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4. Restless leg syndrome
Restless leg syndrome affects nearly 10 percent of Americans, and women are twice as likely to experience it as men. Usually, the symptoms spike during times of rest or sleep. It stems from a nerve issue causing uncomfortable sensations in the legs, and an automatic urge to move them.
More study is needed, but initial reviews show that there may be a link between RLS and low iron levels. The symptoms can often start during pregnancy, when women’s iron levels are likely lower than normal.
To naturally increase your iron levels, try eating meat, poultry, fish, beans, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. If you combine these foods with foods high in vitamin C, you’ll be pulling more iron into your system and increasing your absorption of it as well.
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5. Mouth lesions
Canker sores and other mouth ulcers also could be linked to iron deficiency, or low levels of B vitamins. Twenty-eight percent of patients with mouth sores had B1, B2, or B6 deficiencies according to one study.
Just like the previous section, you can improve your levels of these vitamins and minerals with meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. A diet full of these foods can help assuage many nutrient shortages, so keep that in mind. The B vitamins can be increased also with starchy vegetables and eggs.
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6. Bleeding gums
Mouth health is extremely important, and there are many factors to keeping your gums healthy, including brushing and flossing regularly, but if your diet has very little vitamin C in it, that can cause your gums to bleed.
Since we don’t make our own vitamin C, diet is the only way to keep your levels up. Low vitamin C levels are common, with 13-30 percent of people having low levels, and 17 percent of people qualifying as C deficient. Bleeding gums aren’t the only symptom of vitamin C deficiency. People can also experience nosebleeds, slow wound healing and dry skin.
To get enough vitamin C, eat at least two servings of fruit and three portions of vegetables a day.
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7. Poor night vision
Vitamin A is necessary for vision, particularly at night or in low light. The vitamin helps produce rhodopsin, a pigment in the retinas that helps people see at night. But it doesn’t stop there. If you have continued night blindness, it can lead to cornea damage and vision loss at all times. The symptoms, however, can disappear with vitamin A replenishment.
How can we replenish? Yellow and orange colored vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes can really help. Also, organ meats, dairy, eggs, fish, and dark leafy vegetables can increase your levels.
Just make sure you don’t overdo it. Too much can cause vitamin A toxicity, with nausea, headaches, and joint pain.
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Anemia symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, pale skin, and numbness in extremities. The cause is unhealthy red blood cells that are too large and don’t carry oxygen as efficiently as they should. Red blood cell development requires vitamin B12 and folate, which can be added to your diet through supplements.
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The human body is dependent on nutrients we take in from our nutritional choices every day. You’ve probably noticed that most of the deficiencies can be solved through the same types of healthy and varied food groups: protein, produce, dairy and grains. Keep your diet full of fresh ingredients from those food groups and you should experience some relief from these conditions.
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