When you visit us here at Casey Allied Health, you can expect the entire package. One of our main principles of treatment is to treat the body as a whole. Getting treatment from an osteopath isn’t just about manipulation of the muscles and joints. If it was, we couldn’t claim to treat the body as a whole. To ensure optimum health, we need to consider all angles, including what you are or aren’t putting into your body. As part of your whole-body treatment plan, we may need to discuss diet with you. Nutrient deficiencies are common throughout the world and are the cause of widespread ill health.
Here we outline five common nutrient deficiencies, the effects they have on the body and sources of each nutrient to ensure you know where to find them.
Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. Anaemia is the name we give the condition where the number or quality of red blood cells is lacking. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. They do this with the help of a protein known as haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is partly made up on the mineral iron. If we lack iron in our diet, the body cannot make enough haemoglobin and this affects the body’s ability to move oxygen around the tissues. Signs and symptoms of IDA include:
- Paleness of the skin inside the mouth, under the eyelids and the fingernails
- Spoon shaped nails
- High heart rate
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty sleeping
- Pins and needles in the fingers and toes
Good sources of iron include organ meats, fish, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals, dark green vegetables, nuts and dried fruits.
Calcium is the most plentiful mineral in the body. We use calcium to provide structure to our teeth and bones, in the control of muscle and nerve function and blood clotting. When we are young, if we do not get enough calcium in our diet it can affect the growth and development of our bones. Deficiency may mean we do not reach our peak bone mass in early adulthood and are at risk for developing osteoporosis later in life. The levels of calcium in the blood are strictly controlled by the parathyroid gland (these are attached to the back of the thyroid gland) and parathyroid disease is a major cause for low levels of calcium in the blood.
Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yoghurt, sardines and tofu.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is one of four vitamins we can actually store in the body. The other three include vitamins A, E and K. Vitamin D aids in the control of calcium levels in the blood and plays a major role in the development and health of bones. We get most of our Vitamin D from the sun when UV rays hit our skin and start a chemical reaction, with the end result being Vitamin D. People who always stay covered up or spend long periods of time indoors are at risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency because of lack of exposure to the sun. Deficiency in children leads to a condition known as rickets. In adults, it leads to osteomalacia. Both conditions are characterised by the presence of bone pain and muscle weakness.
You can get vitamin D from your diet as well. Good sources include cod liver oil, oily fish, milk and fortified breakfast cereals. Remember to practice safe sun exposure and wear sunscreen. Too much of anything is never a good thing!
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12, aka ‘Cobalamin’ is required by the body for good nerve function and for the recycling of certain enzymes. People most at risk of developing Vitamin B12 deficiency are vegans and vegetarians due to a lack of naturally occurring plant sources of this vitamin. This vitamin is also released by special cells in the stomach lining as well as the bacteria found in our gut. Certain diseases of the digestive tract can therefore cause deficiency of this nutrient. Effects of deficiency include loss of sensation and muscle power due to nerve degeneration, and a special type of anaemia.
Dietary sources of B12 include most animal products and fortified cereals.
The mineral iodine is used by the body to produce thyroid hormones. These hormones help to control the use of energy and oxygen by the cells of the body and are essential for normal growth and development. A lack of iodine leads to a thyroid gland condition known as hypothyroidism. Signs and symptoms include:
- An enlarged thyroid gland (visible in the neck region in the form of a goitre)
- Intolerance to cold temperatures
- Slow heart rate
Good sources dietary iodine include milk, fish, seaweed and iodised salt.
If we suspect you have a nutrient deficiency, we will likely refer you for blood tests to confirm. If anything medical needs addressing, we can work alongside your doctor to ensure you are placed on the right treatment pathway in the quickest time possible. Having a balanced diet is pivotal for good health. Remember the old saying… You get out what you put in!