Womens Health

9 Common Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies

A diet lacking in nutrients may cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Let's review some of the most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies, so you can find your perfect balance.

I had a friend in college who only ate cheese pizza, bread and more cheese pizza. She hadn’t even tried most vegetables besides corn (which she didn’t like) and she didn’t eat meat, but she’d tried chicken once (didn’t like it). She’d been eating like this for as long as she could remember. At 20 years of age, she seemed to be functioning fine but it catches up to all of us eventually. The crazy thing is, she isn’t the only person I’ve met over the years with poor eating choices and she won’t be the last. 

Now that might be an extreme case and probably isn’t you, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t dealing with vitamin deficiencies, mineral deficiencies, or macro nutrient deficiencies. That’s right, even with a well rounded diet, it is possible you aren’t getting enough of some vitamins and minerals. 

Let’s talk about the most common deficiencies and symptoms to help you find your balance because lets face it, there are certain vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly. 

Here are the most common mineral deficiencies in women:

1. Calcium deficiency

Symptoms include:
– Cramping of the muscles
– Numbness, tingling in the fingers
– Fatigue
– Poor appetite
– Irregular heart rhythms
*Symptoms often don’t show until it’s too late (often when a bone breaks and you’re already at the doctors office). 

Increase calcium levels with: milk, yogurt and cheese are high in calcium. If you’re drinking soy or almond milk which calcium is added to, shake it before using it as the calcium often settles at the bottom. 

Calcium is super critical! It’s crucial for bone health but also a lot of other things. Calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract and our heart to beat according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation

Our bodies don’t produce calcium but we use it and lose it though our skin, nails, sweat, and when we use the restroom. Which is why it’s so important for us to get enough calcium in our diet. 

If you’re 50 or younger, you need about 1000 mg (milligrams) of calcium a day, and if you’re older than 51, you need about 1,200 mg of calcium per day but get this… you want to try and have calcium rich foods throughout your day, not all at once. Your body absorbs calcium best when taken in amounts of about 500mg or less (this is the same for calcium found in food and or if you’re taking a calcium supplement – complicated right? As if we don’t have enough to deal with). It’s also best, if you’re using a calcium supplement, to take it with food as your stomach acid helps your body absorb the calcium supplement. 


2: Iron deficiency

Symptoms include:
– Brittle nails
– Dizziness
– Extreme fatigue
– A sore or swollen tongue

Increase Iron levels with: Shellfish, spinach, liver, red meat, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, eggs, chickpeas, soybeans and turkey. 

Menstruation causes us to lose blood which makes women very vulnerable to iron deficiencies. Pregnant women are extremely vulnerable to low iron. Women between 18-50 need about 18 mg (milligrams) of iron a day (which is more than what men need by 10mg). Pregnant women need about 27mg of iron a day but women over the age of 51 need less iron, something around  8 mg. It turns out, what you eat with iron rich foods, actually changes how your body absorbs the iron. If you have vitamin C or citric acid (like 100% orange juice) while eating those chickpeas and shellfish (lol sounds so gross) it will actually help your body process the iron in those foods. A better idea might be adding some lemon juice to your shellfish or doing a lemon sauce on your chickpeas and spinach dish, now I’m getting hungry.


3. Iodine deficiency

Symptoms include: 
– Weight gain
– Fatigue 
– Feeling cold all the time
– Thinning hair 
– Swelling of the neck 
– Dry, flaky skin 
– Changes in your Heart Rate 
– Trouble learning or remembering 
– Problems during pregnancy 
– Heavy or Irregular periods 

Increase Iodine levels with: low fat yogurt, low fat milk, and enriched white bread, seaweed, and dried prunes. It’s also common for iodine to be added to salt. It’s an essential mineral found in a lot of seafood. 

You’re body uses it in your thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones. This is used in your body to control growth, repair damaged cells and support a healthy metabolism. Iodine deficiencies are actually rare in the United States as a lot of the mineral is in our food supply. 

If you’re pregnant, you might be at a higher risk to have an Iodine deficiency. If you have an under-active thyroid you might be feeling fatigue or your unable to get warm. In your baby, an iodine deficiency could stunt your babies brain development and physical growth *Please consult a doctor if you’re pregnant and worried about this deficiency. 

Heavy periods? If you have heavy periods it’s possible you have low thyroid hormone levels and are experiencing heavy bleeding paired with more frequent menstrual cycles from an iodine deficiency. This happens because low thyroid hormone levels disrupt the signals of your hormones that are part of your menstrual cycle. 


4. Magnesium deficiency

Symptoms include:
– Fatigue
– Weakness
– Loss of appetite
– Nausea, vomiting

More obvious symptoms being: numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, seizures, abnormal rhythms of the heart

Increase Magnesium levels with: legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, such as spinach

Magnesium is needed for hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. For responses such as blood pressure, blood glucose levels, muscle function, brain and nerve function as well as energy metabolism and protein production.  Though magnesium deficiencies are uncommon in healthy people, certain medications, chronic health conditions (alcoholism) and the presence of diseases can cause magnesium deficiencies. 


5. Zinc deficiency

Symptoms include
– Loss of appetite, taste, or smell
– Decreased function of the immune system

More obvious symptoms being: unexplained weight loss, wounds that don’t heal, diarrhea, open sores on skin

Increase Magnesium levels with: oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, dairy products

Zinc helps your body fight off infections and produce new cells. It has a strong roll in healing injuries and creating DNA. Zinc is important for the proper growth and development during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence. 


Here are the most common vitamin deficiencies in women: 

1: Folate (vitamin B-9) deficiency

Symptoms include:
– Gray hair
– Fatigue
– Mouth sores
– Tongue swelling
– Growth problems

More obvious symptoms being: Persistent fatigue, Pale skin-Shortness of breath, Irritability, Weakness 

Increase Folate levels with: dark leafy green vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, spinach, and brussel sprouts. It can also be found in different peas like black-eyed peas, green peas and chick peas. As for liquids, drinking orange juice will increase your levels of folic acid. 

Typically, after you’ve gone through puberty as a woman, your folate intake should be 400-600 micrograms a day. If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s important to maintain good folate levels before you conceive. This is one of the reasons why experts advise women to start taking a prenatal vitamin to ensure folate levels are high enough before conception. 


2: Vitamin B-12 deficiency

Symptoms Include:
– Muscle weakness
– Tingling and numbness in your hands, feet or legs
– Fatigue
– Difficulty thinking clearly
– Swollen tongue
– Anemia

Increase Vitamin B-12 levels with: beef, liver and chicken, fish such as trout, salmon, tuna fish and clams. It can also be found in eggs, yogurt and cheese. This can make it very hard for women who are vegan as many foods with vitamin B-12 are animal products. 

After puberty, a woman’s daily intake should be 2.4 mcg (micrograms) and this number goes up to 2.6 mcg a day if pregnant. 


3. Vitamin D deficiency

Symptoms include:
-Getting sick or getting infections often
– Fatigue
– Depression
– Slow healing of wounds
– Hair loss
– Muscle pain 

Increase Vitamin D levels with: fatty fish and dairy products, egg yolk and orange juice. Your body makes vitamin D from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to sunlight. You can also get enough vitamin D from spending 15-30 minutes in the sun a day.

Vitamin D plays an important role in your immune system, helping you fight off viruses and bacteria. Vitamin D deficiencies are very common, in fact we’ve talked about the importance of Vitamin D before in this blog. 


4. Vitamin A deficiency

Symptoms include:
– Night blindness
– Dry skin
– Dry eyes
– Infertility
– Stunted growth
– Throat and chest infections
– Acne breakouts. 

Increase Vitamin A levels with: dark green leafy vegetables, papayas, oranges, carrots, squash, pumpkin, liver, egg yolks, and fish liver oils

Vitamin A is important for proper vision, healthy skin and a strong immune system. Those at the highest risk of deficiency are pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. Most healthy adults need 700-900 mcg per day of vitamin A. Women who are nursing need more, while children need less. Too much vitamin A isn’t good, in-fact it can be dangerous. However, people rarely get too much vitamin A for a diet alone. Excess vitamin A is stored in your liver and can lead to toxicity. Always check with a healthcare provider before starting a vitamin A supplement. 


These 9 vitamin and mineral deficiencies are some of the most likely you’ll come across in  your day to day life. However always consult a doctor or health care professional before incorporating supplements into your diet. Symptoms like fatigue might be hard to pinpoint when so many deficiencies result in that particular symptom. Keeping a food journal and writing down symptoms daily can help with self healing. Give your body some time to adjust to the changes. 

Don’t forget to have a well-rounded diet, don’t be like my college friend 😉 eat more than just cheese pizza and bread. 


Medical Disclaimer

This content is strictly the opinion of S’moo and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither S’moo nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.