Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

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Last time, we discussed the connection between chronic illness and ultra-processed foods. Not only does it worsen diseases like diabetes and heart issues, it can lead to vitamin deficiencies that have their own negative effects on health.

Everyone knows that a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals prevents many health problems. A number of these important substances aren’t made by your body and must be taken in from outside sources. Failure to provide good nutrition, in good times or bad, leads to deficiencies that impact health and cause chronic disease. It’s the duty of the family medic to recognize these and plan for situations where good food sources are scarce.

Each vitamin and mineral plays a different role in your body. Compared to fats. proteins, and carbohydrates, just a small amount of these substances are required to maintain good health.

VITAMINS VS. MINERALS

Although they’re all “micronutrients,” vitamins and minerals are different from each other. Vitamins are organic in nature and can be broken down by, say, heat, or other processes. Minerals are inorganic and maintain their structure.

Does the difference matter? Minerals in soil and water are easily taken in through plants, animals, and fluids you consume. Vitamins, however, may be inactivated through cooking, improper storage, or even just exposure to air.

WHO GETS VITAMIN/MINERAL DEFICIENCIES?

Any population may be susceptible to deficiencies if their diets are inadequate to meet their needs. Those at greatest risk are:

  • Malnourished Individuals.
  • People with gastrointestinal diseases or surgeries that prevent absorption of nutrients, such as Crohn’s disease.
  • Patients with medical conditions that influence nutrient status (i.e. cystic fibrosis, renal disease, genetic disorders).
  • Individuals on medications that are known to interact with the absorption or excretion of certain vitamins and minerals.
  • People with substance abuse issues (such as alcohol).
  • People who smoke.
  • Women who have short intervals between pregnancies.

Nutrient deficiencies can be subclinical or clinical. Subclinical deficiencies involve changes in concentrations of the vitamin or mineral in the blood, while clinical deficiencies manifest noticeable change in the appearance of parts of the body, such as hair or skin. Disturbances in function of important cells and tissues may be apparent in both.

COMMON DEFICIENCIES CAUSING CHRONIC DISEASE

The human body can make some vitamins, but a number of vitamins and minerals must be obtained through the diet. the ones below are just some that can cause chronic medical problems:

Vitamin A: Vitamin A (retinol) is involved in immune function, cell growth, and maintaining good vision. Deficiency leads to abnormalities such as night blindness or eye dryness.

Vitamin B6: B6 is also known as pyroxidine. It’s involved in multiple enzyme reactions, as well as protein metabolism. Deficiency leads to anemia, cracking and scaling of the mouth, a swollen tongue, or even depression.

Vitamin B12: Also known as cobalamin. B12 aids in making red blood cells, production of DNA, and nerve function. Deficiency leads to anemia, chronic fatigue and weakness. Loss of appetite may lead to weight loss and constipation.

Gum disease caused by scurvy/vit c deficiency

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is needed for the formation of connective tissue called collagen, as well as protein production. Certain chemicals involved in nerve function also depend on it. Deficiency leads to inflammation of the gums, chronic fatigue, and weakening of connective tissue (also called “scurvy”).

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is extremely important in absorbing calcium into the body, allowing proper bone development. It’s also involved in cell growth, is anti-inflammatory, and helps the immune system. It’s also thought to decrease the risk of severe respiratory disease caused by viruses such as COVID-19. Deficiency, which is thought to occur in at least 40% of Americans, can lead to poor bone formation in children (“rickets”) and adults (“osteomalacia”).

Calcium: Calcium is a mineral involved in maintaining good muscle and nerve function, as well the formation of normal bone structure. Deficiency leads to brittle bones, also known as “osteoporosis.”

Folate: Folate is a B vitamin (B9). It’s needed for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the normal development of the nervous system. During fetal development, lack of folate can lead to incomplete formation of the brain or spinal cord. In adults, deficiency can leads to a form of anemia.

Iodine: Iodine is a mineral that’s a component of thyroid hormone and helps regulate metabolism, protein synthesis, and more. Considered so important that it is added to table salt (“iodized”) to prevent goiter. Deficiency also results in stunted growth and developmental defects.

Red blood cells’ hemoglobin has iron

Iron: Iron is a mineral that’s part of the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. It’s important in helping transfer oxygen to organs from the lungs and the syntheses of certain hormones. Deficiency leads to anemia, a depressed immune system, and impairment in temperature regulation and brain function.

Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that’s part of more than 300 enzyme reactions in the body. Deficiency leads to poor muscle and nerve function as well as impaired blood sugar and blood pressure control. Lack of magnesium can also result in abnormal heart rhythms (“arrythmias”), cramps, seizures, and more.

Zinc: Zinc is a mineral required for good immune function and wound healing. It also plays a part in normal protein and DNA synthesis, some enzymes, and cell division. Deficiency leads to depressed immune systems, hair loss, delayed wound healing, and eye and skin problems.

For recommended daily allowances (RDAs) of major vitamins and minerals, plus good food sources of the same, click the link below:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietary_Reference_Intake

It should be noted that some sources recommend higher quantities than are listed in the link. For example, it’s thought that more vitamin D in the diet than officially recommended may decrease the severity of respiratory infections.

Despite the risks of vitamin deficiencies, few people get enough vitamins and minerals in their diet. The family medic should be aware of this fact and ensure good nutrition via both healthy foods and, when necessary, supplements. In this way, they’ll have the best chance of keeping it together, even if everything else fall apart.

Joe Alton MD

Dr. Alton

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