The Harmful Effects of Nutritional Deficiencies

Most people know that a routine visit to the doctor will reveal any problems with their health; however, many health problems can actually be the result of a nutritional deficiency. In order to understand how a nutritional deficiency affects your body, you need to know what causes a nutritional deficiency, what diseases it causes, and how to address the issue. By restoring your body’s levels of vitamins and minerals to appropriate levels, you can avoid the lengthy hospital-stays and sometimes deadly illnesses that can occur as the result of  a deficiency of nutrients.

What Causes a Nutritional Deficiency?

In most cases, the cause of nutritional deficiency derives from failure to obtain an adequate amount of nutrients from your food. However, new medications, daily lifestyle choices, or previous medical problems have the potential to cause a nutrient deficiency. Here are a few examples of common potential nutritional deficiencies:

  • Vitamin C Deficiency – This is caused by a failure to absorb properly levels of Vitamin C. For example, someone who smokes may be unable to absorb proper amounts of Vitamin C from their food. As a result, a nutritional deficiency occurs.
  • Folate (Vitamin B-9) Deficiency – This type of deficiency is caused by a diet that does not contain fruits or leafy green vegetables. Pregnant women are among the most prone to develop this deficiency because this vitamin is a necessity for carrying a healthy child. Furthermore, someone who receives hemodialysis for kidney failure is more likely to develop Folate deficiency.
  • Vitamin B-12 Deficiency – Although Vitamin B-12 Deficiency sounds like it would be caused by a failure to eat enough foods or drink enough liquids containing Vitamin B-12. However, most cases of vitamin B-12 deficiency center around a hormone known as intrinsic factor. Intrinsic factor is produced by the stomach and is necessary for the absorption of vitamin B-12 within the GI track. Previous illnesses of the stomach, intestinal surgeries, or even an autoimmune disorder can be responsible for destroying intrinsic factor, which results in a vitamin B-12 deficiency.

What Do Nutritional Deficiencies Cause?

  • Mental Health Disorders – Nutritional deficiencies can pose a horrendous risk to the nervous system in addition to causing problems with the communication within nerves throughout the body. The brain relies upon a delicate balance of sodium, potassium, and blood flow to ensure the cells receive proper nourishment. If brain cells, or neurons, fail to receive enough nutrition, they can cause dizziness, personality changes, and confusion.
  • Unwanted Weight Loss – If the body fails to receive enough nutrients–which may be vitamins or minerals like iron and potassium–the body will begin to access resources located within the body’s storage. For example, the body may begin to destroy bone for calcium and vitamin C. This results in weaker bones, which can pose an additional risk for fractures or other injuries.
  • Fatigue, Shortness of Breath, and Irregular Heart Rhythms – Low levels of nutrients reduce the amount of blood cells available for carrying oxygen, glucose, and waste products to and from cells. As a result, a person will become tired, may have difficulty breathing, and experience cardiac problems. Furthermore, thee cardiac problems can exacerbate into a deadly cardiac event, such as a heart attack.
  • Scurvy – If a person fails to receive enough vitamin C, he may develop Scurvy. Scurvy is a condition where the body begins to lose its ability to produce adequate levels of clotting factors. As a result, the person may experience unusual bleeding under the skin or around the gums.

How Are Nutritional Deficiencies Corrected?

There are three primary ways that nutritional deficiencies can be corrected.

Improve Dietary Choices

The simplest, cheapest manner of addressing nutritional deficiencies lies in dietary changes. By ensuring someone ingests a well-rounded diet, complete with folic acid, vitamin B-12, vitamin C, potassium, and sodium, he or she will be able to keep most of the nutritional deficiencies away. However, some health conditions or medications can strip the body of its nutrients, and additional measures must be taken.

Supplements

Dietary supplements, such as Intrinsic factor, vitamin C, vitamin B-12, folic acid, or calcium, can help restore the body’s levels of nutrients to a normal level. If the nutritional deficiency is the cause of a medication, a physician should be consulted to ensure that the supplements do not affect or interact with the medications. Furthermore, some deficiencies, such as in the case of those receiving hemodialysis, should only be addressed by a physician.

Medications and Treatment for the Causes

If the deficiency is the result of poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking, drug abuse, or overexertion, the respective condition must be addressed as well as the nutritional deficiency. There are many options for smoking cessation, to quit drinking, or deal with drug abuse. Furthermore, these issues will cause additional health problems, which may become exacerbated by a nutritional deficiency.

Rather than waiting on nutritional deficiencies to impact your life in a negative manner, you have the power to take back control of your life. While you should always consult a physician before taking supplements if you take medications or have an unrelated health condition, you can use supplements and better dietary choices to improve your health. You only get one life with your body, and it needs your help to keep going. Think of ensuring you get enough nutrients like adding gas to your vehicle. Poor gas quality will cause problems and stall the engine; your body is your engine. Food and supplements are your fuel.