I often use the term ‘Nutritional Deficiency Syndrome’ to describe what I believe is the root cause of the majority of illnesses. I also call those diseases ‘Lifestyle Induced’.
It is in our own hands to make a difference and I know that making changes looks like it will be a costly or time consuming option, but really it is not.
For example, just simply adding sweet potato into your diet three or four times a week can reverse eye-damaging Vitamin A deficiency in a relatively short space of time. Tasty, can be cooked in one 20 minute session and stored in the fridge.
I do take some supplements, particularly those that are manufactured by the body but in decreasing quantities as we get older. Also I do not do winter very well and whilst I have enjoyed getting my Vitamin D from sunshine for the last 8 months, I now am taking some Vitamin D in spray form along with other nutrients needed to enable it to be absorbed such as calcium.
I will up my foods that supply those particular nutrients in the coming months and we are now eating our winter diet of brightly coloured root vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes, broccoli and other green leafed vegetables such as kale, and canned fish such as sardines and salmon.
In Chapter Ten of Size Matters I am giving you a brief overview of some of the symptoms associated with a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Not overly common in our westernised cultures but with the increased emphasis on dieting and the use of packaged foods we are all at risk.
Size Matters – Chapter Ten -Avoiding Nutritional Deficiency
I believe that we should be obtaining the majority of our nutrients from the food that we eat. However, if you have been poorly nourished for an extended period of time both as a serial dieter or because you have had a nutrient-sterile food intake, I suggest that you do consider taking a supplement.
I have come to the conclusion after several years that tablets do not necessarily offer the best option for me. I appear to obtain the most benefit from liquid supplementation and so I take Aloe Vera gel in drink form and I also have a green smoothie for breakfast with a number of nutrient-dense ingredients like wheat grass and flaxseeds.
If we were in my health food shop that I owned I would take down your personal and health history and then recommend a specific regimen for you. As we cannot do that I suggest that you go to a recognised nutritional therapist or a high standard health food shop and ask for expert advice.
In the following pages I have listed the major vitamins and minerals that are needed for general good health. The best way to get these vitamins and minerals is to eat the foods that contain them, so it is worth noting which foods will provide you with these nutrients and then including them in your program to ensure a healthy, balanced diet.
If you need more detail on the general properties of vitamins and minerals you can get this from a post in my nutritional directory or from a good quality high street health food shop.
One important reason to focus on vitamins and minerals is that you need to understand exactly what affects you can expect from a consistently poor diet. Most vitamin and mineral deficiency problems are cumulative over a long period of time.
If you deprive your cells of the nutrients they need for their health, they will degenerate and begin to fail. It is not my intention to frighten anyone into taking supplements, but you must make sure that you have a varied and healthy diet so that you absorb adequate levels of each vitamin and mineral.
It is unlikely that you will be suffering from deficiencies of any of the major vitamins if you have a healthy diet. Unfortunately, if you have been a ‘yo-yo’ dieter for most of your adult life, you will have suffered a reduced intake of these nutrients for extended periods of time.
The other worrying aspect of over-farming in certain areas is that the soil is becoming nutritionally deplete. This means that the vegetables that look bright green or orange are not as nutritious as they were 20 or 30 years ago. For this reason I eat at least 8 portions of vegetables and some fruits a day, not the recommended five.
A deficiency can be rectified by changing to a healthy eating program and where appropriate including a nutrient dense supplement in your diet. Take note of the following effects of vitamin deficiencies, so that you understand the impact that restrictive diets, or prolonged starvation, can have.
Bear in mind that this is a very brief overview to give you an idea of how a deficiency of even one major nutrient can affect your health. This is an important part of taking back control of your weight and health and I urge you to find out more.
A deficiency of Vitamin A can lead to various physical changes in the eyes and eventually to blindness. A marginal Vitamin A deficiency will contribute to increased susceptibility to respiratory tract infections and skin problems, dry hair or loss of hair, and weight loss.
A deficiency of this vitamin is generally unlikely in the western world, unless you have a very poor diet or abstain from any animal products or follow an extremely low-fat diet.
Vitamin A can be found in: halibut and cod-liver oil, lamb’s liver, fish oils, apricots, full-fat dairy products, eggs, yellow and orange vegetables, green vegetables and tomatoes.
A deficiency of beta-carotene would show symptoms similar to a deficiency of vitamin A.
The best food sources are: carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, dried apricots and watercress.
The group of B vitamins is wide-ranging, with different functions relating to the central nervous system and connective tissue. Vegetarians and Vegans may be susceptible to deficiency and need to take supplements to ensure that they get adequate levels of this group of vitamins.
A minor lack of B1 can cause depression, irritability and lack of concentration. A major deficiency is rare in western culture but can result in beriberi (muscle weakness, nausea, loss of appetite and water retention).
The best foods for B1 are: yeast extract, fortified breakfast cereals, soya beans, pork chops, brown rice, seafood, liver, nuts, poultry, potatoes and milk.
A lack of this vitamin will lead to oral complaints such as sore and even burning lips and tongue. The eyes can also be affected with burning, itchiness and visual fatigue. Other symptoms are hair loss, insomnia and trembling.
The best sources for B2 are: yeast extract, lamb’s liver, pig’s kidney, cereal, wheat-germ, cheese, eggs, green vegetables, beans and peas.
(B3) Niacin or Nicotinic acid
Insufficient B3 can lead to tiredness, depression, loss of memory, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhoea and headaches.
Rich sources of this vitamin are: tuna, chicken’s liver, chicken meat, wheat-germ, brown rice, peanuts, brewer’s yeast, eggs, fish and dried fruit.
(B5) Pantothenic acid
A deficiency of B5 can lead to fatigue, headaches, dizziness, muscle weakness and gastro-intestinal upsets.
The best foods to eat are: brewer’s yeast, pig’s liver, yeast extract, nuts, wheat bran, wheat-germ, beans, split peas, oranges and egg yolk.
B6 deficiency can lead to recurrent infections or extreme cases of premenstrual tension (PMS). You need to have a diet rich in the following: green vegetables, brewer’s yeast, yeast extract, fish, prunes, raisins, soya beans, flour, whole-grain cereals, milk, wheat-germ, bananas and chicken.
(B9) Folic acid
B9 has had quite a lot of publicity in recent years. A deficiency of B9 in the diet can lead to megaloblastic anaemia, usually in the elderly. Also poor growth in babies and children. A deficiency in pregnancy may lead to foetal problems such as spina-bifida.
Foods that contain B9 are: liver, kidney, most meat, green vegetables, brewer’s yeast, yeast extract, wheat-germ and beans.
Deficiency of B12 can produce conditions such as pernicious anaemia, loss of appetite, fatigue. A severe deficiency can lead to degeneration of the nervous system, causing mobility and speaking difficulties.
The best sources of Vitamin B12 are: eggs, milk, cheese, milk products, meat, fish, shellfish and poultry.
Vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, lowered immunity, bleeding or soft gums, loose teeth, tender joints, muscle degeneration, irritability and anaemia.
It is easily absorbed from raw fruit and vegetables, citrus fruits and juices, mango, rose hip, chillies and peppers.
A vitamin D deficiency is rare these days. It used to cause rickets in young children and is linked to osteoporosis, dental cavities and cramping muscles.
Vitamin D is absorbed from sunlight through the skin. It is also obtained from: liver, oily fish, egg yolk, full-fat dairy products.
Vitamin E deficiency is linked to fat absorption problems, causing dull hair, muscle weakness, possible prostate gland enlargement, and even miscarriages.
Vitamin E is found in most foods, but mainly vegetable oils, egg yolks, whole-grain cereals, wheat-germ, green vegetables, nuts, seeds and margarine.
The last major vitamin is vitamin K. A deficiency in this vitamin is rare but can be caused by the long-term use of antibiotics, resulting in bleeding below the skin, nosebleeds and diarrhoea.
This vitamin is mainly found in green vegetables, seaweed (kelp), liver, potatoes and wheat-germ.
Minerals are as important as vitamins and they often work together to enhance each other’s performance. For instance, calcium and vitamin D are better taken together to enable absorption of the calcium. I have listed the most common minerals that should be included in every healthy diet.
Deficiency symptoms can range from rickets to osteomalacia, the equivalent of rickets in adults. In women, a cumulative deficiency from puberty can lead to premenstrual syndrome and osteoporosis.
Calcium is found in dairy products, hard tap-water, fish (especially sardines and pilchards), watercress, fortified cereals and wholegrain flour products.
A lack of Iron can cause anaemia and, in extreme cases, the suppression of the immune system resulting in frequent infections.
Iron is found in red meat, kidney, liver, pulses, dried apricots and figs, cocoa, fortified flour products, cereals and nuts (especially almonds and walnuts).
A deficiency of Magnesium can result in muscle cramps, low blood sugar, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea and weakness. It can also cause premenstrual tension and occasionally hypoglycaemia. Magnesium can also be a powerful remedy for PMS if taken in conjunction with calcium.
Magnesium can be found in peanuts, wholemeal bread, dairy products, eggs, pulses, shellfish, potatoes, white fish and chicken.
One thing to be aware of when taking magnesium as a supplement is that it may interfere with the function of tetracycline antibiotics, so they should always be taken several hours apart.
Lack of Potassium can lead to vomiting, abdominal distension, muscular weakness, paralysis, pins and needles, loss of appetite, low blood pressure, thirst and, in extreme cases, drowsiness and coma.
Potassium is found in most foods, but in particular, in fresh fruit, vegetables (including potatoes), meat, wholemeal flour, cereals, milk, coffee, tea and salt substitutes.
A lack of Sodium may result in dehydration, which causes low blood pressure.
The most common sources of sodium are: salt, baking powder, cured meats, smoked fish, tinned meats and bakery products. Most processed foods contain an element of sodium. Bear in mind that too much sodium results in high blood pressure which can be very dangerous.
This is a mineral which plays an important role in maintaining our blood sugar levels. It is rare to have an extreme deficiency, but a lack of chromium can cause irritability, confusion, weakness and depression. A lack of this mineral has also been linked to sugar cravings or a ‘sweet tooth’ attributable to fluctuating blood sugar levels. The most common foods containing chromium are whole-grain flour, cereals and fresh fruits, nuts, liver, kidney and beef.
Iodine levels affect our metabolism. A lack can lead to drowsiness, lethargy, fatigue and increased weight.
You will find the most useful sources are iodised table salt, seafood, kelp, meat, fruit and vegetables.
A selenium deficiency has been linked to cardiovascular disease and some types of anaemia. It is more effective when taken with vitamin E.
Food sources are kidney and liver, fish and shellfish, meat, whole grains and cereals, dairy products, fruit and vegetables.
Last but not least is zinc. People who suffer from frequent infections, delayed wound healing, reduced appetite, decreased sense of smell or taste, skin disorders and white marks on their nails may have a zinc deficiency.
Because it is mainly found in meats, eggs and dairy produce, people on a restricted vegan diet may suffer from a lack of this mineral. It is important to eat whole-grain flour products, cereals and, if possible, seafood.
As you can see from this list, a widely varied diet will ensure that you receive the full spectrum of nutrients your body needs. If you have a heavy exercise schedule or are recovering from an illness, you may require additional help in the form of a high potency vitamin and mineral supplement. Always choose a good-quality supplement that is suited to your age and lifestyle. A pharmacist or staff in a health food shop will be happy to tell you about the choices that are available.
You can find the other nine chapters in this directory.
©sallygeorginacronin 2001 – 2015 Size Matters and Just food for Health.
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