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Finding the right supplement can be confusing.
But, knowing the most common nutrient deficiencies will help you make an informed decision about which supplements can help you live your best life.
Sifting Through the Ocean of Supplement Choices
It’s game time.
You walk through the automatic doors or log onto your go-to shopping site.
Your palms are sweaty, and your breathing quickens.
Your eyes dart back and forth, your brain considering every possibility.
You reach out but then quickly draw your hand around.
You think to yourself… “Am I making the right choice? Is there another way?”
After another 10 minutes, you hang your head low and walk away empty-handed.
You caved to the pressure. The game got the better of you.
“Maybe next time…”
You think to yourself as you walk out of the nutrition aisle in Wal-Mart, or log off of Amazon after spending the last 20 minutes sifting through the multitudes of supplements.
Ok, maybe not everyone experiences shopping for the proper supplements like this.
Still, nearly everyone can relate to feeling a little overwhelmed when it comes to traversing the supplement world and finding out not only what you need but which one of the many types, forms, brands, and doses are the best.
The 6 Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies
I always like to begin with simple steps.
Aside from doing a dietary intake to find our gaps, the following best way of figuring out what supplements we may need to be taking is to talk about the most common nutrient deficiencies in the US.
Did You Know
Even with relatively complete diets, many people can find that they have gaps in their nutrition based on a variety of factors, including activity level, occupation, lifestyle, and other extenuating circumstances.
Hopefully, by pointing out the most common nutrient deficiencies, and possible circumstances that may lead to these deficiencies, even apart from diet, we can begin the journey of finding what supplements we may need to fill those gaps and lead the healthiest life we can.
1. Finding an Iron Grip
One of the most significant nutrient deficiencies in the entire world (the United States included) is Iron deficiency.
Iron is a substance that allows us to move oxygen throughout our bodies.
Iron is found in our red blood cells and some muscle cells, an essential part of hemoglobin and myoglobin.
These two structures help to bind, store, transport and release oxygen throughout our body.
When we do not have enough iron in our diet, we cannot effectively transport oxygen throughout our bodies.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency can be recognized by extremely low energy levels, an unusual paleness of the skin, headaches, and nausea, and becoming extremely winded after less-than-normal activity.
Menstruating and pregnant women, individuals who engage in high amounts of endurance activities, and some types of vegetarians can be at risk for iron deficiency.
The easiest way of detecting iron deficiency is to get a blood test, and treatment is typically iron supplementation.
2. Getting that “Sunny” Vitamin D
Vitamin D is the first half of an important marriage between the vitamin and calcium.
These two nutrients work hand-in-hand in the body to ensure that all of our connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, skin, etc.), but most importantly, our bones, are in optimal condition.
Vitamin D can be manufactured by our bodies naturally by utilizing sunlight.
Unfortunately, however, there is a huge disadvantage to anyone who does not live close to the Equator in their ability to get enough Vitamin D through sunlight.
Anyone living above the 37th parallel naturally cannot produce enough Vitamin D during the Fall, Winter, and Spring months to fulfill the body’s needs.
Therefore, Vitamin D supplementation is vital to almost every individual who lives in or above states like Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas, Nevada, or Central California.
3. The Other Half – Calcium
Calcium is the brick of our connective tissues, while Vitamin D is like the mortar.
Calcium deficiency can cause weak bones, joints, and ligaments.
But calcium is also vital to other significant bodily functions, including proper muscle contraction, nervous system transmission, vasodilation and constriction, and many others.
Calcium is one of the most important dietary minerals that we can get.
The problem is that many people don’t consume enough calcium and develop problems like osteopenia, osteoporosis, brittle bone disease, and various other complications.
A proper diet can help, but supplements can be an extra step to ensure that we are consuming enough calcium.
While many people know that milk and dairy products contain a lot of calcium, for those of us who are lactose intolerant, nuts, seeds, and dark-green leafy vegetables also have a good deal of calcium!
4. Back to the B’s
Talking about Vitamin B deficiency is like talking about the Kardashians…
Our priority is distinguishing which ones are the target of conversation to proceed.
The two most common Vitamin B deficiencies in the US are B12 and B9, more commonly known as folate.
Both have vital roles in the maintenance of the nervous system in our bodies and the production of red blood cells, DNA, and in the case of folate, the metabolism of amino acids.
Did You Know
Often, the deficiency of one of these vitamins is found in conjunction with the other, so supplementation of both at the same time is quite effective.
5. Antioxidants – The “Soldier” Vitamins
Different types of nutrients are placed into specific categories within nutrients based on what they do in our bodies.
Vitamins such as A, C, and E are a few of the nutrients included in antioxidants.
The purpose of antioxidants as a group is simple: to neutralize free radicals.
Free radicals are chemical substances that contain either one too many or one too few electrons.
This property makes them highly reactive and incredibly dangerous in our bodies.
Free radicals can easily break down substances in our bodies that aren’t supposed to be broken down, like cells and tissues.
Over time this can cause significant health problems.
Still, by supplementing our diets with proper antioxidants, these free radicals are easily dealt with, allowing us to continue our healthy lives!
6. Magnesium – A ‘Heady” Metal
Many people don’t think of “magnesium” as an essential mineral for our diets, but it is almost right up there with calcium.
Magnesium is vital for muscle and nerve function, regulating blood sugar and blood pressure, and aiding in many other functions such as building proteins, bones, and even DNA.
Most diets in the United States today do not provide enough magnesium for regular bodily function.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
A couple of very common symptoms of magnesium deficiency are minimal urination and frequent headaches, muscle cramps, or migraines.
This is because headaches and muscle cramps can be side-effects of the improper function of our muscles and nerves.
Kidneys begin retaining water when deficient in many different nutrients, magnesium included.
By maintaining a diet with a healthy dose of magnesium, we will be able to think more clearly and quickly, exercise more effectively, and have healthier overall lifestyles.
The ocean of supplemental choices can be overwhelming sometimes, but in this situation, as with many others, information is always your friend.
Being properly informed about common nutrient deficiencies in America is helpful, but it is no substitute for going through your diet in some way to find the gaps and fill them.
One good way of doing this is using a food journal for a few days before buying your supplements.
After completing the food journal, put your diet into a website like MyPlate.gov or something similar.
It will show you what your daily nutrition looks like and where your gaps are.
Another great resource is one that was used for this post!
The US Department of Health and Human Services has a subdivision known as the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.
On their websites, you can find a description, sources to eat, deficiency symptoms, and a vast amount of other helpful information on almost every nutrient known to man.
Knowledge is power.
Empower yourself to have a healthy lifestyle by making informed decisions about your daily supplementation!