Have a range of teensy, tiny issues been getting you down? So many minor health problems could actually be symptoms of a vitamin deficiency. Everything from irritability to fatigue and brittle nails may mean more than you think. We’ve gathered 6 common vitamin deficiencies that affect women, with some expert help.
Victoria is a Sydney-based naturopath with her own health business, Victoria Heath. She’s an expert in women’s health, digestive issues and overcoming stress and fatigue. She shared with us the the importance of Vitamin D for you everyday:
“Vitamin D is so common, and the consequences so underrated. Having adequate Vitamin D levels will boost your mood, improve the quality of your sleep, increase your energy, and so much more.
And the best way to get this important nutrient? Sunlight!
When I say get some sunlight, I mean without sunscreen or sunglasses. I know this may seem contradictory to what you’ve been told, but trust me on this one. Sunscreen and sunglasses can hinder Vitamin D synthesis, as UV light needs to hit both your retina and your skin (which can be blocked by sunnies and sunscreen) to activate the hormonal cascade necessary to absorb and synthesise Vitamin D.
Now, I’m not saying it’s okay to bake for hours and turn into a lobster, this kind of skin damage is not good for you. I’m saying 10-20 minutes per day, depending on the sun intensity, time of day and your skin tone. Use common sense here and figure out what’s right for you.”
If you have an inviting outdoor space you’re much more likely to find the time for some uninterrupted sunshine in your day. Set yourself up with versatile outdoor furniture and make a habit of spending the morning soaking up some rays.
Victoria also gave us the lowdown on another important vitamin - B12.
“Are you feeling excessively tired and weak? You may be deficiency in Vitamin B12.
This deficiency is particularly common in vegans, but can also be present in vegetarians or women who don’t eat a lot of animal products. Symptoms of B12 deficiency can actually be quite scary, as when deficiency is quite severe they mimic neurological disorders such as MS.
You can easily test your B12 levels by asking your GP for a simple blood test. Foods high in B12 include, meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy and for the vegans out there - nutritional yeast has B12 too. If you have been a vegan long term, I would strongly encourage you to get tested, and take a good quality B12 supplement if your stores are low.”
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It’s one of the most common supplements on the market and yet we sometimes don’t get enough. Vitamin C is water-soluble which means your body absorbs what it needs and excretes the rest. While too much vitamin C can be dangerous, you’re unlikely to exceed the recommended daily max of 2,000mg through your diet. Oranges, strawberries, broccoli and bell peppers are just some of your foody options for a good dose. Common signs of deficiency include a lowered immune system, bruising easily, dry skin and bleeding gums.
Are you waking up as though you’ve barely slept? Googling a supportive mattress might solve half the problem, but there’s still a bigger picture. Thanks to our friendly, neighbourhood period most women are highly susceptible to an iron deficiency. Pregnant women are also top contenders for this missing link as their bodies increase the blood flow to support their growing baby.
Symptoms include; fatigue, dizziness, headaches, brittle nails and shortness of breath. Increasing your intake of iron-rich foods like beans, spinach and red meat should help boost your blood. Combine these foods with a good dose of vitamin C to make absorption easier. But beware of calcium and caffeine as these can prevent you from absorbing iron properly. It’s also important to have your iron levels checked by a doctor first as too much iron in your body can be very dangerous.
Gold Coast naturopath Nicky Wood, from Wise Healthy Living, explains how essential iodine is for our growth and immune system. She warns pregnant women will be especially affected by deficiencies.
“Iodine is considered an essential nutrient required for the production of thyroid hormones, normal growth and development in children, prevention of retardation and the stunting of growth. It also plays a role in the immune system as it is well known that an impaired thyroid function is correlated to an impaired immune response.
By 2001 it was identified that in Australia, iodine intake had dropped considerably, particularly in Tasmania. In 2009 an iodine fortification program began. Commercial bread has undergone an iodine transformation to assist with the repletion of this nutrient.
Still, clinical testing shows around 40% of patients are identified as having lower than optimal levels of this important nutrient. Of equal importance the data suggests that women are more likely to be deficient than men.
Pregnant women have a higher requirement of iodine repletion to the gestational requirements of their baby for optimal growth and IQ development, however many sources of iodine are contained in foods not recommended for pregnant women. For this reason I suggest seeking a supplement that is well formulated for pregnant women that contains adequate levels of this important mineral.
Testing for iodine can be performed in the home using a urine collection kid however results must be interpreted by a qualified practitioner. For more information please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
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If a baby is on your mind then you’d best make sure you're full of folate. Folate deficiency in young women can lead to neural tube defects for their unborn child. It’s also essential to the development of red blood cells which will help prevent an iron deficiency.
Symptoms to look out for include; fatigue, mouth sores and changes to the colour of your hair, skin or nails. Fortified cereals, beans, lentils, bananas and leafy greens are your go-to folate boosters.
If you think you might be struggling with any of these issues then upping your intake of vitamin-rich foods is a good place to start. We always recommend consulting a medical professional for a proper diagnosis and action plan.