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The lowdown from Laura

Vitamins and Minerals

02 March 2022

Vitamin and minerals are micronutrients you need in tiny amounts. If you don’t get enough of these it can lead to a nutrient deficiency. A test can be done to diagnose a deficiency. If you know you’re deficient in something you might need to take a supplement.

What are vitamins and minerals?

Vitamins and minerals are types of micronutrients — something your body needs in tiny amounts. They influence nearly every process in your body and are essential for your health.

You can check your vitamin health with a vitamins test.

Causes of vitamin and mineral deficiencies

A varied and balanced diet usually provides you with enough vitamins and minerals for optimal health. But deficiencies can happen for a number of reasons. 

Some common causes include:

  • poor absorption of nutrients — for example, if you have coeliac or Crohn’s disease, leaky gut or inflammation. 
  • a diet lacking in fruit or vegetables
  • a poorly planned vegan or vegetarian diet
  • drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Medications — Nutrient Absorption: Certain drugs may increase, decrease, or prevent nutrient absorption in the gut. Nutrient Breakdown: Drugs may speed up the metabolism of certain nutrients, resulting in higher dietary requirements of that particular nutrient.
  • pregnancy — as your body has additional nutritional demands

So it’s a good idea to check your vitamin and mineral levels, especially if you’re more at risk of a deficiency or have any symptoms.

Symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies

As there’s such a wide range of vitamins and minerals, the symptoms of a deficiency can vary. 

Here are some of the most common signs of vitamin and mineral deficiencies outlined below.

Iron deficiency

Iron is a mineral that your body needs to make red blood cells — these carry oxygen around your body. If you don’t get enough iron you might:

  • feel weak
  • feel tired
  • feel dizzy
  • feel short of breath
  • get heart palpitations
  • get headaches

Blood loss is a cause of iron deficiency so women are more at risk due to periods and pregnancy. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet you might also be at an increased risk because plant-based sources of iron are harder for your body to absorb.

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D is used by every cell in your body and is essential for your bone and muscle health, as well as supporting your immune system. If you don’t get enough vitamin D you might:

  • feel tired
  • get sick often
  • have weak bones — putting you at risk of osteoporosis long-term
  • have muscle pain
  • feel anxious or depressed

You get most of the vitamin D you need from sunlight but it’s also found in foods like eggs, oily fish, liver, and dairy — although it’s hard to get enough from diet alone. In the UK, low vitamin D levels are common because you don’t get enough sun exposure during winter.

Folic Acid (vitamin B9) deficiency

Folate is a B vitamin that’s required to make red blood cells and to make and repair your DNA. It’s also called folate — the synthetic (man-made) version of this vitamin. If you don't get enough folate you might:

  • feel tired
  • feel weak
  • feel short of breath
  • get heart palpitations
  • get headaches
  • feel irritability
  • have difficulty concentrating

Folate isn’t stored in your body so you can become deficient in a matter of weeks if you don’t get enough from your diet or a supplement.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) plays a really important role in red blood cell production and helps your nervous system to function properly. If you don't get enough vitamin B12 you might:

  • feel extremely tired
  • feel weak
  • get pins and needles
  • get mouth ulcers
  • have a swollen and sore tongue (glossitis)
  • have blurry vision
  • have difficulty remembering things
  • feel depressed

The most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is a lack of a stomach protein called intrinsic factor — which you need to absorb vitamin B12.

Medications, can affect the amount of intrinsic factor that you produce. You might also produce less once you’re over 50 years. Vegans and vegetarians are also at risk of a deficiency since vitamin B12 isn’t naturally found in plant-based foods.

How to test your vitamin and mineral levels

Here at health sense we are able to test vitamin and mineral levels with a machine, known as a Bioenergetics Resonance Machine (BER). 

It works by measuring energy changes in the body's resistance to certain foods, allergens, additives and minerals.

A good approach is to monitor your vitamin and mineral levels. If you’re low in a certain nutrient, you can up your intake of foods rich in these nutrients.

However, supplements are definitely necessary in some cases.

Vitamin D supplements

During autumn and winter, Public Health England advises that everyone should consider taking a 10 mcg daily vitamin D supplement from October to March. And if you’re more at-risk, they recommend taking them year-round.

If you’re someone who doesn’t get much sunlight during the summer months, wear sunscreen top to toe, or have darker skin, then it’s recommended that you take a supplement all year.

Vitamin B12 supplements

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian then you’re more at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. If a test shows that you’re deficient or if you follow a strict vegan diet then it’s recommended that you take a supplement.

A plant based supplement is a good choice as it’s a form that your body can easily use. 

Folic acid supplements

If you’re a woman, it’s recommended that you take a 400 mcg folic acid  supplement before and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In some cases, you might need to take a higher dose — it’s a good idea to work with a health professional to figure out the right dosage for you.

It’s also really important to make sure your vitamin B12 levels are normal when starting a folic acid supplement. Folic acid supplements can mask the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, which if left untreated can cause irreversible damage to your nervous system.

All supplements are not equal

Plant based is best, usually they are fillers, binders and bulker free and are more easily absorbed. 

Your body recognises and utilises plant based supplements effectively, making them much more cost effective and kinder to the body.