Nutrient deficiencies can occur in anyone, but in general, women tend to be at a higher risk due to various physiological and lifestyle factors. Here, we inspect some common nutrient deficiencies in women, the potential symptoms those deficiencies might cause, and how to address them with diet changes and women’s health supplements.
1. Iron deficiency
Iron is incredibly important for the production of haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. Women are more susceptible to iron deficiency due to menstrual blood loss and pregnancy, and common symptoms of low iron can include fatigue, weakness, and even pale skin. To help to deal with iron deficiency, women can increase their intake of iron-rich foods such as red meat, poultry, fish, and leafy greens. For women who don’t eat meat, or who can’t get enough from their diet, supplementation might be beneficial.
2. Calcium deficiency
It’s important that you have enough calcium for the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth. Women tend to experience the symptoms of calcium deficiency as they grow older, and may also be more prone to osteoporosis – especially so during menopause. Symptoms of calcium deficiency include weak bones, muscle cramps, and numbness in the hands and feet. To address calcium deficiency, women can increase their intake of calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products and fortified foods. Calcium supplements may also be prescribed by a medical professional.
3. Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is one of the most essential vitamins, as it’s necessary for the absorption of calcium, and the maintenance of bone health. A few symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include weak bones, muscle weakness, and a general sense of fatigue. To sort out vitamin D deficiency, women can increase their intake of vitamin D-rich foods such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods. Vitamin D supplements may also be prescribed if necessary by a medical professional.
4. Folic acid deficiency
Folic acid is crucial for the production of red blood cells, and for the proper development of the nervous system. Symptoms of a folic acid deficiency include anaemia, fatigue, and birth defects in newborns. To deal with folic acid deficiency, women can increase their intake of folic acid-rich foods such as leafy greens, citrus fruits, and fortified grains. Folic acid supplements can also be given by medical professionals.
5. Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 is especially important for the production of red blood cells, and for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are varied – amongst others, they can include anaemia, fatigue, and nerve damage. To address vitamin B12 deficiency, women can increase their intake of vitamin B12-rich foods such as meat, fish, and dairy products, or take vitamin B12 supplements if those methods don’t work. For vegans, the best plant sources of B12 include yeast extract (Marmite/Vegemite), tempeh and B12-fortified foods such as nutritional yeast flakes, plant milks and vegan yoghurts.
It’s important to note that these deficiencies are just some of the most common nutrient deficiencies in women, and at certain times in a woman’s life, more specific supplements might be appropriate. A medical professional can help to identify any nutrient deficiencies by conducting blood tests, and then a dietitian can help you to create a personalised nutrition and supplementation plan.