A nutrient deficiency can occur in different ways. Diet is not always the cause of the symptoms. However, regardless of the underlying cause, treatment is necessary to prevent secondary damage.
What is nutrient deficiency?
A nutrient deficiency is an undersupply of the body with different substances. In addition to carbohydrates, proteins and fats, the organism also needs various vitamins and minerals. These occur in different compositions in food. See aviationopedia for Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome Explanations.
If not enough fruit and vegetables are eaten or if there is a functional disorder in the intestines, the organism does not get enough nutrients. However, because these affect all processes, symptoms arise. Which symptoms ultimately become noticeable depends on the type of deficiency in question. Some can be more severe, while others take a more mild course. A nutrient deficiency is often only discovered relatively late.
Especially in older people, the phenomena are increasingly associated with general aging. Treating nutrient deficiencies can sometimes greatly improve health. Otherwise there is a risk of diseases and susceptibility to infections.
The causes of a nutrient deficiency cannot be generalized. Therefore, a precise examination is of great importance in the case of a negative blood count. A nutrient deficiency can arise, for example, with an unbalanced diet. After all, the substances have to be supplied from the outside. If fruit and vegetables or other elementary products are only rarely consumed, a deficiency symptom becomes noticeable.
But the menu is not always responsible for the symptoms. The nutrients are finally absorbed through the intestines. If there is a functional disorder here, the organ only absorbs a small part of the substances, although they have been added in sufficient quantities. Such a disorder can be caused, for example, by inflammation of the stomach, small or large intestine.
Especially outside of the industrialized nations, more and more diseases of the esophagus can be diagnosed in this context, which result in a swallowing disorder. Poorer processing of nutrients is present in diabetes or cancer. The psychological component should also not be forgotten. Stress and stressful situations can lead to loss of appetite. Other people are more prone to diarrhea, which also flushes out important substances.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
The symptoms of a nutrient deficiency vary greatly. Affected people often suffer from tiredness and listlessness. Sleep disorders, muscle cramps, constipation and increased nervousness may indicate a magnesium deficiency.
A potassium deficiency manifests itself through exhaustion, muscular weakness, loss of appetite and nausea. If not enough iron is absorbed, this affects various processes in the body. Iron is needed for the production of hemoglobin. This is not only behind the red color of blood, but also plays a crucial role in oxygen transport. If individual cells are undersupplied with oxygen, patients often feel tired and weak.
Disorientation and confusion indicate a B vitamin deficiency. A vitamin B12 deficiency in particular can have a negative effect. Contrary to many prejudices, not only vegans and vegetarians suffer from such a phenomenon. Functional disorders of the intestines also lead to symptoms in people who eat meat in their diet. In addition, the occurrence of vitamin B12 in many animal products is lower than assumed.
Diagnosis & course of disease
A nutrient deficiency is usually diagnosed by a blood count. Before that, however, there is a detailed discussion with the doctor, during which all symptoms should be described. Many of the symptoms indicate a different deficiency. The analysis of the blood finally provides the proof. The course of a nutrient deficiency cannot be generalized.
In general, however, most symptoms disappear by taking specific preparations. If the defect has already left more severe damage, this also requires medical attention.
The complications to be expected from a nutrient deficiency depend on the type of deficiency. In the case of general malnutrition, constant weight loss, a reduction in physical performance and the ability to concentrate, states of exhaustion and poor circulation can be expected. In severe cases, for example when food intake is almost completely refused for a long time due to anorexia, organ failure can result in death.
In children and adolescents, chronic nutrient deficiencies can be associated with delayed growth, spinal and skeletal abnormalities, brain damage, and delayed sexual maturity. A widespread specific nutrient deficit is iron deficiency, which mainly affects women. Iron deficiency manifests itself, for example, in permanent tiredness, brittle nails, hags at the corners of the mouth and hair loss.
In severe cases, the body can no longer make enough hemoglobin, leading to iron deficiency anemia. People who eat a predominantly or exclusively plant-based diet are at risk of vitamin B 12 deficiency, as this substance is only naturally found in animal products. In a vegan lifestyle, vitamin B12 must therefore be substituted.
Otherwise there is a risk of chronic tiredness, exhaustion, concentration and muscle weakness. In an advanced stage, nerve damage, in particular paralysis, coordination disorders and impairment of memory can also be expected. In young children, a severe deficiency of vitamin B 12 can lead to permanent brain damage.
When should you go to the doctor?
A balanced diet is usually sufficient to provide the body with the nutrients it needs from food. A slight deficiency can usually be compensated by over-the-counter preparations that are available in pharmacies, health food stores or drugstores. Nevertheless, there are some reasons in which the nutrient deficiency should result in a visit to the doctor.
If clear symptoms point to a nutrient deficiency, medical advice should be sought. He can examine the blood and determine whether a deficiency or possibly another disease is causing the symptoms. Even after taking preparations, a doctor should be consulted to check their effectiveness.
In some nutrient deficiency situations, there are serious symptoms that can often also require a visit to the doctor. The lack of iron can cause weakness, paleness, headaches and breathlessness during exertion, the lack of potassium can lead to cardiac arrhythmia. The magnesium deficiency can trigger muscle cramps such as calf cramps at night, but also mental instability. In all cases, the doctor’s visit serves to confirm the assumption that the symptoms are caused by a nutrient deficiency. The doctor is also the right address if a serious deficiency cannot be compensated for by the patient himself or if there is a utilization disorder.
Treatment & Therapy
The treatment of a nutrient deficiency is designed to eliminate the cause of the phenomenon. Therefore, it is important not only to examine the symptoms, but also to diagnose the underlying cause. Otherwise, the treatment might only have a temporary effect. Furthermore, the deficit in nutrients should be regulated so that the side effects disappear at the same time.
Which measure is used is determined in particular by the condition of the patient. If he/she is conscious and does not suffer from any swallowing disorders, treatment is via food intake. Accordingly, the diet should be wholesome. In addition, special preparations are prescribed in which the vitamin or mineral is found in high doses.
In the case of some deficiencies, it is also advisable to administer the substance via an injection. This applies, for example, to a vitamin B12 deficiency. Once this has taken on greater proportions, it is often relieved with an injection. Psychological causes may have to be treated through therapy, with anorexia sometimes there is no way around inpatient admission.
Inflammations of the stomach and intestines are first identified during a mirror examination and then treated in a differentiated manner. In the case of inflammation of the colon, for example, antibiotics are rarely used and increasingly drugs that suppress the immune system.
Outlook & Forecast
If a nutrient deficiency is diagnosed, the prognosis is linked to the cause and the symptoms that have already been experienced. If the deficiency can be traced back to an incorrect diet, in most cases it is necessary to change the food intake. It is not always necessary to work with a doctor. If no subsequent disorders have arisen, complete freedom from symptoms is often documented within a few weeks or months. For a long-term very favorable prognosis, however, a permanent optimization of nutrition is necessary. Otherwise, the health irregularities will regress within a few days.
If the nutrient deficiency was caused by a functional disorder of the intestine, the person concerned needs medical care. In a drug therapy, the intestinal activity is improved and at the same time the resulting deficiency is compensated by the supply of the necessary nutrient. Regular checks are necessary in order to be able to react as quickly as possible to changes.
The prognosis worsens as soon as further damage to the organism has occurred due to the lack of vital nutrients. These cannot always be completely cured. Chronic diseases and long-term therapy are possible. If there is tissue damage in the brain area, the prognosis is unfavorable. This damage is irreparable and therefore cannot be healed despite all efforts.
A nutrient deficiency can be prevented to a limited extent. The diet should consist of plenty of fruit and vegetables, which are best eaten raw. The more colorful the menu, the more likely it is that you will be supplied with all the important nutrients. Caffeinated beverages, alcohol and tobacco should be the exception.
Follow-up care aims to prevent illnesses and to provide the patient with everyday support. This procedure is particularly important for cancer patients. The life-threatening disease can recur. Patients who have suffered from a nutrient deficiency, on the other hand, can prevent the disease from recurring themselves.
The daily consumption of raw fruit and vegetables ensures a balanced nutrient balance. This usually resolves the typical symptoms. The doctor informs his patient about nutritional tips. However, consistent implementation is the responsibility of the person concerned.
In addition to poor nutrition, other causes also cause nutrient deficiencies. These often lead to lengthy follow-up treatment. Young people often follow false ideals of beauty, which can take on pathological features. Those affected then take advantage of outpatient or inpatient psychotherapy.
But also diabetes, cancer and functional disorders of the intestine lead to a follow-up check. Doctor and patient make regular appointments for this. Their intensity depends on the susceptibility to complications. Eating habits and physical changes are queried. A blood test provides information about the nutrient balance. The doctor can often make statements about the well-being of the patient based on the external appearance. Participation in nutritional counseling may be encouraged.
You can do that yourself
If the nutrient deficiency is caused by an unbalanced diet, the best way to remedy it in the long term is to change your eating habits. Varied meals that cover the daily requirement for proteins, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and trace elements are important. Valuable suppliers of nutrients are whole grain products and fresh fruit and vegetables – these foods should be on the menu every day. Dairy products, meat, fish and eggs provide important proteins, vitamin B12, iron and selenium, Iodine and Calcium: Vegans and vegetarians can alternatively use collard greens, green leafy vegetables, soy products, nuts, seeds and legumes. In the case of certain intolerances or illness-related nutrient deficiencies, it is helpful to work out a diet plan tailored to individual needs with the doctor treating you or a nutritionist.
Nutrient depletion during cooking can be avoided by gentle preparation methods such as steam cooking. Fruit and vegetables are particularly nutritious as raw vegetables. Finished products usually contain more fat and significantly fewer minerals, vitamins and trace elements than freshly prepared food, so fast food should only be used in exceptional cases. In some cases it may be necessary to compensate for a nutrient deficiency with medication or dietary supplements: However, such preparations should only be taken after consulting a doctor, as they often do more harm than good if taken uncontrolled.