Top nutritional deficiencies and what to take for them

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You may not be getting enough of these eight essential vitamins and minerals in your diet

Dear Nutritionist:

Thank you if you’re able to answer my question. I enjoy your piece in the news on Sundays. I’d like to ask you what you feel the top supplements are that people need? I know you said iodine is important last week, but are there other nutrients that people just don’t get enough of? This is something I could use.

Thank you for keeping it real!

Annabelle

Dear Annabelle

Thank you for writing in with such a great question! I think a lot of people will benefit from the answer. So let’s get down to addressing the top deficiencies I see and the supplements I recommend for them.

There are 13 essential vitamins and 21 essential minerals to maintain health, meaning we must get these from our diets. Other nutrients can be made in-house from these and other substances, but these are the ones we absolutely must consume in certain quantities in order to stay healthy.

They are vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12. Four of these are fat-soluble and can be stored in our tissues for use later: A, D, E, and K. There are cautions around taking the fat-soluble nutrients in excessive doses and this is why optimal dosing is so hotly debated with vitamins like D3, for example – because excess is stored, so overdose is possible. Luckily, we have to be quite extreme to get to that point.

The other vitamins must be consumed regularly because our bodies break any excess down to excrete in the urine. This is why when we consume a B-complex vitamin we often have bright yellow urine – those are the B vitamins we didn’t absorb or use fully! B12 is an exception, as it can be stored in the liver, which is why it can be given in injections while the other water-soluble vitamins cannot.

The minerals that are considered essential are broken into the electrolytes: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium and the microminerals: iron, and zinc. copper, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, iodine, selenium, sulphur, chloride, boron, silicon, vanadium, nickel, arsenic, and chromium.

On some websites, you will see that fluoride is listed as an essential mineral, but this is why you must find trusted sources of information! Fluoride is an industrial waste byproduct shown in study after study around the world to be neurotoxic – especially to children and developing babies. One study, published in Environment International in 2019, found a 284% increase in ADHD among children living in fluoridated communities in Canada than those living in non-fluoridated ones. If you’d like to better understand the issue and the current lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Act on behalf of the Fluoride Action Network and the Children’s Health Defense, go here.

Although the list of essential nutrients is well understood among nutrition professionals and governmental nutrition organizations, I’m seeing more deficient clients now than ever before. I believe this is due to the amount of processed foods we currently consume and the poor health of our soil due to commercial farming practices.

For an incredible documentary on the emerging soil regeneration initiative watch Farmer’s Footprint. To better understand the link between soil regeneration and climate change you can watch Kiss the Ground (on Netflix). From a nutrition perspective, regenerative farming practices would help us ensure that when we consume whole foods they actually contain the nutrients we rely on them for!

As I said, I see many deficiencies very commonly now, so we’ll go through the most common deficiencies and the supplements I most often recommend for them in my practice. This is not to be misconstrued as a recommendation for readers and is for educational purposes only. Please see a licensed nutritionist for personalized guidance prior to taking any supplements long term or in high doses.

My proclivity is to choose vitamins that are food-based and address more than a single deficiency, as deficiencies and imbalances tend to happen in tandem. And I take a systems approach, versus a single nutrient approach. I’ll explain as I go.

8 Most Common Deficiencies:

The B’s:

I see more B complex deficiencies now than ever before. I would say it’s an epidemic. And some clients do not do well with supplements, even allowing for those that require the methylated forms (some people can’t properly utilize non-methylated forms). I feel this is likely due to inadequate intake of B vitamin-rich foods (most often corresponds to vegetarianism or veganism and/ or obesity), and due to digestive and absorptive problems (there is a high correlation with gut disorders). There are also subsets of people that need more of these nutrients to function optimally – such as those with schizophrenia and pyroluria.

As such, I address B complex deficiencies with a recommendation for desiccated liver tablets and supplemental cricket flour in baked goods and smoothies. These are highly absorbable, food-based B vitamins, balanced properly. I will also use the appropriate B-complex formulation in the short term or for vegetarian clients who are averse to the animal products I recommend, but in the long term, I know I need to address dietary imbalances, gut health, as low stomach acid/gut permeability to properly rectify the issue. You see, low stomach acid can cause B12 deficiency even when the diet is optimal and intestinal permeability results from chronically low B12. So you can get into this cycle that’s difficult to get out of without professional help. This is the point at which resistant depression and anxiety often surface in clients. The B vitamins are essential in such a situation.

Magnesium:

Our soil doesn’t contain adequate Mg so our foods are deficient, even when we eat a seemingly very healthy diet. And Mg is so incredibly important for many things in the body: bone density, healthy teeth, nerve health, and muscle relaxation. Got horrible PMS cramps? You need Mg. Got horrible tension headaches? You need Mg. Got ADD/ ADHD? You need Mg. Got insomnia? You need Mg. Got muscle cramps and twitches? You need Mg. The list goes on and on. I have never met a client that doesn’t need it unless they are already supplementing or regularly take Epsom salts baths. Both are effective at helping to correct a deficiency. So my recommendation for clients is Epsom salts baths or foot soaks several times a week and a daily dose of CALM before bed.

I suggest clients take CALM to bowel tolerance (loose stools) then back off slightly. That is the optimal dose. Sometimes they actually need it twice a day, as in ADHD and autism.

Iodine:

Last week I wrote about iodine deficiency in-depth so readers can go here for that article. It’s an epidemic deficiency, particularly among my South Asian clients. I recommend everyone who has the symptoms of low thyroid function, even if they don’t get a diagnosis of thyroid disorder from blood tests, to see a registered nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner to understand how to supplement to protect and optimize thyroid function. As a rule, I prefer kelp over potassium iodide, but both have their utility. For clients, I typically recommend green powders that contain kelp and kelp tablets and kelp crisps and kelp flakes on their food. I also recommend increasing seafood in the diet. My article last week explains more fully what I recommend.

D3:

Low D3 is an epidemic this far north of the equator at least in the cold months, but often in the summer now, as well, since sunscreen blocks us from making vitamin D from the sun. All my clients are tested and take vitamin D3 as needed, but I add to this a quality Cod Liver Oil supplement since vitamin D and A work synergistically in the body. I also recommend clients to get unfiltered sun when they can, as it’s unclear from the data if supplements behave as endogenous vitamin D does. I suspect they do not and believe in using tanning beds at low doses to help maintain optimum vitamin D levels.

Probiotics:

This is not yet recognized as an essential nutrient group, but we are on the way there. Our environment is increasingly antiseptic, and our gut biome is damaged by this. We need more, not less bacteria exposure, to develop a healthy gut biome. Every client I see benefits from adding in probiotic foods. I prefer foods over supplements for this, since this offers a variety of living probiotic strains that can be taken up by the body and utilized as needed. It’s also far more cost-effective and enjoyable and easy to prepare. Very few people don’t enjoy kombucha or fermented veggies! I teach classes on how to make this online and offer starter cultures for participants to get started at home.

Zinc:

Zinc is very frequently low in clients and always low in my vegetarian and vegan clients. In omnivores, low zinc can indicate low stomach acid – especially if I see it in tandem with low B12 and low iron or if there is a prescription for the PPIs. In these cases the underlying low stomach acid needs to be addressed before any zinc will be properly absorbed – so I suggest digestive enzymes that contain betaine hydrochloride. In vegans/vegetarians, I suggest stomach acid only when there is excessive gas. I have found that zinc picolinate and orotate are the best absorbed, but the latter is cost-prohibitive and harder to source. Zinc is a nutrient that can become imbalanced quite easily so it’s important to have guidance in using it for a prolonged period. Consuming seafood is also a great way to increase our zinc stores, especially oysters.

Amino Acids:

It’s odd that something so simple would be deficient, but it frequently is. Either clients are not consuming enough complete proteins or they are not absorbing their proteins properly, but I frequently see clients with amino acid imbalances. For this, I typically recommend protein shakes – either whey or vegan, depending on the client’s needs. I also promote eggs and cricket flour as exceptional protein sources. Dairy can be very inflammatory so I only recommend certain whey shakes that are more easily absorbed. Digestive enzymes containing betaine hydrochloride are essential when a client is low in amino acids despite proper intake, as it is the stomach acid that breaks down amino acids and they create the digestive enzymes. So again we can get into a cycle where the body can’t get what it needs after a deficiency state goes on too long. In these instances, I really like NOW super enzymes and food-based shakes as supplements.

Collagen:

Yes, this is an amino acid, but it deserves specific mention. I frequently see low collagen in skin and bone symptomatology and advise clients to supplement. This one is very easy – it’s a tasteless powder I advise them to add to their coffee or tea. I use collagen peptides. I also suggest clients make and take bone broth daily. Nothing clients do corrects health problems like this does. It is exceptional for healing a damaged intestinal mucosa and a weak nervous system and building bone and tissue resilience.

Thank you, Annabelle, for writing in. I hope you find this information helpful. Readers can tune in next week to learn about antioxidants and anti-aging and how to boost levels through foods and herbs. As always, if readers have their own questions they are welcome to contact me at nonienutriitonista@gmail.com. And if you require more 1:1 coaching you can find me online at hopenotdope.ca.

Namaste!

Nonie Nutritionista

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