Establishing a Healthy Foundation and 12 Signs of a Weak Nutritional Foundation
In this article: What nutrients do we need to develop and maintain a healthy body? What signs show that the body is missing vitamins or minerals? What is the simplest way to cover your health bases?
A Healthy Nutritional Foundation
What sets kids up for a healthy life and ensures that adults age gracefully, maintaining cognitive and physical function? Getting all the essential nutrients, for starters: ones the body cannot make. There are some recognized as useful, necessary, or important that we might want to get too.
Macronutrient balance and food quality matter
When describing a “healthy diet” we might refer to quality organic foods. But our food must provide the right macronutrients, too. Known as macros for short, these are the calorie-containing components of our diet: Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat, and we are unique in the exact proportions that we need. When macros break down, they deliver their components, amino acids, sugars, fibre, and fatty acids.
Classes of Micronutrients
Foods also contain micronutrients, which must be in the right balance. These include vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Vitamins and minerals are essential for life. Phytonutrients like polyphenols or carotenoids optimize health. There are 13 vitamins recognized as essential — vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (of which there are several). Minerals such as calcium and magnesium, are necessary in larger amounts, and some like iodine are needed in very small, trace amounts.
Overt (Clinical) Versus Covert (Subclinical) Malnutrition
Overt malnutrition is obvious – it is also called clinical malnutrition, as it can be diagnosed from characteristic clinical signs. We have a list of clinical malnutrition symptoms below. These become apparent when a person is seriously affected by a deficiency resulting in more obvious biochemical changes.
In covert micronutrient malnutrition, the signs are hidden. They can go undetected for some time until the balance is too far disturbed. Covert nutrient deficiencies are subclinical; they are revealed only by testing the concentrations of the micronutrient in the blood or tissues, or if the stress makes the malnutrition present itself.
Subclinical malnutrition is very common, and if untreated, worsens to become clinical malnutrition.
Advanced (clinical) Malnutrition
Clinical deficiencies indicate advanced malnutrition and must be addressed. They involve noticeable changes to the appearance of a person’s skin, nails, hair, or mouth, or even major disturbances in bone formation or the function of the muscles or nervous system. Their signs are considered obvious, yet we need to pay attention to recognize them.
12 Often-Missed Signs of Clinical Nutrient Deficiency
Healthcare practitioners spend less time checking patients in person these days. It may be important to recognize these signs in yourself and those you care for. They can be so common that they can be overlooked.
- Lacking calm and focus
Feeling anxious or restless can be indicative of low choline or magnesium. Choline is an essential nutrient for the brain and both impact nervous system health. But up to 90 percent of American children and adults are choline-deficient and dietary surveys indicate that more 60% of the adult population fails to get adequate magnesium. Being too low in potassium or in B vitamins such as B1, B3, B6 or B12, can cause similar mental health problems.
- Weakness, or being uncoordinated
People are not necessarily born athletic or awkward. Anyone may experience muscle weakness and/or poor coordination when low in certain nutrients. It could be a clinical deficiency in vitamin B1 or B12, vitamin D or E, or in a mineral such as calcium, iron, magnesium, or potassium. Dyspraxia, a developmental disorder characterized by clumsiness, responds to increases in omega fatty acids.
- Vision problems
Believe it or not, it is not natural to have a hard time seeing in the dark. Night blindness, or the inability to see in dim light, and other types of vision loss and eye problems, are clinical symptoms of vitamin A or carotenoid deficiency, and may also indicate a need for others including vitamin E or B12. Ophthalmic complications of vitamin A deficiency tend to be reversible with supplements.
- Dry skin / skin issues
Are you conditioned by the beauty industry into thinking that dry, sensitive, oily, or balanced skin is just something you are born with? Even if you have had dry or irritated skin for most of your life, it might not be your lot in life to live with it. Dry skin, rashes/dermatitis or lesions may be expressions of a lack of niacin, vitamin A, iron, biotin, zinc, or fatty acids.
- Poor growth
A shortfall of iodine or iron in utero or during infancy can cause irreversible stunting. If you did not get enough, it’s likely you had the potential to be larger at a younger age, or to be taller than you are. Vitamins A and D are also important for developing straight legs and growing through childhood and adulthood to one’s full potential.
- Lack of appetite
Unless you have cared for a loved one with cancer, you might not appreciate the importance of a healthy appetite. A healthy appetite is associated with good digestive function and a desire for nourishing foods. Sometimes inadequate appetite can be mistaken for pickiness, especially in kids, but it can also be a clinical symptom of insufficient iron, vitamin B1, potassium or zinc.
When so many people seem tired, uninspired, and worn out, fatigue can be hard to spot. But if you are really struggling with feelings of tiredness, an investigation is called for. It might be a warning of low levels of iron and/or B vitamins like B1, B5 and B12, and potentially iodine or vitamin D as well.
- Poor immunity
Some people catch everything that goes around. Weak immune response can be an important indicator of inadequate nutrition, especially pointing to low vitamin C, D, A, zinc, iron or B6. It might also indicate a lack of diversity in your food and in your gut bacteria.
- Impaired cognitive function
We can all be affected mentally by nutrient deficits; low choline, iron or fatty acids can affect memory and cognition, and being too low in B vitamins such as B1, B3, B6 or B12, can cause symptoms of dementia. Inadequate intake of iodine is the leading cause of preventable brain damage in newborns and infants. Kids low in iron or iodine can experience serious cognitive delays.
Trips or falls that result in fractures or broken bones might be an early warning of poor bone mineralization. Bones with adequate calcium for strength and silica for flexibility will be resilient, so suspect a shortfall of these minerals, especially calcium. Low magnesium is linked to osteoporosis.
- Slow healing or bleeding gums
Adults heal slower than kids, but it can indicate a major vitamin C deficiency. So can seeing blood when you floss.
Painful muscles or joints, or burning, shooting, or tingling pain in your arms, legs, hands and feet, or experiences of carpal tunnel syndrome can be a wake-up call to a shortfall of nutrients in your body, including vitamin C, B5, B6 and/or B12.
The Easiest Way to Get Healthy Foundation Essentials
While some nutrients, like potassium, are easiest to get by eating a diet of fresh food, taking a well-rounded and cautiously formulated multivitamin formula that covers your bases is generally an easy solution that works well. Maintaining adequate nutrient intake from food alone can be challenging due to poor nutrient content in food, access to quality food and poor absorption.
What you need to supplement depends on your shortfalls. While most people in the US are sufficient in zinc, we don’t all eat the richest sources of some nutrients. B12, iodine and choline are richest in animal foods, making those common deficiencies among vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians, but many omnivores fall short too, making supplementation an important part of maintaining optimal health.
Here are the most common shortfall micronutrients:
These days, most people don’t eat a lot of vitamin A-rich foods. Children get most of their vitamin A from processed cereals and milk, and since they are not big consumers of these fortified foods, 51% of US adults fall short of the Estimated Average Requirement, or EAR, for Vitamin A.
Biomarker data confirms that adults, especially men, are at an increased risk for vitamin C deficiency. Based on US data from 2003-2006, 43% of adults are deficient, with 6% of the population over age 6 being severely deficient. Very young kids have a 19% chance of deficiency.
Dietary intake surveys indicate an extremely high 81% of children and teens and 95% of adults fail to meet the EAR for Vitamin D. However, sun exposure, skin colour, and BMI substantially impact vitamin D status. Surveys show 9.4% to 51% of various US populations have inadequate serum vitamin D, but the US Endocrine Society and the Linus Pauling Institute recommend higher serum level cut-offs that would result in higher deficiency and inadequacy estimates.
Calcium is designated a nutrient of public health concern in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans because it is under-consumed by certain subpopulations, especially older children, adolescents, and women (including pregnant women), and some older adults.
Choline was named as an essential nutrient in 1998 by the Institute of Medicine. Yet, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data shows that 90% of kids and adults aren’t getting enough. Low choline can impact learning and is a factor in developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Iodine deficiency has become a global public health concern. An essential mineral, iodine needs to be supplied in the diet. When iodine intake is poor, the body cannot produce enough thyroid hormones, critically affecting the control and function of growth, metabolism, and development.
Iron is a nutrient of public health concern for vegetarians, for young kids and adolescents due to increased need for rapid growth, for women who may become pregnant, and pregnant women. However, iron should be taken independently, not in a multivitamin, due to nutrient interactions.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines state that magnesium is underconsumed in the US, increasing risks of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. In 2003-2006 about 61% of adults and 36% of kids and teens had intakes lower than the EAR for magnesium.
Essential vitamins and minerals should be consumed because of the vital roles they play in energy production, and normal function and maintenance of healthy cells, and phytonutrients or antioxidants can help to optimize health. But be sure that any multi formula is suitable for your age group and doesn't provide more than 100 percent of the Daily Value of vitamins and minerals. Absorption, competition with other nutrients, allergenic potential, and long-term safety should be considered too.
All the shortfall micronutrients listed above are found in the Daily and Kid’s Multi Essentials+™ formulas, available through Flora’s website www.florahealth.com. These are well-absorbed and delicious liquid formulas made with a safe balance of nutrients for adults and children.
Were you surprised by some of the symptoms of clinical malnutrition? Will you share this information or seek testing from a healthcare practitioner? Will you start taking a multi formula? Let us know!