16 Signs You Have a Nutrient Deficiency

6 minute read

By Jordana Weiss

Diet and exercise are the two best ways to stay in shape. Yet most Americans will find themselves deficient in certain nutrients at some stage of their lives. Start a search today to explore signs that you may have a nutrient deficiency.

Here are few ways that your body may communicate to you that it isn’t getting the necessary nutrients. Next time your body starts displaying any of these signs, pay attention and modify your diet accordingly.

Feeling unusually tired or fatigued

This is a common symptom, and it can be terribly hard to recognize. After all, even little changes in our schedules can leave us feeling tired and generally off.

However, if you’ve been noticing a pattern of tiredness at odd times of the day, or fatigue after performing even the most basic functions, you may have a deficiency of several different nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, or iron.

Muscle cramps

If your muscles start cramping at odd times of the day, you may have an undiagnosed nutrient deficiency. If you find this is happening to you, try boosting your intake of calcium, or vitamin D.

It’s easy to get more of these nutrients in your diet by eating plenty of dairy, like fortified yogurt, milk and cheese. Humans can also absorb plenty of vitamin D through sun exposure, so make sure you’re getting outside enough during daylight hours.


A feeling of generalized weakness, or not feeling as able to lift, carry, and move around as you once did can be a sign of a nutrient deficiency. People who suffer from sudden weaknesses should boost their intake of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium, just for a start.

If you’ve been feeling weak for a long time, it would be a good idea to see your doctor and request a blood test so you can pinpoint which nutrients you are lacking.

Diarrhea and/or vomiting

Chronic ongoing diarrhea and/or vomiting can be a sign of a potassium deficiency. If you’re suffering from diarrhea or vomiting, before you even see a doctor it’s important to make sure you’re staying hydrated even if you’re having problems keeping food down.

Drink plenty of water, and make sure to make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible. Keeping your diet heavy in foods like bananas, whole grains, and legumes can also be helpful.

Excessive sweating

Excessive perspiration is common for some people with a higher natural body temperature, but if you find yourself sweating more than usual, you may be suffering from a deficiency of potassium.

Symptoms for potassium deficiency often get worse than simply excessive sweat, so make sure you get checked out right away if you suspect something is off.

Dull, thinning hair

Many people find that their hair is naturally less lustrous in the winter months — this is normal. However, if you find that you’re losing your hair in larger amounts than normal, or if your hair looks dull, you may have an iron deficiency.

Iron pills are easy to get with a prescription from your doctor, but you can take over-the-counter, non-prescription iron pills as a start if you think that you are iron-deficient.

Pale skin

Looking pale and vampire-ish is a good way to tell that you are iron-deficient.

Other than taking iron pills, a good way to boost your iron intake is to eat red meat, legumes, and spinach. All of these foods are super-rich in iron, and can help you regain your healthy complexion again.

Problems with balance and walking

A vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common there is, and symptoms range hugely from more mundane ones like weakness and and fatigue to problems with your balance and motion. This can be very disconcerting, to say the least!

If you feel like you’re having problems moving around that aren’t related to vertigo, get checked out by a doctor right away.

Memory loss, paranoia, and hallucinations

People who find themselves suffering from memory loss, paranoia and hallucinations are often too worried about their mental health to first get checked out by a general practitioner.

While your mental health is critical as well, a quicker way to a more relaxed state of mind is to ask your doctor if you could possibly be suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency. This happens often in people whose diet is unhealthy, and can easily be solved by B12 pills.

Mouth ulcers

Everyone gets these painful sores inside your mouth from time to time. Although they can be dulled with a little mouthwash, they still make day to day activities like eating and smiling painful.

These little mouth ulcers can be a sign of a folate deficiency, which is a necessary nutrient in everyone’s lives, but becomes especially important if you are trying to get pregnant.

Swollen tongue

Another sign of a folate (or folic acid) deficiency is a swollen tongue. It may be hard to see at first, but if you’re struggling with your words, or if your mouth feels thick, this could be the reason why.

Make sure to take any prenatal vitamins prescribed to you by a doctor, as these are usually full of all the folic acid your body needs. It’s important to have enough folate in your body before you conceive, to protect against deficiency-related birth defects.

Loss of appetite

Loss of appetite can herald many different ailments, but one that many people don’t think about is a magnesium deficiency. This is an extremely rare nutrient deficiency to develop naturally, but it is often found in people who consume a large quantity of alcohol, or who take certain medications that inhibit the absorption of magnesium.

If you find yourself in one of these situations, a doctor can prescribe you supplements, but make sure that you first take in as many magnesium-rich foods as possible, like spinach, soybeans, almonds, and cashews. These are just a few foods that are rich in magnesium — a dietitian can help you work out a plan to incorporate more magnesium-rich foods into your diet easily.

Dry hair, dry flaky skin, and dry eyes

If you feel parched, or if you feel like your body isn’t getting enough water, you may have an omega-3 deficiency. Mastering your omega-3 intake can be a bit complicated, because ideally you’ll be eating more anti-inflammatory omega-3’s (think healthy fats like sardines) than you are inflammatory omega-3’s (like vegetable oil).

If you’re not getting enough of the right kinds of omega-3’s, you leave yourself open to serious health problems like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and depression. Many people take concentrated fish or krill oil pills to ensure that they have enough anti-inflammatory omega-3’s in their diet.

Cracks at the corners of your mouth

Painful cracks at the corner of your mouth can be a sign of a nutrient deficiency. If you find yourself suffering from this symptom, try and boost your intake of iron, zinc, and B vitamins. These nutrients can be found in foods like tahini, swiss chard, salmon, oysters, and clams.

Adding vitamin C to your diet can also help you absorb these nutrients, so don’t forget to eat vitamin C rich foods like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower.

Red, scaly rash on your body and face

A painful red rash on your face and body can be a sign of a vitamin B7 deficiency. B7 helps metabolize the important parts of your food, like fats, carbohydrates and amino acids. Without B7, you could be eating the healthiest diet in the world, but it won’t do you any good because you won’t be able to absorb the nutrients your body needs.

Many nutritionists recommend eating eggs to help with B7 intake.

Tingling, numbness, or prickling feeling in your extremities.

A feeling of unusual tingling or prickling in your hands and feet can be a sign of a B-vitamin deficiency. This symptom doesn’t usually occur on its own, and can be accompanied by feelings of anxiety, plus anemia and hormone imbalances.

Getting enough B-vitamins in your diet is key to managing these symptoms. Try to make sure your diet includes a good amount of organic eggs and meat, plus veggies like beets and asparagus.

Jordana Weiss