Micronutrients are comprising of essential vitamins and minerals which are very important for the proper functioning from inside and outside. However, nutrients deficiency is a very common phenomenon across the globe. As an individual, we often ignore the mild deficiency syndrome unless and until it becomes severe health issues.
Some of the important minerals essential for the human body are Sodium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Sulphur, Chloride, Potassium, Calcium, Fluoride, Manganese, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Selenium, Iodine. Based on the requirements of the body these minerals have been categorized into macro and trace minerals.
Types of Minerals
- Macro Minerals: Sodium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Sulphur, Chloride, Potassium, Calcium
- Trace Minerals: Fluoride, Manganese, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Selenium, Iodine
What is Mineral Deficiency?
Mineral deficiency is the health condition in which the body obtains recommended daily intake or inability of the body to absorb the right amount of minerals. The prior condition is termed as primary while the latter known as the secondary deficiency. This deficiency can cause improper functioning of cells, tissues, and organs in short term, but it may pose serious health issues in long term.
Types of Mineral Deficiency
- Primary: Caused by long term inadequate intake of nutrients
- Secondary: Caused by malabsorption
The primary deficiency can be caused by intake of mineral-deficient diets for a very long time while the major cause for secondary deficiencies is an underlying health condition. The causes, symptoms, its associated health risk and diseases, their remedies and daily recommended intake for essential minerals are illustrated below.
- Causes: Sodium deficiency may be caused by consuming too much low sodium in the diet, taking too many fluids, and malabsorption to health issues like renal failure, CVD, cirrhosis, and use of diuretics.
- Symptoms: Nausea, headache, fatigue, drowsiness, confusion, too much water in the body, muscle weakness, cramps, and spasms.
- Associated Health Risk: Hyponatremia, brain dysfunction, seizures, coma.
- Remedies: Mild sodium deficiency can be prevented by the inclusion of sodium-rich food in our diet like salt, canned and processed food, sunflower seed, clams, however in severe deficiency medical intervention may be required.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 2300 mg
- Causes: Magnesium is commonly found in salt and its deficiency can be caused by consumption of a low amount of magnesium in the diet, alcoholism, diarrhoea, urinary loss, and absorption due to existing health conditions like gastrointestinal disorders, and diabetes mellites.
- Symptoms: Tremors, tingling, loss of coordination, nystagmus, muscle spasm.
- Associated Health Risk: Hypomagnesemia, Seizures, CVD, Gastrointestinal diseases.
- Remedies: The deficiency can be prevented by the inclusion of a magnesium-rich diet which includes almond, cashew, black beans, avocado, whole grain, fatty fish, legumes. However, in severe deficiency medical supplements may be required.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 310-420 mg
- Causes: This deficiency is very rare however it can be caused by poor diet or eating habits and malabsorption due to several health conditions like diabetes, renal disorders, alcoholism.
- Symptoms: Apatite and weight loss, irritability, numbness, bone loss, fatigue, weakness stiff joints.
- Associated Health Risk: Hypophosphatemia, rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, osteoporosis, Fanconi syndrome.
- Remedies: The case of phosphorous deficiency can be prevented by the inclusion of phosphorus-rich food like salmon, yogurt, milk and milk products, meat, beans, lentils, nuts in our diet. However severe deficiency may need medical attention.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 700 mg
- Causes: Sulphur deficiency is most common, but we often heard that. It is majorly caused by a Sulphur deficient diet and malabsorption due to existing health conditions.
- Symptoms: Joint pains, acne, fragile nails and hair, convulsions, depression, memory loss, rashes, slow wound healing.
- Associated Health Risk: Reduced protein synthesis, arthritis, obesity, CVD, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue, Reduced metabolism, and GI (Gastrointestinal) disorders.
- Remedies: Sulphur deficiency can be prevented by the inclusion of Sulphur-containing food like Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, legumes, onion, garlic, sprouts, egg in our diet. It can also be obtained from sunlight like Vitamin D but in case of severe deficiency medical supplements may be required.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): No Consensus
- Causes: Like sodium, chloride deficiency is also very common and can be caused by nausea, vomiting, excessive urinary discharge, alcoholism, inadequate intake and absorption due to existing health conditions, and chronic medication.
- Symptoms: Nausea, headache, fatigue, drowsiness, confusion, muscle twitching, vomiting, diarrhoea, high blood pressure, thirst.
- Associated Health Risk: Hypochloremia, brain dysfunction, water retention in the body.
- Remedies: It can be prevented by consuming chlorine-rich food like seaweed, salt, celery, rye, tomatoes, lettuce, olives. Table salt is the common source of chlorine that can cure the mild deficiency. However, in case of severe deficiency medical intervention will be required.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 1800-2300 mg
- Causes: Potassium deficiency can occur due to inadequate intake in the diet or prolonged diarrhoea and vomiting. Its major cause is loss of body fluids. It can also be caused by malabsorption due to the presence of existing health conditions like chronic renal and GI disorders.
- Symptoms: Weakness, fatigue, muscle cramp, numbness, tingling, irregular heart rhythms, vomiting nausea, excessive urination.
- Associated Health Risk: Hypokalemia, Polyuria, High Blood Pressure, CVD, Renal and GI disorders.
- Remedies: Mild cases of hypokalemia can be cured by the inclusion of potassium-rich foods like lentils, bananas, oranges, grapefruit, apricots, prunes, raisins, dates, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli in the diet. However, in case of severe deficiency medical supplements may be suitable.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 4700 mg
- Causes: The major cause of calcium deficiency can be caused due to calcium-deficient diet, hormonal fluctuations, other micronutrient deficiency, enhanced demand in case of pregnancy and breastfeeding. In addition to this malabsorption and utilisation due to pre-existing health disorders.
- Symptoms: Numbness, tingling, muscle spasm, muscle cramp, confusion, memory loss, depression hallucination, bone loss, tooth decay.
- Associated Health Risk: Hypocalcemia, Osteoporosis, Heart dysfunction, Hormonal imbalance, Nerve transmission loss.
- Remedies: The rich source of calcium is milk and its product. Calcium deficiency can be prevented by the inclusion of calcium-rich food items like milk, cheese, leafy veggies, soybeans, tofu, sardines, pilchards in our diet. However, in case of severe deficiency medical supplements might yield better results.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 2000-2500 mg
- Causes: Fluoride deficiency is caused by insufficient consumption or improper utilisation of fluoride. Since it’s a trace mineral it can be affected by excessive discharge from the body or malabsorption due to the presence of health condition.
- Symptoms: Weak bones, fracture, tooth decay.
- Associated Health Risk: Cavities, Osteoporosis, Reduces bone density.
- Remedies: Fluoride-rich food items like fruit juice, crab, water, shellfish, grapes can help in addressing mild deficiency while for a severe case of deficiency medical supplements will be required. Fluoride-rich water is the commonly used solution for this deficiency.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 3-4 mg
- Causes: Manganese deficiency can be caused by the inadequacy of manganese in our diet and malabsorption of manganese due to pre-existing gastrointestinal disorders, epilepsy, diabetes, osteoporosis. However, clinical evidence has a different opinion on manganese supplements through a manganese-rich diet.
- Symptoms: Fatigue, weakness, irritability, delayed and impaired growth, menstrual problems, poor bone growth, skeletal defects, abnormal metabolism, memory loss.
- Associated Health Risk: Bone health, osteoporosis, dermatitis, schizophrenia, disrupts the production of collagen, GI diseases.
- Remedies: Manganese-rich diet is very helpful for mild deficiency. Some of the manganese-rich food items are pineapple, peanuts, whole grains, clams, oysters, mussels, nuts, soybeans, legumes, rice, leafy vegetables, coffee, tea, black pepper. However, in case of severe deficiency medical supplements might be required.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 1.8-2.8 mg
- Causes: Iron deficiency is caused by the inadequate intake of iron in our daily food items. However, it can be caused by heavy bleeding during menstruation, pregnancy, increased utilisation during lactation, internal bleeding, malabsorption due to a present health condition like gastrointestinal disorders.
- Symptoms: Headaches, nausea, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, bleeding, tingling, numbness, pale skin.
- Associated Health Risk: Anaemia, Heart disease, complications during pregnancy and childbearing, a child with low birth weight, delayed growth, prone to infections.
- Remedies: Preventive actions like the inclusion of iron-rich food like oyster, white beans, spinach, lentils, tofu, cashews, whole grain in our diet can minimise the impact of iron deficiency. However, in severe deficiency, it’s advisable for taking supplements as suggested by medical experts.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 8-18 mg
- Causes: The copper deficiency can be caused due to inadequate intake and utilisation of copper. However, the most common cause of this deficiency is GI surgery which affects the absorption of copper. Menkes is the genetic disorder of copper deficiency.
- Symptoms: Fatigue, pale skin, poor growth, muscle soreness, always feeling cold.
- Associated Health Risk: Menkes, enzootic ataxia, hyper flexibility of the joints and fragility of the veins in newborns, increased risk of atherosclerosis, affects bone marrow.
- Remedies: The role of copper is very important in the prenatal stage which affects the health of newborn babies. Copper-rich food items like liver, crab, oyster, mushrooms, lobster, leafy veggies, nuts can help in avoiding copper deficiencies. For extreme deficiencies, medical intervention would be required.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 900 mcg
- Causes: The common cause of zinc deficiency is reduced dietary intake. However, it can be caused by the malabsorption and improper utilisation of zinc in case of pre-existing health conditions like acrodermatitis enteropathica.
- Symptoms: Weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite, hair loss, unexpected weight loss, diarrhoea, delayed sexual maturity.
- Associated Health Risk: Impaired growth and development of children, complications during pregnancy, immunity dysfunction.
- Remedies: Mild cases of zinc deficiency can be reverted with zinc-rich dietary items like whole grain, oyster, crab, red meat, poultry, nuts, chickpeas. In severe deficiency, medical supplements will prove very useful.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 8-11 mg
- Causes: Selenium deficiency can be caused by inadequate intake and consuming the food grown on low-selenium soil. It can also be caused by malabsorption due to GI surgeries and health conditions like phenylketonuria & GI disorders.
- Symptoms: Weakness, fatigue, muscle weakness hair loss, infertility.
- Associated Health Risk: Impaired immune system, susceptible to infections, Keshan disease, Kashin-Beck disease, thyroid hormone regulation, male fertility
- Remedies: The risk of selenium deficiency can be reduced by including selenium-rich foot items in our dietary plan. Some of the selenium-rich food items are nuts, sardines, ham, pork, beef, turkey, chicken, fish, shellfish, and eggs. For severe deficiency, one should consult medical professionals.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 55 mcg
- Causes: This deficiency can be caused by insufficient intake of iodine in our diet, food items are grown on iodine-deficient soil, insufficient production of thyroid hormone.
- Symptoms: Weakness, tiredness, fatigue, unexpected weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, feeling cold, swollen neck.
- Associated Health Risk: Goitre, endemic goiter, cretinism, impaired growth and brain development, impaired metabolism, complications during pregnancy, heavy or irregular periods.
- Remedies: Iodine deficiency syndrome can be prevented by consuming iodine-rich foot items like seaweed, shrimp, fish, Cod, dairy products, whole grain. The dietary supplements are good for mild cases while medical supplements will be required for severe deficiency.
- Adequate Intake (>19 Yrs.): 150 mcg
The importance of micronutrients is often overlooked in our society. We usually focus on belly-filling rather than offering a healthy diet to our cells. Apart from the staple diet, we need these essential micronutrients to remain healthy. A Micronutrient-rich diet should be preferred and if not available then their supplements should be taken to make the right balance. However, fortified food items can be the substitute for staple diets that are poor in micronutrients. “Stay Healthy Stay Happy”.