Common Midwest Vitamin Deficiencies | Donaldson Health

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By Dr. Marguerite Weston |

Midwest Vitamin Deficiencies

The 5 Most Common Vitamin & Nutrient Deficits Facing Our Patients 

Midwest Vitamin Deficiencies

Midwesterners are known for their welcoming charm and summers at the lake but they also face unique nutritional challenges that impact both their physical and mental health. Despite the region’s rich agricultural roots, certain vitamin and nutrient deficiencies persist among patients in the nation’s heartland, posing potential health concerns and holding them back from feeling their best.

A Note About Diagnosing Deficiencies

Symptoms related to a deficiency can develop gradually and may not be specific to one vitamin or nutrient alone. If you suspect a specific deficiency, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. Deficiency can occur due to various reasons, including inadequate dietary intake, malabsorption issues or certain medical conditions.


Vitamin D from sunlightVitamin D

Daily Recommended: 600 IU for ages 1 to 70 years; 800 IU for ages 70+

Vitamin D is essential, specifically when it comes to maintaining bone health, supporting the immune system and regulating mood. While we receive some Vitamin D from direct sunlight, the total effect can be limited by clouds, smog, windows and other barriers. Excessive sun exposure, age, skin pigmentation and certain medical conditions can also impact vitamin D synthesis in the body, resulting in a deficiency.

Symptoms Of A Vitamin D Deficiency:

  • Bone pain & muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Depression & mood changes
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Joint pain & stiffness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Hair loss
  • Sleep disorders & nocturnal awakenings

Vitamin B12

Daily Recommended: 2.4 mcg for teenagers & adults; 2.6 mcg for pregnant women, 2.8 mcg for breastfeeding women

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, plays a pivotal role in various bodily functions, primarily contributing to the formation of red blood cells and the maintenance of a healthy nervous system. Found predominantly in animal products, B12 is essential for energy production and the synthesis of DNA, making it crucial for overall cognitive function and the prevention of anemia.

Symptoms Of A Vitamin B12 Deficiency:

  • Fatigue & weakness
  • Pale or jaundiced skin
  • Shortness of breath & dizziness
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Difficulty walking/balance issues
  • Cognitive changes (including memory loss, brain fog, mood swings)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Vision problems (in severe cases)

Magnesium

Daily Recommended: 400-420 mg for men, 310-320 mg for women; 350-360 mg for pregnant women,  310-320 mg while breastfeeding

Magnesium is an essential mineral that facilitates muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control and optimal bone health. This mineral is naturally found in a large range of foods, including leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, salmon, black beans and whole grains. Most often, if a food is rich in fiber, it likely also contains magnesium.

Symptoms Of A Magnesium Deficiency:

  • Muscle weakness & cramps
  • Fatigue & weakness
  • Loss of appetite, nausea & vomiting
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities
  • Personality changes (including anxiety and depression)
  • Abnormal calcium levels
  • Seizures (in severe cases)

Dr. Weston discussing nutrient deficiencies with a Midwest patient

Zinc

Daily Recommended: 11 mg for men, 8 mg for women; 13 mg for pregnant women, 17 mg for breastfeeding women

As a vital trace element, zinc serves as a linchpin for numerous physiological processes. It bolsters immune function, improves wound healing, supports an ideal pregnancy and aids in both DNA synthesis and cell division. Zinc can be found in oysters, beef, pork, chickpeas, nuts, oats, eggs and some dairy products.

Symptoms Of A Zinc Deficiency:

  • Increased infections & illnesses
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Hair loss
  • Skin issues (including dryness, dermatitis or acne)
  • Loss of appetite & decreased sense of taste & smell
  • Vision problems
  • Impaired fertility in both men & women
  • Cognitive & behavioral changes

Woman creating a vitamin-rich diet plan

Omega Fatty Acids (Omega-6 & Omega-3)

Daily Recommended: Omega-3: — 1.6 g for men, 1.1 for women; Omega-6: 17 g for men, 12 g for women. An ideal ratio is 4:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3

Omega fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fats that the human body cannot produce on its own and must be obtained through diet. These fatty acids are integral to cardiovascular health, cognitive function and inflammation regulation, making them key components of a well-balanced diet.

 

What Happens When The Omega Ratio Is Off?

The balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet is important for overall health, as these fatty acids play different roles in the body.

Omega-3 is often found in fish, flaxseed, soybeans, chia seeds and walnuts, while omega-6 is often found in mayonnaise, soybean oil, corn oil and eggs. Midwestern diets often contain too much omega-6. For example, we tell patients that our goal is a 4:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 but often see diets that strike a 20:1 ratio. An imbalance in the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids has negative health implications and can lead to greater complications down the road.

These Complications Often Include:

  • Chronic, low-grade inflammation
  • Increased blood triglyceride levels, increased blood clot formation & decreased blood vessel health
  • Increased risk of various cancers
  • High blood pressure

Symptoms Of An Omega-3 Fatty Acid Deficiency:

  • Dry & flaky skin
  • Joint pain & inflammation
  • Concentration & memory issues
  • Mood disorders (including depression & anxiety)
  • Fatigue
  • Dry eyes
  • Heart health problems
  • Impaired immune function

Symptoms Of An Omega-6 Fatty Acid Deficiency:

  • Dry & scaly skin
  • Hair loss
  • Eczema & dermatitis
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Joint pain & stiffness
  • Fertility complications

Dr. Weston discussing supplements with a patient from the Midwest

What You Can Do To Reach Your Vitamin & Nutrient Targets

Making strategic dietary changes by incorporating foods rich in deficient nutrients is our fundamental approach at Donaldson. For instance, increasing the consumption of leafy greens, fish and fortified products for Vitamin D deficiency or incorporating more dairy, eggs and lean meats for Vitamin B12 insufficiency.

Additionally, establishing a controlled supplement regimen can provide a targeted and efficient way to address deficiencies. However, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional — particularly a functional medicine doctor — to conduct comprehensive tests and develop a personalized plan to rectify the deficiency while considering potential underlying causes. This collaboration reduces the risk of getting too much of a specific nutrient and ensures a holistic approach to promoting your overall well-being.


About The Author

Marguerite Weston, MD, is the functional medicine director at Donaldson — and a Midwestern functional medicine patient, herself. She has vast experience helping patients identify the root cause of their symptoms and providing dietary changes to solve these concerns once and for all. Dr. Weston believes supplements are a great tool along the wellness journey, but also urges patients to find natural ways to obtain the nutrients they need and achieve a more balanced diet.

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