Health Tips

5 Ways Your Lifestyle Is Making You Vitamin Deficient

vitamin deficiency

AMBER BRENZA

You’ve probably heard that food, not pills, ought to be your go-to source for nutrients. But is your diet really meeting all your nutritional needs? It turns out even the healthiest of eaters can become deficient in key vitamins and minerals thanks to some surprising factors. Here are 5 that might be setting you up for a shortfall.

You just say “no” to meat. 
There are a whole host of reasons to go the vegetarian or vegan route—weight loss, decreased cancer risk, even health insurance discounts—but many veggie lovers are seriously lacking in vitamin B12. That’s because plant-based foods don’t have any unless they’ve been specially fortified; top sources include meats and poultry. Even flexitarians (semi-vegetarians) and lacto-ovo-vegetarians (who eat dairy and eggs) might not be getting enough, according to a study published in the journalNutrition Reviews. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian—or if you only eat meat sporadically and have been feeling tired or forgetful—ask your doc about taking a daily B12 supplement.

You’re an acid reflux warrior.

acid reflux vitamin deficiency

PHOTOGRAPH BY ROGER HARRIS/GETTY IMAGES

PPI (proton-pump inhibitor) drugs like Prilosec and Pepsid do a great job of putting out the fire in your belly (and chest and throat), but there’s a price: Research has linked these meds to a wide range of problems, including an increased risk of kidney disease and heart attacks. People who regularly use PPIs are also more likely to become deficient in vitamin B12. Now you can add magnesium deficiency to the list of downsides associated with these drugs, thanks to a recent review of 14 different studies published in the journal Gastroenterology Research and Practice. Researchers believe PPIs alter the gut’s ability to absorb magnesium. The good news is that levels go back to normal within 4 days of stopping the medication. Signs of magnesium deficiency can be tricky to spot (it’s actually known as the “invisible deficiency” because the symptoms are so varied), but be on the lookout for loss of appetite, fatigue, numbness, and personality changes. The NIH recommends 310 to 320 mg of magnesium each day for women ages 19 and up, but talk to your doctor if you suspect your levels might be low.

 

You’re on a first-name basis with the gym staff.
There’s no doubt that exercise is good for you (and you definitely shouldn’t read this as an excuse to nix it from your schedule!), but your devotion to CrossFit or Orangetheory could be draining your thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 levels. According to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, exercise increases the need for those vitamins, and fitness fanatics might show deficiencies despite meeting the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for them. And if you’re cutting calories at the same time, watch out: Dieting could further deplete your levels. Taking a B-complex supplement should help.

You’ve got more than a few pounds to lose.

obesity vitamin deficiency

PHOTOGRAPH BY YINYANG/GETTY IMAGES

Whether you get your vitamin D from the sun or a pill, your body might have trouble utilizing it if you’re obese, suggests a study in theInternational Journal of Obesity. Scientists believe that people carrying lots of excess weight don’t have enough of two enzymes that are needed to process the vitamin, thus causing a vitamin D deficiency. The NIH recommends that adults get 600 IUs of vitamin D daily, but the Endocrine Society says obese adults may need two to three times that amount to maintain normal levels. Find out if you’re lacking by asking your doctor for a simple blood test. 

You’re always rolling up your sleeve to help others.
If you’re a frequent blood donor we salute you, but you could be putting yourself at risk. Research from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons shows that 66% of women and 49% of men who regularly donate blood are iron deficient. Female donors of childbearing age (i.e. you’re still menstruating) are the most likely to suffer from iron deficiency, which can cause fatigue, decreased attention, and inability to concentrate. (And could also lead to hair loss.) Women ages 19 to 50 should aim for 18 mg of iron each day; that number decreases to 8 mg for women ages 51 and older. Iron is readily available in lean meats, seafood, chicken, nuts, legumes, and leafy greens, but if blood tests show you’re anemic you might need a supplement.

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