As physicians, we are often surprised by the number of people who come in thinking they have a medical problem, when they are actually suffering from a nutrient deficiency.
Recent studies have shown that at least 40% of Americans have nutrient deficiencies, and many of them do not realize that — following blood tests and proper diagnosis — they can alleviate their troubling symptoms with diet and supplements.
Nutrients, such as iron, vitamin D and biotin, are vital for healthy hair. When patients express concern over hair loss or thinning hair, we evaluate the levels of these nutrients to determine if deficiency is to blame. Depending on the case, we may suggest combining iron with vitamin C to facilitate its absorption.
Many factors can trigger a migraine attack, and various treatments are available to help prevent an attack or relieve pain. However, research has shown that people who suffer from migraines can have better control attacks when they take vitamins, such as magnesium, certain B vitamins and vitamin D.
Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet can be caused by medical conditions that typically affect the nerve and/or blood vessels. But the sensations may also be a sign of vitamin deficiencies, particularly B12 and folate. Some good sources of B vitamins include spinach, asparagus, dairy products, meat and fish. If diet is not enough and a doctor determines that you do not absorb adequate amounts of B12, you may need to take a vitamin or multivitamin. Your doctor may even prescribe a B12 nasal spray or shots.
Many of our patients complain of fatigue and lack of energy, which can be traced to a lack of sleep, medication side effects, medical conditions or other sources, but one of the often overlooked causes is a nutrient deficiency. Iodine, iron, vitamin D and magnesium play a critical role in energy levels, so when these nutrients are out of balance, people may feel sluggish and tired. Replenishing these nutrients can help reduce symptoms, but we advise working with your physician to find the proper sources in the correct amounts.
Muscle aches and weakness can be caused by low levels of vitamin D. Treating the deficiency with a vitamin D supplement can reverse symptoms. Correcting severe vitamin D deficiency does, however, require time and patience, since vitamin D takes at least several months to build up your body stores.
The good news is that nutrient deficiencies can be corrected. If you suspect you may be low in important nutrients, talk to your doctor. Unless you know what to look for, you may to mistake the signs for something else.
Arielle Miller Levitan, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine physician and the cofounder of Vous Vitamin, LLC. She is the author of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health. She attended Stanford University and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and has served as chief medical resident for the Northwestern University McGraw Medical Center’s Evanston Hospital Program and as a clinical instructor for its medical school. She has a special interest in women’s health and preventive medicine and currently practices general internal medicine on the North Shore of Chicago, where she teaches medical students on-site. She enjoys cooking, cardio tennis, running, being a soccer mom (sometimes) and spending time with her three kids and husband (also a doctor of internal medicine).
Romy Block, MD, is a board-certified specialist in endocrine and metabolism medicine, member of American Thyroid Association, and the cofounder of Vous Vitamin, LLC. She is the author of The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health. She attended Tufts University and Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine. She completed residency training in internal medicine at North Shore University Hospital—North Shore-LIJ and did a fellowship at New York University. She practices on the North Shore of Chicago, where she specializes in thyroid disorders and pituitary diseases. She enjoys travel, food and wine, working out with her personal trainer and spending time with her husband (a pulmonary and sleep specialist) and their three boys.