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Feeling Off-Kilter? Check Your Vitamins

Jun 05, 2018 12:00AM

By Kelsey Casselbury

When you’re feeling sluggish or irritable, you might blame a lack of sleep or stress at work. However, there could be a cause that you haven’t considered: a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Ideally, everyone would get all the vitamins and minerals that they need via a healthy diet, but that’s not always the case. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the top five vitamins that Americans don’t get enough of are vitamins D, E, and A, as well as the minerals magnesium and calcium. Let’s take a closer look at what problems a deficiency (or, in less severe cases, an inadequacy) can cause. 


Around 61 percent of American don’t get enough magnesium, which plays a role in energy production, among other functions. More often, the lack of magnesium counts as an inadequacy than a true deficiency, as long as your kidneys work properly. You should get 310 to 400 milligrams a day, depending on age and gender. 

Deficiency Symptoms: Nausea, fatigue,
loss of appetite, muscle cramping, weakness, heart problems

Natural Sources: Whole grains, green
leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds

Vitamin D

Approximately 95 percent of adults age 19 or over don’t get enough vitamin D, and recent research suggests that even the current recommendations of 600 International Unit (IU) isn’t enough for the majority of people. The best source of vitamin D is the sun, of course, but that risk of skin cancer means that it’s better to get it through your diet than to skip the sunscreen. 

Deficiency Symptoms: Frequent
sickness, fatigue, bone and
muscle pain, depression, hair loss

Natural Sources: The sun, fatty fish, mushrooms, fortified milk, and cereals

Vitamin E

Nearly as common of a deficiency as vitamin D, 94 percent of adults don’t get enough vitamin E in their diets. You need 15 milligrams per day of this vitamin, which acts as a powerful antioxidant and wards off the aging process. It also plays a role in immune function.

Deficiency Symptoms: Muscle
weakness, loss of muscle mass,
unsteady walking, vision problems

Natural Sources: Nuts, seeds, vegetable
oils, green leafy vegetables

Vitamin A

Your body can’t make vitamin A, but 51 percent of Americans don’t get enough of it—0.6 milligrams for women and 0.7 milligrams for men—in their daily diet. If Bugs Bunny taught you anything, it’s that vitamin A plays a big role in vision (and that carrots have it); it also boosts your immune system and is important for a healthy reproductive system. 

Deficiency Symptoms: Infections, miscarriage, night blindness,
dry skin, and hair

Natural Sources: Fatty fish, milk,
eggs, carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables


A calcium deficiency is also known as hypocalcemia, and most women know that it’s something you want to avoid as you get older. Your body needs calcium for strong bones and teeth, as well as for muscles and nerves to relay messages from your brain to your body parts. The current RDA for calcium is 1,000 to 1,200 mg, but 49 percent of people don’t consume enough.

Deficiency Symptoms: Confusion,
memory loss, numbness and tingling in the hands, feet and face, depression muscle cramps, weak and brittle nails, easy fracturing of the bones

Natural Sources: Milk, yogurt, cheese,
kale, broccoli