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Common signs you may be deficient in vitamins and minerals

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Common deficiency signsMedical conditionsReversalCausesSummary
Micronutrient deficiencies can cause many symptoms and lead to the development of certain health conditions. Common symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies may include constant fatigue, weakness, and hair loss.
Medically reviewed by Adam Bernstein, MD, ScD
Updated on

Vitamins and minerals, also known as micronutrients, are essential for staying healthy. Without them, your body has difficulty performing vital functions.

Vitamins are organic compounds. Your body requires them in small amounts. Minerals are inorganic elements. You generally need larger quantities than vitamins. The exception is trace minerals, which you only need in small quantities. 

It can be challenging for a doctor to diagnose nutritional deficiencies. This is because symptoms are often vague or overlap between different types of deficiencies. A healthcare professional may use a blood test to confirm a vitamin and mineral deficiency. 

Supplementing vitamins and minerals without first confirming a deficiency is not advisable, as it sometimes may lead to toxicity and more symptoms.

Signs of common mineral and vitamin deficiencies

Although you may be deficient in any vitamin or mineral at any time, some deficiencies may be more likely than others. Here is an overview of a few common deficiencies.


Iron is essential for producing hemoglobin, a protein in the blood that carries oxygen throughout your body. Iron is also necessary to make certain hormones, have vital energy, and filter residues in the liver.

Iron deficiency may lead to anemia and symptoms like:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • pale skin
  • difficulty concentrating
  • shortness of breath
  • heart palpitations
  • hair loss
  • mouth sores
  • headaches

You can get iron from:

  • red meats
  • poultry
  • fish
  • beans
  • lentils
  • tofu
  • fortified cereals
  • dark leafy greens
  • supplements like Ferocon 


Zinc is involved in various processes, including DNA production, wound healing, and supporting your immune function.

Zinc deficiency may cause:

  • loss of appetite, taste, or smell
  • repeated colds due to decreased immune function
  • delayed wound healing
  • increased susceptibility to infections
  • impaired growth and development in children

Zinc sources include:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption, bone health, and immune function. 

Deficiency in vitamin D may lead to:

  • fatigue
  • bone pain and brittleness
  • muscle weakness
  • depression

You can get vitamin D from:

  • sun exposure
  • fatty fish like salmon and trout
  • liver
  • egg yolk
  • fortified foods like milk, orange juice, and cereals
  • plant-based milks
  • supplements of vitamin D (Drisdol)


Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth and the proper function of blood vessels, muscles, nerves, and hormones.

Calcium deficiency may cause:

  • numbness in your limbs
  • tingling fingers
  • increased risk of bone fractures

Good calcium sources include:

  • dairy products
  • leafy greens
  • fortified foods like plant-based milk or cereals
  • fish with soft bones
  • soy and tofu
  • supplements like calcium chloride (injection) or calcium citrate

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Your body needs magnesium for nerve and muscle function, maintaining blood sugar and blood pressure, and making bone, DNA, and protein. 

Magnesium deficiency may cause:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • weakness

Magnesium sources include:


Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism and growth, among other vital functions. 

Symptoms of iodine deficiency may include:

  • fatigue
  • unexplained weight gain or loss
  • dry skin
  • changes in thyroid hormone production

Good sources of iodine are:

  • iodized salt
  • seafood
  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • supplements like potassium iodide (ThyroShield) under medical supervision only
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Vitamin A

Your body uses vitamin A to maintain eye health, immune function, and cell growth.

Deficiency may lead to: 

  • impaired vision
  • dry eyes
  • increased susceptibility to infections

Among others, you can get vitamin A from:

  • liver
  • sweet potatoes
  • carrots
  • leafy greens
  • supplements like vitamin A (Aquasol A, A-25, Xcellent A)


Your body uses folate for DNA synthesis, red blood cell production, and proper fetal development during pregnancy.

Folate deficiency may cause:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • shortness of breath
  • congenital disabilities

Folate sources may include: 

  • leafy greens
  • beef liver
  • citrus fruits
  • fortified grain foods and cereals
  • beans
  • nuts
  • supplements like folic acid (FaLessa)

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps your body make DNA and maintain nerve and blood cell health.

Symptoms of deficiency may include:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • mood changes
  • tingling in the hands and feet
  • heart palpitations

Among others, you can get vitamin B12 from:

  • dairy products
  • meat
  • fish and seafood
  • eggs
  • fortified cereals and nutritional yeast
  • supplements like cyanocobalamin (Nascobal) 

Conditions linked to nutrient deficiencies

Long-term or severe mineral and vitamin deficiencies may sometimes lead to medical conditions and chronic symptoms. Some of these are rare but may include:

  • Calcium deficiency: hypocalcemia, osteoporosis, rickets
  • Folate deficiency: congenital disabilities if the deficiency is during pregnancy, megaloblastic anemia
  • Iodine deficiency: hypothyroidism, goiter, congenital disabilities if the deficiency is during pregnancy
  • Iron deficiency: microcytic hypochromic anemia
  • Magnesium deficiency: osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colorectal cancer
  • Selenium deficiency: Keshan disease, heart disease, mood disorders
  • Vitamin A deficiency: impaired immune function, night or total vision loss
  • Vitamin C deficiency: scurvy
  • Vitamin D deficiency: osteomalacia, rickets, heart disease, insulin resistance
  • Vitamin E deficiency: ataxia, myopathy
  • Vitamin K deficiency: coagulation disorder
  • Zinc deficiency: alopecia, erectile dysfunction, diarrhea

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How long does it take to reverse a mineral deficiency?

How long it takes to reverse a vitamin or mineral deficiency may depend on factors like:

  • severity of the deficiency
  • type of deficiency 
  • reversal method — for example, diet vs. medications

If you have a micronutrient deficiency, it’s important to follow treatment instructions from a healthcare professional for a safe approach.

Common causes of mineral and vitamin deficiencies

Micronutrient deficiency may be due to the following:

  • Inadequate diet: For example, if your diet excludes entire food groups, you live with an eating disorder, or have a reduced appetite.
  • Certain medical conditions: Some disorders affect how your body absorbs nutrients.
  • Inadequate absorption: Gastrointestinal disorders and some surgeries may also interfere with how your body absorbs nutrients.
  • Increased need for certain nutrients: For instance, your nutrient demands may change during pregnancy or when nursing, if you have heavy periods, or as you age.
  • Medications: Some drugs can interfere with nutrient absorption or increase nutrient excretion.
  • Other lifestyle factors: For example, you may not get enough vitamin D if you don’t have much sun exposure.


Common micronutrient deficiencies include iron, vitamin D, and zinc. Causes may involve restricted diet, health conditions, and medications.

A doctor may confirm deficiencies of vitamins or minerals via a lab test. It is not advisable to supplement without confirming with a healthcare professional that your symptoms are due to a nutrient deficiency.

A healthcare professional can help diagnose any deficiencies and potential underlying causes. They can also suggest suitable ways to get your levels back to usual. This may involve dietary changes, supplements, or medications.

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