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Pinpoint Your Nutrient Needs Like a Pro

Posted by Jessica Windell on

Of course, if you’re eating a Perfect Bar a day, you’re getting a chockfull of good-for-you ingredients, like the 20+ superfoods found in each bar, but what you need more or less of is truly dependent on what your own body craves (not just what health mags claim you do), right?

Our body compositions are nowhere near the same as our neighbors, so our diets should reflect that. A recent study released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that American adults still aren’t eating the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, compared to studies done in years prior, even with escalated access to healthy foods.

The problem is, many adults are unaware of what nutrients their individual bodies need, which can result in aches and pains attributed to deficiencies. We sat down with naturopathic physician Dr. Aliza Cicerone to find out how to spot a nutrient deficiency when you see – err, feel – one.

As the medical director of Spark Health, a personalized medicine clinic in San Diego, Dr. Cicerone helps her patients tap into their bodies’ cravings for natural supplements that most often end up being the root of their pain.

Here are some common symptoms of a nutrient deficiency from Dr. Cicerone and her tips on what your body is craving during them:

Nutrient deficiency: Vitamin A

Symptoms: Poor night vision, slow wound healing, impaired immune function, infertility, prone to infections, gastroenteritis, dry skin & hair.

Foods: Eggs, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, spinach, broccoli, kale, peas, dried apricots, cantaloupe melon, mango, sweet red peppers, tuna fish, paprika, dried basil, and butternut squash.

Vitamin A foods

Nutrient deficiency: Vitamin E

Symptoms: Muscle weakness, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, mild anemia, infertility & reproductive issues, age spots, cataracts, fragile red blood cells, abnormalities in liver, muscle, and brain functionalities, slow tissue healing, dry hair or hair loss, chronic diarrhea, decreased immune system.

Foods: Olive oil, corn, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, avocado, dark leafy greens like spinach and broccoli, shellfish (ex. shrimp), fish (ex. rainbow trout), natural fruit juices, kiwi, squash, pumpkin, and wheat germ.

Vitamin E foods

Nutrient deficiency: Vitamin C

Symptoms: Sensitive, swollen and/or discolored gums, bleeding gums, sore mouth, fatigue, weakness, muscle and/or joint pain, swollen joints, easy bruising, slow wound healing, nosebleeds, weakened immune system, weight loss, dry skin, dry and/or splitting hair, digestive disorders.

Foods: Oranges, grapefruit, guavas, papaya, mango, strawberries, kiwi, lemon, lime, tomato, sweet red pepper, peas, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cilantro, basil, chives, kale and broccoli.

Vitamin C foods

Nutrient deficiency: Biotin

Symptom: Hair loss, seborrheic dermatitis, dry/scaly skin, brittle nails, dry eyes, loss of appetite, fatigue, intestinal tract issues, muscle pains, depression.

Foods: Whole grains (ex. barley), eggs, cheese, milk, liver, fish, chicken, pork, nuts and seeds, avocado, raspberries, bananas, sweet potato, mushrooms, legumes, potatoes, spinach, broccoli, corn and cauliflower.

Biotin foods

Nutrient deficiency: Folic Acid

Symptom: Chronic fatigue, anemia, weakness, prematurely gray hair, mouth sores, tongue swelling, growth issues, pale skin, shortness of breath, poor immune system (frequently getting sick), poor digestion (ex. constipation, bloating, IBS), irritability.

Foods: Green vegetables, beans, broccoli, spinach, legumes, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, asparagus, kidney, liver meat, poultry, pork, shellfish (ex. shrimp), wheat bran, peas, citrus, bananas, melons, tomato juice, and eggs.

Folic Acid foods

Nutrient deficiency: Magnesium

Symptom: Muscle weakness/spasm, tremors, fibromyalgia, dizziness, physical & mental fatigue, constipation, high blood pressure, calcium deficiency, poor heart health, anxiety, nausea, sleeplessness, confusion, abnormal heart rhythm, PMS & hormonal imbalance, persistent under-eye twitch, headaches.

Foods: Dark leafy greens (ex. spinach, chard), pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, black beans, yogurt, figs, bananas, avocados, dark chocolate, almonds, cashews, squash, oatmeal, okra, and buckwheat.

Magnesium foods

Nutrient deficiency: Zinc

Symptom: Hair loss, skin rashes, acne, greasy skin, prone to infections, changes in taste and smell, loss of appetite, weight loss, impaired cognitive and motor functions, weak immunity, diarrhea, very susceptible to allergies, leaky gut, sleeplessness, white marks on fingernails.

Foods: Shellfish (ex. crab, lobster, oysters) organ meats, grass-fed red meat, chicken, pumpkin seeds, pecans, cashews, peanuts, almonds, chickpeas, mushrooms, spinach, green peas, yogurt or kefir, cocoa powder, dairy products like cheese, eggs, wholegrain cereals, and root vegetables (ex. ginger root).

Zinc foods

Nutrient deficiency: Probiotics

Symptom: Irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, constipation, bad breath, acne, eczema, psoriasis, weak immunity, leaky gut, asthma, allergies, yeast infections, candida, PMS, hormonal problems, mental and physical fatigue.

Foods: Greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, dark chocolate, microalgae, miso soup, pickles, tempeh, kombucha, raw cheese (ex. goat or sheep milk, cottage cheese), apple cider vinegar, natto, brine-cured olives, green peas, sourdough bread, and beet Kvass.

Probiotics foods

About Dr. Aliza Cicerone, ND, FABNO:

Dr. Aliza Cicerone earned her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine (ND) from The National College of Natural Medicine on Portland, Oregon, and holds additional board certification in Naturopathic Oncology (FABNO). She completed an Integrative Oncology residency at Indiana University Goshen Center for Cancer Care, where she did extensive training in cardiology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, and dermatology, in addition to her oncology practice.

A California native, Dr. Cicerone moved back to the San Diego area in 2013 to bring personalized natural medicine to Southern California. She works with patients with a variety of health concerns, including thyroid abnormalities, hormone therapy, digestive disorders, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.She believes that the combination of conventional and naturopathic medicine best supports her patients for long term, optimal health and wellness.