Nutritional deficiencies - What signs to look for if you think you may have them

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This list has been compiled by Dr Patrick Kingsley - so thank you Patrick! See Dr Patrick Kingsley Profile

I have added in a few of my own.

Symptoms are actually better indicators of nutritional deficiency than signs - indeed a BMJ article pointed out that 84% of diagnoses are made on the history, 8% on signs and 8% on investigations. Anyhow, the following can be pointers to deficiencies, but they do not apply in all cases.

See Relative contributions of history-taking, physical examination, and laboratory investigation to diagnosis and management of medical outpatients., Br Med J 1975;2:486

Everyone is deficient in some micronutrients these days - see Nutritional supplements - why we all need them

Symptoms ===> Nutritional Deficiencies


cold hands - magnesium deficiency, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue with low cardiac output


[So often people comment that nails get tough when they start taking Nutritional Supplements - what everybody should be taking all the time even if nothing is wrong. Many of the raw materials for nails are the same for bone and connective tissue - so nail health reflects bone and connective tissue health!]

white spots - mineral deficiency but often low zinc

ridges - zinc deficiency

soft or brittle nails - magnesium deficiency

bitten nails - general mineral deficiency


stretch marks - zinc deficiency

follicular hyperkeratosis - vitamin A deficiency

spontaneous bleeds - vitamins C or K or platelet deficiency. See Vitamin K

dry scaly skin with hair follicles plugged with coiled distorted hairs and a red halo - vitamin C deficiency

yellow palms - excessive beta carotene intake

pimply rough skin at the back of the upper arms "chicken skin" - essential fatty acid deficiency. See See VegEPA


pale fissured tongue - iron deficiency

sore painful fissured tongue - vitamin B3 deficiency

sore burning tongue and lips and peeling of lips - vitamin B2 deficiency

swollen tongue with lateral teeth indentations - food intolerance

painful sore tongue with a smooth appearance - folic acid deficiency

cracked lips - vitamin B2 deficiency, thrush


pyorrhoea - Co-Q10 deficiency

bleeding gums - vitamin C deficiency

gum disease - Co-Q10, folica acid, vitamin C deficiency

Angular cheilosis (splits in lips) - vitamin B2 deficiency, thrush

Skin of Face

greasy red scaly skin of face and sides of nose - vitamin B2 deficiency

seborrhoeic dermatitis around nose and an acne like forehead rash - vitamin B6 deficiency


Goitre, thyroid swelling - iodine deficiency


cataracts - chromium deficiency or excess free radicals - see Antioxidants

bags or dark rings under eyes - allergies or food intolerances

blue eyes and blond hair are often found in hyperactive male children - zinc magnesium, B6 and essential fatty acids deficiencies

blue eyes and premature grey hair - vitamin B12 deficiency - a feature of pernicious anaemia


thyroid swelling - iodine deficiency, hypothyroidism


any problem with the heart, including irregular beat, high blood pressure, cardiomegaly - magnesium and Co-Q10 deficiencies and sensitivity to caffeine. See Ischaemic Heart Disease - what really causes it?


tender calf muscles - magnesium deficiency

brisk knee reflexes - magnesium deficiency

Restless legs - mineral deficiency, tendency to be acidic - see Acid-Alkali balance

Clinical Histories ===> Nutritional Deficiencies / Other Causes

Nasal polyps

salicylate sensitivity

Catarrh, sinusitis

history of removal of tonsils or adenoids

See The catarrhal child - a cause of recurrent colds, ear infections, tonsillitis etc

Poor healing

zinc deficiency

Can't remember dreams

vitamin B6 deficiency

Sugar craving, blood sugar swings, low blood sugar

chromium deficiency, carbohydrate intolerance and gut fermentation syndrome

Pre-menstrual syndrome

magnesium, zinc and essential fatty acid deficiencies

See Pre-menstrual tension (PMT)

Glandular fever

inadequate liver detoxification mechanisms

Sensory symptoms

B12, B1, magnesium deficiencies

Mental symptoms

any B vitamin deficiency! Allergies, toxic stress.

Cervical dysplasia

vitamin B6 and folic acid deficiency


Boron and sulphur (MSM) deficiency

See Arthritis - Nutritional treatments


vitamin A deficiency

Persistent diarrhoea leading to fatigue

magnesium and potassium deficiencies

[Many diuretics cause magnesium and potassium deficiencies]

Muscle cramps

magnesium deficiency

Shaking hands

magnesium and vitamin B1 deficiencies


magnesium deficiency

See High blood pressure - causes of


magnesium deficiency

Sensitivity to light

magnesium deficiency


don't forget to think about magnesium

See Osteoporosis - practical nutritional considerations

High blood pressure in pregnancy

magnesium deficiency

Hair loss

thyroid, iron stores (must measure serum ferritin), biotin, zinc and essential fatty acid deficiencies

See Hair loss

Frequent colds

zinc and vitamin C deficiencies

Infertility, miscarriages and premature labour

zinc deficiency

See Infertility - a common problem usually badly treated

Poor sense of smell and taste

zinc deficiency

Poor vision or night blindness

zinc and vitamin A deficiencies

Dry eyes

vitamin A deficiency

Blocked nose with red wine

molybdenum deficiency

Any cancer or family history of cancer

selenium deficiency

See Cancer - the principles of prevention and treatment

Mercury amalgams in teeth

selenium and glutathione deficiencies

See Mercury - Toxicity of Dental Amalgam - Why you should have your dental amalgams removed


selenium deficiency

(This is Keshan Disease - see Wikipedia Entry for Keshan Disease)

Heart attacks

vitamin E deficiency

See Vitamin E, heart attacks and the Shute brothers

Hair loss, dandruff, eczema

Also excessive ear wax production, poor wound healing, excessive thirst (especially in hyperactive children), pre-menstrual symptoms of any sort.

essential fatty acid deficiency

Carpal tunnel syndrome

vitamin B6 deficiency

See Carpel tunnel syndrome - a cause of pain and tingling in the hands


vitamin B12 and hydrochloric acid deficiencies

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy

vitamin B12 deficiency

See Diabetes - how to prevent the complications

Being Elderly

low everything, especially vitamin Bs and HCI deficiencies

Persistent infections

vitamin C and zinc deficiencies

Being Vegan

vitamin B12, zinc and Fe deficiencies

Taking the contraceptive pill and HRT

can cause an increase in copper levels and zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 deficiencies

See The serious complications of taking the Pill and HRT

Parkinsonism/Multiple sclerosis

glutathione deficiency

See Treatment of Degenerative Neurological Conditions such as Parkinson's Disease (PD), Alzheimer's, Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob's

Important Vitamin and Mineral Pages

Please do read these pages as well -

My Groundhog Regimes

I have developed general strategies for good health, and for dealing with both acute and chronic infections and much of this involves good nutritional status. Please see:

Related Articles

External Links


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