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! 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 80% of diagnoses are made on the history, 6% on signs and 6% on investigations (although they didn't say how the other 8% was accounted for!) Anyhow, the following can be pointers to deficiencies, but they do not apply in all cases.


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


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

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


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


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


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

The following problems can suggest particular deficiencies or allergies:

Nasal polyps - salicylate sensitivity

Catarrh, sinusitis, history of removal of tonsils or adenoids - milk intolerance

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

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

Arthritis - Boron and sulphur (MSM) deficiency

Measles - 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

Hypertension - magnesium deficiency

Dysphagia - magnesium deficiency

Sensitivity to light - magnesium deficiency

Osteoporosis - don't forget to think about magnesium

High blood pressure in pregnancy - magnesium deficiency

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

Frequent colds - zinc and vitamin C deficiencies

Infertility, miscarriages and premature labour - zinc deficiency

Poor sense of smell and taste - zinc deficiency

Poor vision or night blindness - zinc and vitamin A deficiencies

Dry eyes - vitamin A deficiency

The contraceptive pill and HRT can cause an increase in copper levels and zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 deficiencies

Blocked nose with red wine - molybdenum deficiency

Any cancer or family history of cancer - selenium deficiency

Mercury amalgams in teeth - selenium and glutathione deficiencies

Cardiomyopathies (Keshan Disease) - selenium deficiency

Heart attacks - vitamin E deficiency (Shute brothers)

Hair loss, dandruff, eczema, 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

Vegans - vitamin B12, zinc and Fe deficiencies

Gastrectomy - vitamin B12 and hydrochloric acid deficiencies

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy - vitamin B12 deficiency

Elderly - low everything, especially vitamin Bs and HCI deficiencies

Persistent infections vitamin C and zinc deficiencies

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