Many Australian women suffer from at least one vitamin or mineral deficiency.
Some are more serious than others, having consequences for fertility, mental health, bone strength, pain, and immune function.
Watch: The most common nutritional deficiencies for women. (Post continues after video.)
Interestingly, there are a number of physical symptoms of such deficiencies that aren’t widely known – meaning some people suffer for years before finding out their symptoms are related to a health issue that could be easily combated.
Of course, if you think you might have a deficiency, it’s important to consult your GP. But there are a few warning signs we should all be looking out for.
Pale lips can be a sign of iron deficiency – a deficiency particularly common among young women, due to chronic blood loss during menstruation. Over one million Australians suffer from iron deficiency or anaemia, which can cause tiredness, fatigue and breathlessness.
Other physical symptoms include bruising easily and a sore or swollen tongue. (Post continues after gallery.)
Here’s what you should eat if you’re low in iron:
- Red meat: Beef, pork, lamb and veal.
- Beef and chicken liver.
- Fish: Sardines, oysters, shellfish and mussels.
- Legumes: Lima beans, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, baked beans and lentils.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, green peas, kale and spinach.
A rash that won’t go away.
If you have a rash that just won’t go away, it could be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency. B12 deficiency has also been linked to dermatitis, and changes in skin pigmentation and irritation, as well as cracks in the corners of the mouth.
Other symptoms include light sensitivity, anaemia, throat swelling and soreness, and a swollen tongue.
Foods rich in vitamin B12 include:
- Sun-dried tomatoes
Iodine deficiency can cause puffy eyes, which persist all day long. This deficiency is a global health issue, affecting over two billion people. At severe levels, brain damage can result.
Other symptoms include slowed brain function, slowed metabolism, and cysts.
Here's what you should eat if you're low in iodine:
- Shell fish
- Cheddar cheese
A vitamin C deficiency can be the cause of excessive bruising. Even a minor deficiency can cause a person to bruise more easily than usual.
Bleeding gums are also a common sign of vitamin C deficiency, as is dry hair and skin, and infections that won't heal.
Other symptoms include fatigue, mood changes, weight loss, and joint and muscle aches.
The following foods are particularly high in vitamin C:
- Chilli peppers
Dry bumps on arms.
An omega 3 deficiency has a number of skin-related symptoms - such as small bumps on the upper arms and legs.
Omega 3 deficiency is generally related to dryness in the skin - so can manifest in dry, straw-like hair, brittle nails, dandruff and dry eyes.
Other symptoms include an inability to concentrate, depression, anxiety and mood swings.
These are the foods you might need more of if you're deficient in omega 3 fats:
- Seafood: Fish oil, fish roe, tuna and smoked salmon
- Vegetables: Spinach and brocolli
- Chia seeds
- Eggs (specifically the yolk)
It's important to always seek medical advice if you suspect you might have a vitamin or mineral deficiency - but keep an eye out for some of the visible signs. Sometimes they're symptoms of something far more severe.