Mineral deficiency is the lack of iron, fluorine and other minerals. It is usually harmless, but can also lead to various problems if left untreated.
What is mineral deficiency?
Mineral deficiency refers to the lack of vital minerals. These include iron, iodine, fluoride, zinc, chromium, copper, and molybdenum. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Mineral Deficiency.
They are needed by the organism to ensure important functions such as muscle growth and the ability to think. They also control various processes in the human body.
A deficiency is therefore very dangerous and can lead to a wide variety of secondary diseases such as soft bones, cellulite and hair loss. Mental illnesses such as depression and severe malaise can also be the result of mineral deficiencies.
Mineral deficiency has many causes. It is often caused by an incorrect and unbalanced diet or one-sided diets. The consumption of ready meals is a common cause as they contain hardly any minerals and nutrients.
Heavy sweating can also cause the symptoms. Likewise diarrhea and vomiting, anorexia or abuse of laxatives. Furthermore, mineral deficiencies are often a result of alcoholism.
This is because alcohol slows down the absorption of electrolytes, which sooner or later leads to a deficiency. A clear sign is the nocturnal calf cramp. Finally, mineral deficiency can also be caused by the excessive intake of diuretics, as important minerals are excreted with the urine.
In addition to these causes, there are a number of diseases that can cause a mineral deficiency. These include diabetes and various kidney diseases. Disturbances of the hormonal balance unbalance the production of minerals and also cause a deficiency.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Mineral deficiencies can manifest themselves in a variety of symptoms. It depends on which mineral is not at physiological level and how severe the deficiency is. Since minerals have different functions in the body, the symptoms of mineral deficiency are also different. Some typical deficiency symptoms are shown below as an example.
Disorders of muscle and nerve function are classic signs of magnesium deficiency. The spectrum ranges from nocturnal calf cramps to tachycardia and cardiac arrhythmia to restlessness and nervousness as well as anxiety attacks. The performance of affected persons is therefore often located both in the physical and in the psychological area.
Like magnesium, potassium also has an important influence on heart activity. A deficiency can also cause an accelerated heartbeat or heart palpitations. In addition, cramps and paralysis, circulatory problems or tingling in certain areas of the body are possible signs of a potassium deficiency. In the area of digestion, this can also cause constipation.
Iron deficiency is also common in the population and leads to classic symptoms. A key symptom in this context is striking paleness, which is often a sign of marked anemia. Other signs of iron deficiency are tiredness and a drop in performance. Shivering, headaches and shortness of breath are also typical symptoms of iron deficiency. In the area of the cardiovascular system, dizziness and palpitations are possible consequences of iron deficiency.
Diagnosis & History
A mineral deficiency can be diagnosed based on a wide variety of symptoms. This includes, for example, reduced performance, which is associated with concentration disorders. Sleep disorders can also occur and make the symptoms even worse.
Skin and mucous membrane changes can also occur. Tooth decay is caused by a lack of iron and indigestion is also a cause of mineral deficiencies. Long-term deficiency can cause nerve and muscle damage as well as coagulation disorders. The same applies to anemia and pathological changes in the mucous membrane. The complexion itself can also change and dry out, for example.
In addition, each mineral fulfills very specific tasks and can therefore cause a wide variety of complaints. Iodine deficiency is particularly risky and can be recognized by growth disorders in children .
In order to make the exact diagnosis, the doctor first takes the patient’s medical history. This can be followed by physical examinations. Blood counts may also be examined. Likewise the teeth and the skin. Normally, the diagnosis can be made quickly and treatment of the mineral deficiency can be initiated. The course of a mineral deficiency is usually harmless. Normally, slight symptoms such as cramps in the legs or depression disappear again after taking the appropriate minerals.
However, if too few minerals are taken in over a longer period of time, this can have serious consequences. In addition to the secondary diseases mentioned, such as caries and cellulite, a deficiency can also have fatal consequences. Important salts such as sodium in particular should therefore be taken directly with food or in the form of dietary supplements. Special drinks with electrolytes and other minerals are also useful.
As a rule, the further course of a mineral deficiency depends very much on the cause and on the mineral in which the deficiency is present. For this reason no general prediction can be made. However, the mineral deficiency always has a negative effect on the health of the patient and should therefore always be avoided.
Complications from mineral deficiencies usually only occur if they persist over a long period of time or are severe. Those affected may suffer from headaches or insomnia. Digestive disorders are also not uncommon, as are coordination and concentration disorders. The quality of life is significantly reduced by the lack of minerals.
Those affected appear tired and listless and the patient’s resilience is greatly reduced. In some cases, the lack of minerals can also lead to anemia, which also has a very negative effect on the person concerned’s everyday life. In children, this deficiency can lead to growth disorders and thus to impaired development. As a rule, the mineral deficiency can be remedied relatively easily, so that further complications do not arise. In the case of tooth decay, it must be treated by a dentist.
When should you go to the doctor?
Whether you should go to the doctor for a mineral deficiency depends essentially on its severity and the resulting symptoms. Nevertheless, it makes sense to visit as soon as a defect is suspected. Because many diseases have symptoms similar to those of a mineral deficiency, it is advisable for a doctor to differentiate between them. For example, iron deficiency can cause the same fatigue that causes a serious infection. Potassium deficiency can cause heart palpitations and palpitations, which can also indicate panic attacks or heart disease. A precise clarification is therefore important in order to work out the cause of a symptom and to be able to compensate for a mineral deficiency in a targeted manner at an early stage.
Later, after the diagnosis, there are two main reasons for seeing a doctor. If a serious mineral deficiency is compensated for by therapy, the success of the treatment should be checked. The diagnostics, for example the iron values (ferritin, hemoglobin) can allow a statement if a substitution with minerals can be stopped. Another point for the doctor’s visit is the patient’s doubts as to whether mineral supplements are actually stored in the body. Intestinal diseases, for example, can make the absorption of minerals significantly more difficult. If the patient’s symptoms do not improve or even worsen as a result of mineral supplements, this is a reason for going to the doctor again.
Treatment & Therapy
Therapy for mineral deficiencies is primarily based on supplying the missing minerals. If there is a fluorine deficiency, appropriate tablets or other preparations can be administered as with an iodine or iron deficiency.
If the symptoms are only minor, it is often sufficient to balance the mineral balance by eating the appropriate foods. However, if damage has already occurred, further measures must be taken.
For example, tooth decay caused by a lack of fluoride must be treated by a dentist, while damaged skin should be examined by a dermatologist. If psychological problems have already arisen as a result of the deficiency, a psychiatrist may have to be consulted.
In many cases it is sufficient to change the diet. Raw food is an important factor in compensating for a mineral deficiency and reducing mental and physical ailments.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis for a mineral deficiency depends on the missing minerals and the duration of the deficiency. With all forms of mineral deficiencies, no lasting health problems are to be expected if they are corrected quickly. The human body can cope well with a temporary lack of certain substances such as iron, magnesium or sodium.
It becomes problematic when the mineral deficiency has existed for a long time and has already damaged the organism. Again, the prognosis is good with treatment, but organ and nerve damage can be permanent. Thyroid problems as a result of iodine deficiency are somewhat more difficult to treat and can lead to long-term damage due to hormonal changes. On the other hand, other ailments caused by mineral deficiencies, such as anemia, skin problems and lack of concentration, can be repaired.
The prognosis is therefore usually very good in the case of a mineral deficiency. In countries with good medical care and a wide range of food, the diagnosis of a mineral deficiency is already the first step towards improvement. The prospect of overcoming the deficiency is poor only if the required minerals are not available. A metabolic disorder that prevents or impedes the absorption of certain substances can also worsen the prognosis.
Mineral deficiencies can be prevented by making sure you get all the essential minerals. Healthy people achieve this through a balanced diet based on the food pyramid. People suffering from alcoholism may need to be treated intravenously to prevent deficiency. You should also consult a doctor who monitors the mineral balance and intervenes directly at the first sign of a deficiency. The same applies to people suffering from diabetes or vomiting.
Athletes who sweat a lot should adapt their diet to the higher nutrient consumption and possibly take food supplements. This should also be done in consultation with a specialist. A balanced diet can effectively prevent mineral deficiencies.
Follow-up care aims to prevent the mineral deficiency from reoccurring. After a successful initial therapy, this is usually the responsibility of the patient. He chooses a suitable diet. Fish, meat, poultry and nuts are best suited to meet the need. But vitamins are also a must on the menu.
Consume several servings of fruit and vegetables daily. A mineral deficiency due to an unbalanced diet, an operation, pregnancy or competitive sports can be counteracted with the measures listed. A doctor diagnoses mineral deficiencies through blood tests.
In addition, the typical complaints provide an indication. Longer follow-up care is usually necessary if a gastrointestinal disease or a tumor is causing the deficiency. Substitutes should be taken as directed. Regular blood tests follow. Complications cannot be prevented. The timing of the diagnosis is crucial for the success of a treatment.
The earlier the deficiency is detected, the better the prognosis. Therefore, people with persistent tiredness, constant headaches and permanent concentration difficulties should consult a doctor. This is especially true for patients who have previously suffered from mineral deficiencies.
You can do that yourself
If you suspect a mineral deficiency, you should first talk to your family doctor. The doctor will primarily recommend a change in diet.
A healthy and balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grain products and fish or lean meat is usually enough to quickly provide the body with all the minerals it needs. Regular exercise and enough sleep support the diet and strengthen the immune system. If the lack of minerals has already caused damage, further measures must be taken. For example, a dentist should be consulted in the event of tooth decay, while damaged skin is best examined by a dermatologist.
As self-help, counteracting the symptoms through hygiene measures and a healthy lifestyle is recommended. Sometimes home remedies help too. A classic cucumber mask can help with skin problems. For tooth decay, cloves or turmeric can be tried. Psychological complaints are best dealt with through coping strategies and discussions with a therapist. Sometimes a break from work or contact with new people helps. Valerian, lavender, sage and other natural remedies can be used for stress and anxiety.