Vitamin And Mineral Deficiency

Vitamin deficiency symptoms

  • Vitamin A – Night blindness, dry eyes, rough dry skin and hair, acne, allergies, poor immunity, poor sense of taste and smell.
  • Vitamin B1 – Depression, irritability, poor concentration, memory problems, confusion, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, sleep disturbances, fatigue, abdominal and chest pains, shortness of breath, rapid pulse, ankle swelling.
  • Vitamin B2 – Soreness and burning of the lips and tongue, cracking and peeling of the lips, red greasy and scaly skin on the face, eye irritation, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, watering eyes, burning feet.
  • Vitamin B3 – Irritability, headache, loss of memory, emotional instability, dementia, fatigue, scaly dermatitis in sun-exposed areas of skin, sore, painful or fissured tongue, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, indigestion, muscle weakness, insomnia.
  • Vitamin B6 – Irritability, insomnia, weakness, confusion, red scaly and greasy dermatitis of the skin around the nose, eyes and mouth, acne-like rash (especially on the forehead), sore tongue, loss of appetite, weight loss, cracking at the corners of the mouth, anemia, low blood sugar, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), nerve damage.
  • Vitamin B12 – Anemia causing fatigue, shortness of breath and pallor, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, clumsiness and difficulty walking (especially at night in the dark), confusion, depression, double vision, sore and/or pale smooth tongue, fatigue, poor appetite, weight loss.
  • Folic acid – Anemia causing tiredness, pallor and shortness of breath, painful sore tongue with a smooth appearance, depression, peripheral nerve damage, diarrhea.
  • Vitamin C – Dry scaly skin, hair loss, skin cancer, increased risk of cancer, increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, reduced immune function, increased risk of SIDS, easy bruising, bleeding swollen gums, fatigue, increased susceptibility to many types of infection, depression.
  • Vitamin D – Rickets in children causing poor growth and skeletal deformities, osteomalacia in adults causing muscle weakness, bone pain and tenderness, insomnia, nervousness.
  • Vitamin E – Gait disturbances, muscle wasting, chronic liver disease, poor immunity.
  • Vitamin K – Bleeding disorders, hemorrhages, bone abnormalities, decreased vitality, premature aging.
  • Essential fatty acids – Dry skin, dandruff, hair loss, eczema-like skin lesions, poor wound healing, depigmentation of the skin, excessive thirst, kidney failure, reproductive failure (especially in men), withering of salivary, tear and pancreas glands, fragile capillaries, impaired growth, visual clouding, mental disturbances, diarrhea, impaired immune response, respiratory tract infections, gallstones.

When to take nutritional supplements

If you are going to supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals it is vital to know when and how to take them, to both extract the most value from them and avoid gastrointestinal upset.

  • Iron supplements are the most commonly taken supplements by women and are often very poorly absorbed, producing black colored bowel actions, stomach cramps and constipation. We recommend you take only organic iron supplements such as amino acid chelates of iron. To greatly improve absorption and tolerance, take your iron supplement with fresh citrus fruits and swallow it with a small glass of water containing one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Do not take your iron supplement with cereal fiber and indeed, iron supplements are best taken away from meal times (e.g. one hour before or after meals). Iron absorption is decreased by high intakes of tannins in tea and coffee and antacids like ‘Mylanta’.
  • Calcium will work best if you take it with vitamin D and oils such as fatty fish (e.g. salmon, tuna, sardines) or essential fatty acids such as evening primrose oil and cod liver oil. Adequate gastric acid is required to absorb calcium, and in perimenopausal women it is a good idea to take your calcium supplement with a small glass of water containing one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to increase absorption.
  • Zinc supplements are best taken at the beginning of meals, as if they are taken on an empty stomach they may cause nausea. Do not take zinc tablets with iron or calcium, as absorption of all three may be reduced.
  • The fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K) are best taken at the beginning of meals that contain some fat e.g. meat, chicken, eggs or vegetable oils.
  • The water soluble vitamins (vitamin B-complex and vitamin C) are generally absorbed with or without food. The B vitamins enhance absorption of zinc, and vitamin C enhances absorption of iron. In those with pernicious anemia, vitamin B12 can only be absorbed by injection.
  • Multi-vitamins usually contain a mixture of many different vitamins, minerals and herbs all compressed into a large tablet. To improve absorption, take them at the beginning of meals and swallow them with a small glass of water containing one to two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar.
  • Essential fatty acid supplements (evening primrose oil, star flower oil, fish oils) are generally best taken at the beginning of meals. Those with gallbladder or liver disease will need to take smaller doses of essential fatty acids, as higher doses may cause nausea, abdominal cramping or diarrhea. Alternatively, if fatty acid supplements upset you, you can get them in your diet through eating fish and by grinding linseeds (flax seeds), sunflower seeds and almonds into a fine powder. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons onto your food every day and this should not cause any digestive upsets.
  • Garlic capsules or cloves are best taken at the beginning of meals, as this will reduce the chances of gastric irritation. Spirulina and other food supplements such as royal jelly, lecithin, amino acid complex, barley and wheatgrass extracts, brewer’s yeast and kelp are best taken at the beginning of meals.
  • Herbal tinctures and capsules are also best taken with at least a small amount of food.


Selenium is the most important mineral for the immune system to function at its optimal level; indeed, without adequate selenium in your body, your immune system will remain vulnerable to attack. It’s amazing to think that despite the profound importance of selenium to a strong immune system, many people remain deficient in this life enhancing mineral. Yes, selenium deficiency is common in people of all age groups from the very young to the very old.

What are the symptoms and consequences of selenium deficiency?

  • Frequent colds and flu
  • Increased susceptibility to infections of all types
  • Incurable warts
  • Increased risk of autoimmune disease
  • Increased incidence of inflammatory problems
  • Increased risk of thyroid disease, including thyroid cancer
  • Higher mortality rates from HIV (AIDS)
  • Higher morbidity rates from chronic viral hepatitis (types B & C)
  • Increased incidence of many different types of cancer, especially breast, prostate, colon and lung

The above consequences seem very serious; indeed, most people get a shock that something as simple as selenium can be associated with such a diverse and significant range of common health problems. Let me assure you that medical doctors don’t learn this at medical school!

But it’s not really that surprising if you understand how selenium works in the body and how it can even protect the deepest part of your body’s cells – the nucleus which contains the genes (DNA).

Selenium is a powerful antioxidant and it enhances the antioxidant effects of vitamin E and zinc. Selenium is a great protector and detoxifier – this is because it is required for the production of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme necessary for detoxification and protection of the body against free radical damage. Free radicals are capable of causing serious damage to cells – they damage membranes and the DNA, speed up the aging process, and increase the risk of cancer and heart disease. Selenium helps to minimize this damage. Exposure to environmental toxins increases your requirement for selenium. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol lowers your body’s reserves of selenium. Download my free e-book ‘Selenium – The Great Protector‘.

Selenium can protect your health in three significant ways:

  1. Selenium and your immune system
    Research has proven that selenium deficiency suppresses your immune system and makes you more prone to infections, especially viral infections. Viruses replicate more easily in selenium deficient people. For this reason, selenium is sometimes called the “viral birth control pill”.
    Studies have shown that elderly people who are given a supplement of selenium show improved lymphocyte action; lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell. In people with HIV/AIDS, selenium levels have been found to decline as the disease progresses. Selenium supplementation may improve survival in these people. Individuals who are deficient in selenium are more prone to developing allergic conditions such as asthma and autoimmune disease. One study done on 24 asthmatics and lasting 14 weeks showed that people who received selenium supplements experienced a significant improvement in asthma symptoms compared to people not taking selenium. Selenium supplementation also helps autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s disease.
  2. Selenium and cancer
    Selenium has been found to reduce the risk of several types of cancer. Laboratory experiments, clinical trials and epidemiological data have all proven selenium’s role in cancer prevention. Selenium has been shown to stimulate apoptosis (cell death) in tumor cells, and a low selenium status predicts a poorer outcome in those with certain cancers. Geographic studies have shown that people who live in areas with selenium deficient soils and have a low selenium intake, have higher cancer mortality rates. A key cancer study conducted over 7 years found that selenium treatment was associated with reductions in total cancer mortality and in the incidences of lung, colorectal and prostate cancers. Research has shown that men consuming the most dietary selenium develop 65% fewer cases of advanced prostate cancer than men with the lowest selenium intake. Laboratory studies also indicate the potentially beneficial role of selenium in the management of breast cancer.
    Encouragingly, for cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy, selenium supplementation can reduce the side-effects of these drugs. After 2-3 months of supplementation, the frequencies of hair-loss, nausea, abdominal pain, weakness and appetite loss are significantly lower than in those who do not receive selenium treatment.
  3. Selenium and your thyroid gland
    Selenium is required for the production, activation and metabolism of thyroid hormone. A healthy thyroid gland contains more selenium per gram than any other tissue in the body. Selenium is required by the enzyme that converts T4 thyroid hormone into its active form, T3. If you are deficient in selenium you will not be able to manufacture sufficient T3 and you may experience the symptoms of an under active thyroid gland, such as fatigue, easy weight gain, depression and scalp hair loss. A selenium deficiency can contribute to the development of autoimmune thyroid disease, such as Hashimoto’s disease, Graves’ disease and post partum thyroiditis. Selenium has an anti inflammatory effect and can inhibit the production of antibodies against the thyroid gland in autoimmune thyroid disease.

How to get enough selenium for good health

The selenium content of food is directly related to how much selenium was in the soil where the food was grown. Many areas of the world have selenium deficient soils, including most of Australia and New Zealand. Normally selenium is found in organ meats, seafood, Brazil nuts, whole grains, brewer’s yeast, garlic, kelp, molasses, onions and medicinal mushrooms (reishi and Shiitake). However, because selenium levels in the soil are unreliable, it is virtually impossible to obtain enough selenium through diet alone.

Selenium supplements come in organic and inorganic form. Organic supplements are in the form selenomethionine; inorganic selenium comes as selenite and sodium selenite. Selenomethionine is better absorbed by the body with reports of up to twice the bio-availability of selenite.

Can selenium become toxic?

Generally speaking selenium is very safe, as it is an essential nutrient for all animals; however, just because it’s good for you, does not mean the more you take the better off you will be. Like all nutrients we do not need to overdose and if you overdose on selenium, you can get side effects.

The effects of selenium overdose include: brittle hair and nails, gastrointestinal upset, skin rashes, fatigue and irritability.

The toxic dose is considered to be over 800 mcg daily for several months – there is no reason to take these huge amounts and generally speaking, overdose comes from industrial pollution. The organic form of selenium (selenomethionine) is more easily used by the body and the inorganic form (selenite) is more likely to cause side effects if you overdose on it. A beneficial and safe daily dose of selenium in adults is 100 mcg to 200 mcg and it’s always good to get professional advice.

Recommended dietary intake for selenium

Life Stage
Females (mcg/day)
Males (mcg/day)
0-6 months
7-12 months
1-3 years
4-8 years
9-13 years
14-18 years

Tolerable upper intake level for selenium

Age Group
Infants 0-6 months
Infants 7-12 months
Children 1-3 years
Children 4-8 years
Children 9-13 years
Adolescents 14-18 years
Adults 19 years plus


If you are an adult, you may need to take 200 mcg daily for several months to build up your body’s stores to optimal levels.

The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) sets the tolerable upper level for selenium at 400 mcg daily in adults – this upper limit includes selenium obtained from food, which averages around 100 mcg/day for adults in the USA, as well as from supplements. At this stage, there is insufficient data to estimate average selenium intake in Australians; however, studies done in New Zealand show intakes as low as 28 mcg/day. New Zealand and Australian soils are similarly selenium deficient.

Recommended books

Recommended supplements for vitamin and mineral deficiency

The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.


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