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Women's Health: Five Common Nutrient Deficiencies to Watch Out For

Meeting nutritional needs is important for women throughout their lives, as their requirements can change with different life stages – from menstruation to menopause. These changes may make women more prone to certain nutrient deficiencies. While many factors can contribute to these deficiencies, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is a reliable way to make sure your body gets the nutrients it needs to function optimally. To help you stay mindful of potential deficiencies throughout womanhood, below are five of the most common nutrient deficiencies women face and how to manage them with a whole-foods, plant-based approach.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is one of the eight B vitamins essential for converting carbohydrates, protein and fat into energy. It can help to regulate our emotions and enhance cognitive function, mental health, and physical well-being by supporting neurotransmitter formation.

Also, Vitamin B6 may improve hormonal balance by raising progesterone levels and decreasing oestrogen levels, potentially alleviating PMS symptoms like anxiety, depression, and irritability. Importantly, it can facilitate the absorption of Vitamin B12, needed for forming red blood cells and immune cells, which may reduce tiredness and fatigue.

Recent research highlights an increasing prevalence of vitamin B6 deficiency among UK women, potentially causing hormonal imbalances, anaemia, cognitive decline and skin disorders. To mitigate these risks, incorporating B6-rich foods is important.

According to NHS guidelines, women aged 19 to 64 require 1.2 mg of Vitamin B6 daily, and plant-based sources of Vitamin B6 include chickpeas, whole grains, dark leafy greens, bananas, carrots, potatoes, sunflower seeds, walnuts, avocados, pulses, beans, and lentils.

For a convenient way to stay on top of Vitamin B6 levels, consider our new Beet Balance Juice Shot, providing 100% of your recommended daily intake to support overall health and well-being, especially for busy lifestyles.

Vitamin B9

Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is vital for DNA formation and repair, preventing neural tube defects, and producing red blood cells. It may be particularly important for women of childbearing age to reduce the risk of birth defects and for post-menopausal women to potentially lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Folate can support brain function and mental well-being by regulating dopamine and serotonin levels, potentially easing symptoms of depression.

Vitamin B9 deficiency can cause tongue swelling, mouth sores, greying hair, irritability, and gastrointestinal issues, and prolonged deficiency can lead to anaemia, causing persistent fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.

Research has shown that Vitamin B9 levels are decreasing in women in the UK, making it pertinent to stay on top of your intake. In accordance with NHS guidelines, women require 200 micrograms of Vitamin B9 daily, with pregnant women requiring 400 micrograms to reduce possible developmental issues.

Plant-based sources of Vitamin B9 include leafy greens, oranges, lentils, beans, and brown rice, and for an easy way to boost your folate intake and support your overall well-being, try our Beet Balance Juice Shot, which contains a source of folic acid.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin needed for metabolising fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, creating red blood cells and supporting the brain and nervous system. Our bodies need B12 for optimal function but cannot produce it, so we must obtain it from our daily diet or supplements.

B12 absorption is more complex than other vitamins as it requires a protein called intrinsic factor. In a condition known as pernicious anaemia, the immune system attacks the cells in the stomach lining that synthesise intrinsic factors, hindering the absorption of Vitamin B12.

Research has found that pernicious anaemia is more common in women, possibly putting them at a higher risk of deficiency. Symptoms of B12 deficiency can include fatigue, a swollen and sore mouth and tongue, mood irregularities, and dizziness.

In line with NHS guidelines, women need 1.6 micrograms of B12 per day and some plant-based sources of B12 include chlorella, seaweed, and fermented soy, however, supplementation is another consideration to meet daily needs, particularly if you are following a vegan diet. Our Turmeric Recovery Juice Shot provides 100% of the recommended daily intake of B12 to keep you covered.

Iron

Iron is a well-renowned micronutrient required for the normal functioning of our bodies as whole. It is a major component of red blood cells, where it aids in the formation of haemoglobin, a protein that serves the vital function of transporting oxygen to our cells, supporting various functions including immunity, cognitive health and muscle function.

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide, with women at high risk due to menstruation and the increased demands during pregnancy. Symptoms of iron deficiency include dizziness, fatigue, weakened cognitive function, shortness of breath, and general weakness.

Consistent with NHS guidelines, the recommended daily intake is 14.8 mg for women aged 19 to 49, and 8.7 mg required for women aged 50 and over. Key plant-based sources of iron include beans, seeds, dark leafy greens, figs, prunes, beetroots, nuts, quinoa, pulses, and lentils.

Top tip: maximise iron absorption by pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin C, such as adding lemon juice to cooked spinach.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin crucial for absorbing minerals like calcium and phosphate from food, which are required for healthy teeth and bone formation. On the flip side, it functions as a steroid hormone, aiding in cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and glucose metabolism.

Our body produces vitamin D in two main ways: through dietary intake and when our skin is exposed to sunlight, hence its nickname “sunshine vitamin.”

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include bone pain, brittle bones, fatigue, muscle pain, mood irregularities, and delayed wound healing and to prevent deficiency, the NHS recommends a daily intake of 10 micrograms per day, which applies to women who are pregnant or breast-feeding as well.

Plant-based sources of Vitamin D2 include chlorella, sunflower seeds, and mushrooms, which synthesise vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

Top tip: bear in mind that Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it absorbs best when taken alongside dietary fat. To maximise absorption, pair your vitamin D supplement with foods rich in healthy fats (nuts and seeds are easy wins!). For a convenient option, try our new Mango Sunshine Juice Shot, providing 100% of your daily vitamin D in one delicious serving.

 

Author: Plenish Nutritionist, Katie Morley

DipNT, mBANT, mANP, CNHC

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.holsome.uk