With age, one common problem that most seniors face is that of nutritional deficiency, also called anemia. Basically, this is a result of lack of certain vitamins and minerals. The usual cause happens to be not having a balanced diet. In fact, this may also be an indirect result of issues with teeth. When there are issues with teeth, one may not be able to eat well, especially certain food items. This, in turn, can result in nutritional deficiencies.
Nutritional deficiency leads to many other health problems, like low hemoglobin and low red blood cell count leading to a general weakness and lethargy. Hence, especially for elders, it is important to understand nutritional deficiency and its symptoms, so that precautions and necessary treatment can be taken in time.
Types of nutritional deficiency
Lack of iron, called iron deficiency anemia is the most common nutritional deficiency. The other types are the Vitamin deficiency anemia due to lack of Vitamin B12, B9 (folate). Lack of Vitamin C aids this as Vitamin C helps with nutrient absorption. Per se, lack of nutrients in the diet, also cause this condition as well as any medical condition that makes it hard for the body to absorb the nutrients.
This condition happens when the body doesn’t receive enough iron as part of the diet. Also, if there is any medical condition that prevents the body from absorbing nutrients, this can happen. Women who bleed heavily during their menstrual cycles can also have iron deficiency. This results in unusually small red blood cells or a low count of the same.
A person with iron deficiency anemia will appear to have pale skin, will be fatigued and have a general lethargy, experience shortness of breath and may also have palpitations of the heart.
Apart from the above symptoms, the person may also have a headache, tinnitus, itchiness, sore tongue, change in taste sensations, hair loss, and depression. In women who are still menstruating, it may affect their cycles.
Prevention or treatment
The body gets its requisite dose of iron from our food. The food we eat mainly contains two types of iron, the heme variety as well as the non-heme variety. The heme variety is only found in meat and the non-heme variety, in plant-based foods. But the non-heme variety is not always easily absorbed. Hence, vegetarians need to take special care to ensure that they get their regular dose of iron. A doctor may prescribe iron tablets for a certain period to help make up for the deficiency.
For non-vegetarians, eating meat and seafood can provide a good dose of iron. For vegetarians, seeds like flaxseeds, beans and lentils, dried vegetables like the lotus stem, leafy vegetables like spinach, amaranth, dry fruits and nuts like cashew, almonds, dates, and apricots, and many Indian spices like turmeric, aamchoor(dry mango powder), tamarind, and cumin contain iron. Vitamin C foods, aid in the nutrient absorption.
Vitamin deficiency anemia
This happens when the body has less of Vitamin B12 or B9. As in the iron deficiency, it is also possible that the body is not able to absorb the same due to some issues.
The most common symptoms seen in this type of deficiency are fatigue and lack of energy, weakness of muscles, tingling or needle sensations, sore tongue, mouth ulcers, depression or confusion, memory issues and vision issues. Complications arising out of this can result in nervous system disorders, heart problems, and infertility.
Prevention or treatment
A doctor may conduct necessary tests and determine the cause and suggest possible treatment with supplements and fortified foods. But the best way is to ensure that the regular diet contains the requisite amount of Vitamins needed. For non-vegetarians, beef liver, salmon, hard boiled egg, etc. can help with the deficiency. For vegetarians, there are options like Swiss Cheese, low-fat milk, spinach, avocado, and banana. These can fortify with Vitamin B12 or the folate deficiency.
Since Vitamin C consumption helps in nutrient absorption, eating red peppers, oranges, strawberries, and broccoli can help too.