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Photo: iStockphoto

Reboot your body

Bleeding gums? Cracked heels? These could be signs you are not getting enough minerals and vitamins

Often, our body tries to tell us when things are not okay. Most people, however, tend to ignore these silent clues, like a recurring fever or tingling pain, and thereby the underlying problems, which could be anything from nutrient or mineral deficiency to a low-grade infection, a urinary tract infection, or tuberculosis.

Here’s a ready reckoner of the signs we often miss, and what they could be signalling.

CONSTIPATION

Magnesium helps boost immunity, keeps the heart healthy, and plays an important role in muscle function. Its deficiency can lead to constipation, as it is needed to retain water in the colon to help soften stools, relax the intestine muscles and improve peristalsis (a series of wave-like muscle contractions that move food in the digestive tract).

Eat this: Include dark leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds and soya in your diet.

BLEEDING GUMS

Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen, a protein that helps keep the skin firm and supple, and constantly renews skin cells. Lack of this vitamin leads to early haemorrhagic tendency (quick breakdown of body tissues), and shows up promptly as bleeding from gums during brushing.

Besides vitamin C deficiency, smoking, alcohol consumption, and use of steroids and antidepressants can result in bleeding gums.

Eat this: Quit smoking and drinking, and include fruits like guavas, oranges and ‘amla’ (Indian gooseberry) in your diet.

CRACKED HEELS

Cracked heels can mean more than just lack of proper skin moisturization or general wear and tear. Many a time, deficiency of vitamin B3 results in a condition called pellagra, which results in dry, scaly, cracked skin, evident most often as fissures on the heels.

Eat this: Get vitamin B3 from peanuts, brown rice and green leafy vegetables.

SLEEP DISORDERS

Deficiency in vitamin D is not connected just to brittle bones and depression. Research says it could also be responsible for lack of sleep, even insomnia. Getting enough vitamin D actually keeps our sleep/wake cycle on track, increasing the output of the sleep hormone melatonin in the body.

Eat this: Vitamin D is produced naturally in the body if you spend time in the sun. Try to spend at least half an hour daily soaking in the sun, between 8-10am. Supplementation may be necessary if the levels are really low. Include fortified foods, like milk and cereals, in your diet.

BRAIN FOG

Brain fog, commonly known as brain fatigue, shows up as confusion, forgetfulness, lack of focus, poor memory recall and reduced mental clarity.

Continued stress is the most common cause of your brain slowing down, but vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute too. That’s because B12 supports myelin, a sheath-like material that forms an insulating and protective coating around nerve fibres. Myelin is vital for the normal functioning of the nervous system. Deficiency of this vitamin may lead to brain fog and, in the long run, dementia.

Eat this: This vitamin is found in very few foods. These include eggs, fish (mackerel, salmon, tuna) and dairy products like cheese.

MUSCLE CRAMPS

Muscle fatigue due to too much exercise or poor blood circulation could result in a cramp. But if you suffer from cramps often, it could be a sign of vitamin B deficiency.

Eat this: Include salmon, tuna, bananas, potatoes (with skin), sunflower seeds, broccoli, nuts and corn in your diet.

CRACKS ON THE CORNER OF THE MOUTH

Deficiency in vitamin B2 (riboflavin) could lead to cracks, fissures and sores around the corner of the mouth and on the lips. Some people also report a burning sensation on the tongue and soreness around the corners of the mouth.

Eat this: This vitamin is found in almonds, mushrooms and spinach.

THIN, BRITTLE NAILS

Besides anaemia, iron deficiency could lead to thin, brittle nails. The connection is easy to make: Iron deficiency leads to low haemoglobin, which is essential for carrying oxygen through the body. Growth of hair and nails may be affected when cellular oxygen is low.

Eat this: Consume pomegranate, egg yolk and chickpea as well as vitamin C-rich foods (‘amla’, citrus fruits) to boost iron absorption.

SOURCE:Mukesh Mehra, senior consultant, internal medicine, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj, New Delhi; Deepali Bhardwaj, dermatologist and director, The Skin and Hair Clinic, New Delhi; Neelanjana Singh, chief clinical nutritionist, PSRI Hospital, New Delhi; and Anita Jatana, chief dietitian, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.

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