Common Signs of Nutrient Deficiency

Published on May 22, 2014 by Dr. Paul Hrkal

While eating a well-balanced, whole foods diet is essential for disease prevention and the maintenance of health, is it enough if you are deficient in key vitamins and minerals? What are the signs and symptoms of deficiencies you can observe in your body?

The remainder of this article provides a listing of some of the signs that may suggest a deficiency in certain nutrients. Remember, these are signs which can vary between people. Each sign can often mean multiple things that aren’t necessarily related to a deficiency. This should not replace proper medical examination and laboratory testing.


Thin, dry hair: Low thyroid function or essential fatty acid deficiency
Hair loss: Zinc deficiency
Dandruff: Zinc and essential fatty acid deficiency
Noise sensitivity: Magnesium deficiency
Excess earwax: Fat deficiency


Dry, cracked lips: B-vitamin deficiency
Tingling lips: Calcium or vitamin D deficiency (also consider a herpes infection)
Pale under eyelids: Anemia
Blood vessels visible around nose and cheeks: Gastric (hydrochloric) acid deficiency
Goiter/swollen thyroid: Iodine deficiency (now very uncommon in North America)
Loss of smell: Zinc deficiency
Light sensitivity: B2 deficiency
Eye twitches: Calcium and/or magnesium deficiency


Bright purple/red tongue: Vitamin B2, B3 or B12 deficiency
Loss of taste: Zinc deficiency
Spongy gums and loose teeth: Vitamin C deficiency
Hoarse voice: Iron deficiency (also consider low thyroid function)


Easy bruising: Iron, vitamin K or vitamin C deficiency
Tingling in hands (carpal tunnel): B6 deficiency
White specks in nails: Zinc deficiency
Ridges in nails (longitudinal): Gastric (hydrochloric) acid deficiency
Brittle nails: Zinc and sulfur deficiency
Frequent muscle cramps: Magnesium, calcium and/or potassium deficiency
Red palms: B-vitamin deficiency
Pale skin: Iron deficiency anemia

Do any of these sound familiar? Are you getting enough of these nutrients? And if there are any other nutrients you’ve been wondering about, let us know in the comments below! Update: For more information please visit Part 2 of this series.

While the information published on this site is believed to be accurate, it has been published solely for the purpose of provide general information and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical health, please seek assistance from a qualified healthcare provider.

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  • Lisa

    i LOVE THIS but........ IT SAYS AS MOST ARTICLES NOW SAY THAT IF YOU HAVE LEG CRAMPS TAKE MAGNESIUM. Sorry but this is wrong. I know it now taught but as someone with 55 years in practice the cause is Calcium deficiency with a liitl magnesium as well for absorption. Magnesium deficiency is not the cause and it is not the cure. A good calcium supp with vit K and magnesium a bit will get rig of all cramps.
    Please do try it and do change is. somehow this has gotten into popular nutritional thinking but is incorrect. Many thanks

    • Hrkal

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for the comment. I agree with you that all electrolytes, including calcium, are essential to resolve muscle cramps. In my experience magnesium is important in resolving muscle tightness and cramps. I usually use a magnesium and calcium combo for their synergistic effects. I have updated the article to include calcium now! Vitamin K is often overlooked as a key factor in preventing calcification of arteries. Thanks again for sharing your experience. I am sure the readers will appreciate the pearl of wisdom.

      Dr Paul Hrkal ND

  • Etta

    Stellar work there evneroye. I'll keep on reading.

  • Marcia Giller

    I'VE had ridged nails for the past several does one overcome this deficiency?

    • NavNirat Nibber

      Thanks for your inquiry Marcia
      This article mentions some of the common symptoms associated with certain nutrient deficiencies however individuals vary, therefore it is best to visit your healthcare practitioner and get the appropriate tests. You can pinpoint the deficiency and have a better sense of how best to address it ( ie. through increasing dietary intake through foods or through supplementation.)
      Best of luck on getting to the bottom of this!

  • BL

    Hi Dr. Great article.

    I went through a rough emotional period a year ago
    and (since then) Ive had sensitive eyes to light and my nerves feel sensitive.

    My entire system in fact is sensitive and I can no even longer tolerate sugar. I now have problems with memory, alertness, I could go on.

    The only thing found from my doc was a B12 def and Ive been taking shots.

    It's been over a year and I still have these problems. I'm baffled. What do you think may of caused this?

    • Hrkal


      It sounds like adrenal and endocrine imbalance from the stress you experienced. Blood sugar imbalances are classic of adrenal dysfunction. I suggest you see a Naturopathic doctor to help you address these symptoms.

      Dr Paul Hrkal ND