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Nutrient Deficiencies in Urban Women

Karishma Chawla

Karishma Chawla
18 August 2020

This article is authored by Karishma Chawla. She is a practising nutritionist and a weight loss expert. She advises people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or to achieve a specific health-related goal.

There can be many reasons why women develop nutrient deficiencies - improper diets, hectic schedules, and even lack of knowledge about what consist a healthy diet for women. A balanced and a healthy diet for women can help them tackle the common nutrient deficiencies easily.

Let’s get to know common deficiencies and how to manage them through a healthy diet.

Iron deficiency: Eat Breakfast Iron is a trace element. It’s the largest component of red blood cells and binds with haemoglobin and transports oxygen to the cells. Iron deficiency is very common especially in women due to menstruation. It is also common amongst vegetarians. It may cause anaemia, fatigue, weakened immune system, light headedness, dizziness, headaches and impaired brain function. Signs like skin pallor, pale conjunctiva and thin concave nails with raised edges.

The food sources of iron are: red meat, shellfish, rajma, dals, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashews and dark leafy greens such as paalak (spinach). Animal sources provide the most bioavailable iron. Plant sources are more difficult to break down to be used. Adding vitamin C foods alongside with iron rich foods can enhance iron absorption for example adding lime to iron rich foods.

Vitamin D deficiency: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is called the sunshine vitamin and is essential for overall health ranging from healthy hair, healthy bones and hormone health including fertility. Deficiency symptoms are muscle weakness and bone loss. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to calcium deficiency resulting in an increased risk of fractures. A healthy diet for women comprising of vitamin D rich sources like fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, egg yolks and natural sunlight would be beneficial. Having said that it would be a good idea to check blood work for vitamin D3 frequently and consume supplements especially if you are a vegetarian.

Calcium deficiency: Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It mineralizes bone and teeth, is required for intracellular signaling, neurotransmission, muscle contraction, may also have a preventive role in weight management and a protective roll in polycystic ovarian syndrome. The main symptom of calcium deficiency is an increased risk of osteoporosis later in life especially with multiple pregnancies seen in women. The dietary sources of calcium are dairy foods, almonds, beans, dark green vegetables.

Vitamin B12 deficiency: B12 is required for proper neurological function and red blood cell formation. This vitamin is only found in natural form in animal products. Vegetarians and vegans are advised to take B12 supplements. Deficiency is common due to not enough B12 in the diet, inability to absorb B12 due to lack of intrinsic factor responsible for its absorption and particularly in people on acid- blocker medication and people with inflammation in the small bowel. Few deficiency signs are lemon yellow tint to the skin and eyes and smooth, red, thickened tongue. The dietary sources of B12 are salmon, lamb, and eggs.

Protein deficiency: Radish Protein is an important macronutrient also known as building blocks of muscles. Hair, skin and nails are made of protein and most importantly high quality and adequate protein is imperative for the creation of best hormones in the body resulting in better performance, productivity and over all well-being. Signs of deficiency are patchy brown skin on cheeks, atopy and loss of muscle mass. A balanced diet comprising of adequate protein daily would be beneficial. Dietary sources of protein are legumes, eggs, paneer, curd, chicken, fish, nuts and seeds.

Magnesium Deficiency: Magnesium is involved in many enzymatic reactions, is a major constituent of bones and is a part of the cell membranes. Being present in smooth muscles, facilitates the contraction as well as relaxation of muscles and helps to reduce muscle cramps. Signs of deficiency include abnormal heart rhythm, muscle cramps, tremors, restless leg syndrome, fatigue, migraine, tetany and personality changes. The dietary sources of magnesium are beans, nuts and sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Iodine Deficiency: Iodine is a trace essential that is necessary for normal thyroid function and the production of thyroid hormones. Deficiency can impair fetal and childhood growth. The most common symptom of iodine deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland known as goitre. The dietary sources of iodine are strawberries, eggs, fish, dairy and baked potatoes which include skin. The easiest way to ensure that you have sufficient iodine in your diet is to use iodized salt such Tata Salt in your meals daily.

If you are concerned about having a particular deficiency, do consult your health care professional. With the right dietary changes and supplements, deficiencies can be managed and eliminated entirely.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 

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Diet, exercise and sunlight: Three factors women shouldn’t ignore for good bone health

Dr. Dharini Krishnan

Dr. Dharini Krishnan
11 January 2021

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

Barring a significant injury or fracture, we rarely tend to think about bone health. Yet, for women, particularly those who are middle-aged or older, this is a vital concern because of the risk of osteoporosis.

In 2013, it was estimated that there were 50 million Indians who were osteoporotic or having low bone mass. Some studies have found that the prevalence of osteoporosis could be as high as 42.5% in women over the age of 50.

Osteoporosis and health complications

Eat Breakfast

Osteoporosis comes from the Latin for “porous bone”, and is a condition where bone tissue loses its density, and becomes weaker and more fragile. Such bones are easily susceptible to breaks, resulting in pain, disability and loss of functionality in everyday life.

Bones, which form the primary supporting framework of the body, grow from birth till our early twenties, which is the period of peak bone mass. Bone is an active tissue that undergoes regular replacement in conditions of health.

In osteoporosis, however, bone formation is outpaced by bone loss, leading to porosity or thinness of bone tissue and brittle bones. Such bones could easily be fractured even in the absence of significant trauma. Such fractures tend to reduce mobility and lead to increased hospitalization and dependence on others.

Why osteoporosis affects women more

Women are particular at risk for osteoporosis because they have lesser bone mass to start with. The geometry and structure of bone have also been increasingly recognized as important risk factors for fracture.

The risk of osteoporosis significantly rises during menopause because of the hormonal changes women undergo at the time. This is because estrogen plays a significant role in maintaining bone health, and the secretion of this hormone falls drastically during menopause.

The importance of protein and calcium in the diet

Skin Care

For some time now, awareness of the importance of calcium for bone health has been growing. Hence, women are advised to consume sufficient amounts of dairy, green leafy vegetables, soya products and nuts.

What many don’t realise is that sufficient levels of protein are just as important for strong bones. After all, protein makes up roughly 50% of bone volume and about one-third of its mass. Daily intake of protein is also necessary to provide the raw materials for bone formation. Unfortunately, research shows that the levels of dietary protein consumed by Indians are actually reducing.

For non-vegetarians chicken, fish and eggs are good sources of protein. For vegetarians, pulses are one of the primary sources of protein, along with dairy products. Daily intake of protein in at least two major meals of the day, particularly in healthy forms such as sambhar or dal is, therefore, vital.

The role of exercise and sunlight

Eat Breakfast

Bone health also requires good muscle health. This makes it necessary to undertake moderate exercise as often as possible. A 45-minute walk six days a week as well as resistance training using the body weight, such as surya namaskaras, can go a long way to building muscles. Importantly, the body also requires Vitamin D to mobilize calcium for bone health. Hence, exposure to peak sunlight between 11am and 3 pm at least twice a week is also vital for bone health.

Osteoporosis can be a serious health problem that disrupts life and limits mobility, particularly for women. However, a healthy diet, rich in calcium and protein, together with exercise, can go a long way in maintaining bone health.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 

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