By Dr. Kaycee Reyes
In the Philippines, micronutrient deficiency is more common than you think. The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) defines Micronutrient Malnutrition as a “condition resulting of supply to the tissues of micronutrients, notably vitamin A, iron, and iodine, arising from a deficiency in the diet, losses from the body, or improper utilization of food.” Simply put, micronutrient deficiency is when you’re not getting enough nutrients in your body.
There may be several reasons that make you deficient. First is your diet and lifestyle—maybe you’re not eating as well or as healthy as you want to, or perhaps you still can’t quit your daily cigarette habit or those Friday night drinks. Second is you need more nutrients than usual, like if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, going through a lot of stress, or in the case of children, their constant growth means more nutrients needed. Thirdly, there are also disorders, such as diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, and the like, that need specific nutrients in order for your body to keep up with your condition. And as you age, just like everyone, your needs will change, your eating and fitness habits may change with them, and so there’s a whole new slew of nutrients that you need in order to age well.
But since you’re able to go about your daily routine, isn’t that enough indication that you’re healthy? Not necessarily—micronutrient deficiency can affect just about anyone, and can be life threatening. Iron deficiency is one of the most common deficiency there is, and according to the World Health Organization, it affects two billion people—that’s 30 percent of the world’s population!
Women who don’t receive enough nutrients can affect the health of their babies, and children who are deficient as children tend to be deficient, oftentimes either underweight, stunted growth, or overweight for their height, as they grow up. Men are also greatly affected by this, with lifestyle diseases and conditions brought about by their diet and sedentary lifestyle. Our Department of Health (DoH) also says that micronutrient deficiency also affects our economic productivity, growth, and national development. According to their micronutrient program, they state that being anemic or having an iron deficiency decreases the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by two percent per year.
Luckily, there are different ways to address micronutrient deficiency. Eating a balanced diet with the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables will always do your body good, no matter how old you are or what your current health condition may be. Avoiding vices—drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, among others—will also dramatically affect your health for the better. And not just newborns and babies benefit from a little time out in the sun—vitamin D comes for free when you get some sun; just make sure to head out early in the morning. Vitamin A and iron can be found in capsule form, and grabbing food that is fortified with vitamin A, iron, or iodine would be helpful.
There are also specific medicines that aim to prevent diseases that are related to your diet or chronic degenerative and inflammatory conditions. There are also medicines that improve your metabolism, and act as anti-aging agents. If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor about how to eat right for two, and what vitamins and nutrients need to be amped up for your little one to grow healthy and well. If you wish to know if you’re suffering from micronutrient deficiency, consult with your doctor and talk about the current status of your health and lifestyle, and then take it from there. There are tests that you can take to figure out if you’re anemic or deficient in other nutrients. Because at the end of the day, even if you do know your body better than anyone else and think you can simply buy the vitamins and nutrients off the shelf, getting an expert opinion from your trusted physician (and a second opinion!) will lead you down a more specific, more directed path to health, and that path will last longer, and with hope, for a lifetime.