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Are You Getting What You Need?

Tired, dry skin, or fighting a cold again? If you feel like something is a little off, you may lack some key vitamins or minerals. They help your cells and organs work the way they should and boost your immune system, among other things. Usually, the best way to get them is through foods that have a lot of them.

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Fight Fatigue

If you’re tired after a full night’s rest, it could be from a lack of iron (found in lean meat, beans, and fortified cereals) or vitamin B12 (in beef liver and clams). They’re both important for healthy red blood cells, which get oxygen to your body’s tissues.  

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If you have these a lot, talk to your doctor about magnesium, found in beans, nuts, and green leafy veggies. This mineral helps your nerves work the way they should and keeps your blood sugar levels in check. The Association of Migraine Disorders says 400 milligrams a day can help some people who get migraines.

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Dry Eyes

It might be allergies or wearing contact lenses for a long time, but another possibility is that you’re not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids. Found in oily fish like salmon, these are important for healthy vision. In addition to dry eyes, low levels of omega-3s also have been linked to age-related macular degeneration, among other issues.

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Dry, Itchy Skin

Scaly, rough patches of skin -- dermatitis -- can be caused by something that irritates it or illness, but it also can come from a lack of vitamin B2 (riboflavin). B2, which helps your cells grow and work the way they should, is found in eggs and some green vegetables, like asparagus and broccoli.

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Unless you’re a boxer, you probably shouldn’t have nosebleeds very often. If you do, you might be low in vitamin K, an important nutrient for blood clotting, among other things. You can get it through green, leafy veggies, like spinach and kale. But nosebleeds can be caused by many things, so check with your doctor to see if it’s something other than your diet.

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Hair Loss

This can happen naturally as you age, but it also can be caused by a nutritional problem, especially in women under 50. Boost your iron (through lean meats, beans, or nuts) to help make sure your hair and the skin around it stay healthy.

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Bleeding Gums

The most likely cause of this problem is gum disease, but a severe lack of vitamin C (found in citrus fruits and some vegetables) can also bring it on. This is rare for people in the U.S., though, so see your dentist to find out for sure before taking a supplement.

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Muscle Weakness

A lack of vitamin B1 -- also known as thiamin -- can lead to this and other problems. It’s found in whole grains, pork, fish, some nuts, and beans. Potassium (found in bananas) is also important for healthy muscles. Talk to your doctor if you don’t think you’re getting enough through these foods.

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Chronic Colds

You might cough and sneeze more often if you don’t get enough vitamins C and E, which have antioxidants that boost your immune system. A balanced diet won’t prevent colds, but it can keep your body healthy enough to fight them off.

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Canker Sores

These little ulcers form in the soft tissue of your mouth or the base of your gums. No one knows for sure what causes them, but they’ve been linked to a lack of B12, zinc (found in oysters, nuts, and beans), folate (in asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and oranges), and iron.

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Hearing Loss

One of vitamin B12’s many jobs is to help your nervous system (made up of your brain, spinal cord, and nerves) work the way it should. If you don’t get enough, researchers think the signals between your ears and your brain can be affected, and this might lead to hearing loss or tinnitus -- ringing or buzzing in your ears. If you're having hearing problems, see your doctor to find out what's causing them.

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Weak Bones

Calcium is a building block for bones, and vitamin D helps your body absorb it. If you don’t get enough of these, you can be at risk for osteoporosis (a disease that makes your bones weak and brittle). The best way to get vitamin D is through supplements, but you can get calcium through dairy products and some fortified foods. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.

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Cracks in Corners of Your Mouth

A lack of vitamin B6 can cause this as well as skin rashes. It’s found in poultry, fish, starchy vegetables like potatoes, and noncitrus fruits like grapes and apples. Check with your doctor before starting a B6 supplement, though -- it can cause problems if you take certain medications.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2016 Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on October 13, 2016


Thinkstock Photos



National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.

Mayo Clinic.

The Association of Migraine Disorders.

American Optometric Association: “Essential Fatty Acids.”

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.

Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School.

Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute.

Samochocki, Z. American Academy of Dermatology, May 2013.

Rushton, D. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, February 2002.

Rushton, D. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, July 2002.

National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Karli, R. Acta Otorhinolaryngol Italica, August 2013.

American Tinnitus Association.

Houston, D. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 1999.

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on October 13, 2016

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.