Physical Signs of Nutritional Deficiencies

Physical Signs of Nutritional Deficiencies

We hope you have had a great summer.  We have had a nice mix of some summer fun, time with the family and work.  As our Summer comes to a close and the kids head back to school, I feel an irresistible need for “Me time”.   I know it’s the same for so many of my clients too so let this blog serve as an invitation and reason to secure some “you time”.

Before I share my insights on performing your own nutritional physical, I want to share what I feel is an exciting development for our clients at HealthE Coaching.  As many of you know, we have been working for years (and more recently office space) with internist Dr. Shannon Kennedy, MD.  Out of demand by our respective clients, we spent the Summer developing a comprehensive combined care service that provides truly integrative care for those seeking it.  Well, it’s set and ready to go; we are so excited!  Our individual training and clinical perspectives on health and wellness offer different approaches but our foundational beliefs are very similar.  Together, we are able to offer combined services to cover all of your healthcare needs.  Since we are only taking a limited number of patients into our combined care per year, we are keeping it relatively quiet for now.  We want the members of our list have the first access to this unique service.  More details are below.

Comprehensive combined care brings me to the topic at hand.  Our approach in care is to teach our patients, “How their bodies work, why they feel the way they do and what they can do about it”.  In that vein I’d like to share some of my tricks for you to use at home.

When I meet with a new patient (and established patients), there is a lot going on in my head.  I’m taking a detailed health history, analyzing labs, considering nutrient and drug interactions, and such but I’m also taking in clues in their physical appearance.  What is the quality of their hair, skin and nails?  Are their eyes shiny, dull or red?  Are they “running hot or cold”?  What else is remarkable?  There are seemingly hundreds of little pieces of the puzzle we are trying to fit together to help figure out what someone needs specifically for them, their uniqueness.  Most of you are used to getting a physical exam from your doctor.  They listen to your heart, look in your eyes, take your blood pressure, etc.  They are gathering valuable, potentially life-saving information.  This physical exam is different, we are looking at physical signs of nutrient imbalances.

I was really excited to run across this article the other day from med school, which was (gulp) 15 year ago when I started.  The paper is a bit worn with age but the content remains as fresh as ever.  I kept thinking they should teach this in high school or wherever, but at the very least I would share these tools with you so you can see what you can figure out on your own.

This article, “A nutritionally oriented physical exam and how it can tell you what that “little” sign or symptom really means.” was written by Dr. Jonathan Wright MD, one of my adjunct professors in school and a pioneer in the use of bio-identical hormone therapy starting in the 1980’s.  I added some of my own clinical experience.  And of course, we are focused on nutrition, but there can be other causes for some of these symptoms.  If any symptoms worry you, consult with your physician.

Quickly, I want to share my colleague’s story to help us grasp the value of paying attention to the tale your body is telling.   It’s a story with an odd beginning (one of those where you really have to be there, perhaps) but it reveals how a brief encounter and a discerning eye can provide invaluable insight into one’s health.  My colleague approached his long time friend whom he’d been watching at a party, and simply asked him a strange question.  “Are your feet growing?”  The surprise on his friend’s face was followed by, “What are you like a wizard or something?  How’d you do that?”  In fact, his feet had been “growing”.  My colleague had noticed a lot about his friend throughout the party…  he’s overweight, has red eyes and a red face, has skin tags on his neck, drinks water like a fish and was always headed to the bathroom.  Quickly, the new pair of shoes gave him an “in”.  You see it’s not likely this 47 year old’s feet were actually growing but it was my colleague’s attempt at a comical intro to talking about his likely uncontrolled diabetes.  The “growing feet” was actually due to swelling.  Without any lab tests or medical history, or even talking, the clues still pointed to likely blood sugar dysregulation.  The friend’s family history had him worried but he had not yet been diagnosed.  I might offer that this is a fairly uncomplicated case but it reminds us that physical conditions often leave physical clues that we can take insight from and even act on in a preventative manner.

So, to get started, get your mirror out or find a partner!

Thinning hair: Nothing gets someone into my office faster than thinning hair.
– Potential  Causes: incomplete protein digestion associated with subnormal stomach acid and pepsin production.
– Hormone imbalance associated with birth control pills, pregnancy and peri-menopause
– subnormal thyroid functioning
– Anemia: b12/folate or iron
Dull and Lifeless Hair:
– Cause: deficiency in essential fatty acid, poor nutrition, absorption of fats
– Vitamin D deficiency
Premature Graying of Hair:
– PABA deficiency, low antioxidants/ oxidative stress, poor methylation
– Carbohydrate sensitivity, food sensitivity, low levels of essential fatty acids and B6
Hair loss on the body:
– if you notice less hair on arms, legs and other parts as you get older, women need to check DHEA levels and men need to check testosterone levels
Excessive Ear Wax:
– sign of insufficient essential fatty acids
Skin cracking behind ear:
– food sensitivity, low zinc levels
Redness of Ears:
– sign of food allergies/sensitivity or histamine intolerance
Diagonal crease across earlobe:
– increased risk of cardiovascular disease
Recurrent Ear Infection:
–Food sensitivities…dairy is the main culprit and altered gut flora
– High sugar diet
Chronic red and itchy eyes:
– Eyes are highly vascularized, so if the eyes look red and inflamed, other vessels in the body could also be inflamed.
– Chronic red eyes are a sign of lowered vascular integrity and oxidative stress.
– Itchy eyes are related to food and environmental sensitivities and possible histamine reactions
– Low levels of antioxidants. Optimal blood sugar control is very important for prevention of cataracts.
Dark circles under eyes:
– food allergy/sensitivity, need for liver support
Pale pink eyelid:
– related to anemia
Small red veins on nose/cheeks:
– low stomach acid
Stuffy Nose:
– food sensitivities, poor digestive health, low levels of beneficial gut flora
**the tissue in the nasal cavity is the same tissue throughout the entire digestive tract! An inflamed nose can be a sign of an inflamed digestive tract.
Horizontal crease above end of the nose:
– child with allergies
Polyps inside nose:
– possible association  with sensitivity to salicylates found in aspririn, artifical colors/flavors and certain foods
Cracked and grooved tongue:
– low levels of folate, B12, or zinc, low methylation
White coated tongue:
– yeast overgrowth, gut bacteria imbalance
Scalloped tongue:
– food sensitivity, low thyroid function
Pale pink tongue:
– anemia
Tooth decay:
– poor oral hygiene, low levels of fat soluble vitamins, poor nutrient absorption
Red tongue:
– B12/folate deficiency, methylation issues
Unhealthy/bleeding gums:
– low levels of folate and coQ10. Need for vascular support
Recurrent canker sores:
– food sensitivity(often related to citrus or sugar) or sodium lauryl sulfate reaction.
Large/swollen tonsils:
– food sensitivity
Cracks in skin and corners of mouth:
– B2 deficiency
– food sensitivity, gut dysbiosis, carbohydrate intolerance, low levels of zinc, hormonal imbalance
– associated with low stomach acid and the gut infection, H. pylori
Facial skin more yellow than pink (over 60):
– deficient in vitamin B12
Skin tags:
– possible insulin resistance
Bumpy and Rough Skin on backs of arms:
– Vitamin A deficiency, low fatty acid intake or absorption, low thyroid function
Weak nails:
– low minerals, low thyroid function, low essential fatty acids

White spots on nails:
– low levels of zinc.  This can be due to a genetic deficiency like pyroluria, low intake, trouble absorbing or a diet high in grains which are high in phytates which block mineral absorption

That was a lot of information and just a start.  We covered what I might see sitting across from you in the office.  There are so many other physical signs, symptoms and tests.  This is a healthy start for you to get in tune with your body and all the different ways you can assess your health and wellness.  Do your own detective work.  Get to know your body and the stories it’s trying to share.

I hope to hear from you soon, but in the meantime, take care of yourself.

~ Dr. Sherri

*Remember, the Fall Metabolic Cleanse is starting soon.  It usually sells out so secure your spot if you’re ready.
**If you want to find out more about Comprehensive Care with Dr. Kennedy and me, check out our HealthE Remedy services.

Related Blog:

10 Signs of Good Nutrition- Get Your Mirror Out


Photo credit: magnifying glass part4 by photoobject-lens