What Actually Happens To Your Body When You Have A Nutrient Deficiency

Micros are the new macros.

Healthy Salads, Meal Prep, Micronutrients,
Image: instagram.com/sweat

Be real, have you ever checked the nutrition label for the micronutrients? Glanced over the protein to assess the iron? Shoulder shrugged the fat in return for high vitamin K?


Probably not, because macronutrients are king and micronutrients are the poor beggar, hoping to be thrown a multivitamin every once in a while. But according to Dr Libby Weaver, this needs to change.

“It’s nutrients that keep us alive, yet I feel that most people don’t appreciate the immensity of this.”

As a nutritional biochemist with fourteen years of education and 20 years of clinical practice, she’s seen the effects of nutrient deficiencies firsthand. From the mild to the major, they don’t just impact one thing; they have a ripple effect, hindering multiple functions and jeopardising your whole wellbeing.

“Nutrients are essential—yes essential—to drive many of the biochemical reactions that occur inside you that determine so much about your level of wellness.

Every second, there are billions of biochemical reactions taking place within you. These reactions involve the conversion of one substance to another, and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are often required for these conversions to occur. Nutrients are also needed for the construction of other substances in the body and are sometimes even incorporated into these new structures.

As an example of this, I’ll use vitamin C—a vitamin that’s utilised in the body for many different important functions; the list is nearly endless! Our adrenal glands love vitamin C and it’s used in the biochemical reactions that build our stress hormones. Vitamin C is also needed for the reaction that creates carnitine, a substance that allows us to burn fat as fuel, and for the creation of serotonin, our happy, calm, content hormone. It also keeps our immune system responding appropriately to stimuli and acts as a powerful antihistamine.


But what happens if we aren’t consuming enough vitamin C? Without its presence, or in the quantity required to maintain optimal functioning, these reactions can’t occur efficiently. You might get a build up of one substance and not enough of another. You can imagine how undesirable it would be if the substance you were building up was histamine, and the substance you weren’t getting enough of was serotonin! When we eat a food that’s filled with vitamin C, our body prioritises where it gets used first. So think of it this way, what if we’re feeling completely overwhelmed or we’re anxious about something and so our body is signalling the need to create stress hormones, but the pollens have come out and they’re stimulating our sinuses towards hay fever—what takes priority in the use of vitamin C? How is our optimum health going to be affected by a lack of vitamin C?”

This is just one example of how a lack of one nutrient can impact on our overall health. Imagine if we were deficient in multiple, which is the case for many “healthy” adults?

So, a multivitamin a day will keep the doctor away? Not quite. Dr Libby says we need to be more mindful of the micronutrients in the food we eat.

“I encourage you to shift your focus from dieting to nourishing. It is time to stop counting calories; if you need to count anything, count nutrients and amp them up, and count synthetic substances and omit them.”


What Am I Supposed To Eat? By Dr Libby WeaverThis is an extract from What Am I Supposed To Eat? Making Sense Of Food Confusion By Dr Libby Weaver published by Little Green Frog Publishing.

If you’re struggling with food choices and confused by conflicting or overwhelming information, join Dr Libby on her latest tour, Food Frustrations: what to eat when food is confusing. For a full list of dates see here but if you’re in the Sunshine Coast she’ll be with you tonight (Thurs September 7) so book tickets now.