Detecting Nutritional Deficiencies: All Hidden Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies
Reviewed by Nima Shei, MD
[Last Update: May 15th 2014]

A healthy diet can provide all a growing body needs, but the reality of our busy lifestyles and sometimes finicky eating habits can lead to vitamin deficiency. Knowing what to look for is part of the battle. In this article we’ll try to help you detect nutritional deficiencies. Also note that symptoms are actually better indicators of nutritional deficiency than signs (In medicine a sign is objective while a symptom is subjective).


  • Cold hands: magnesium deficiency, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue with low cardiac output

cold hands


  • White spots: mineral deficiency but often low zinc
  • Ridges: zinc deficiency
  • Soft or brittle nails: magnesium deficiency
  • Bitten nails: general mineral deficiency



  • Stretch marks: zinc deficiency
  • Follicular hyperkeratosis: vitamin A deficiency (picture below)
  • Spontaneous bleeds: vitamins C or K or platelet deficiency
  • Dry scaly skin with hair follicles plugged with coiled distorted hairs and a red halo: vitamin C deficiency
  • Yellow palms: excessive beta carotene intake
  • Pimply rough skin at the back of the upper arms “chicken skin”: essential fatty acid deficiency



  • Pale fissured tongue: iron deficiency
  • Sore painful fissured tongue: vitamin B3 deficiency
  • Sore burning tongue and lips and peeling of lips: vitamin B2 deficiency
  • Swollen tongue with lateral teeth indentations: food intolerance
  • Painful sore tongue with a smooth appearance: folic acid deficiency
  • Cracked lips: vitamin B2 deficiency, thrush


Sking of face

  • Greasy red scaly skin of face and sides of nose: vitamin B2 deficiency
  • Seborrheic dermatitis around nose and an acne like forehead rash: vitamin B6 deficiency

Detecting Nutritional Deficiencies


  • Cataracts: chromium deficiency or excess free radicals
  • Bags or dark rings under eyes: allergies or food intolerances
  • Blue eyes and blond hair are often found in hyperactive male children: zinc magnesium, B6 and essential fatty acids deficiencies
  • Blue eyes and premature grey hair – vitamin B12 deficiency: a feature of pernicious anemia


  • Thyroid swelling: iodine deficiency, hypothyroidism



  • Any problem with the heart, including irregular beat, high blood pressure, cardiomegaly: magnesium and Co-Q-10 deficiencies and sensitivity to caffeine.


  • Tender calf muscles: magnesium deficiency
  • Brisk knee reflexes: magnesium deficiency
  • The following problems can suggest particular deficiencies or allergies:
  • Nasal polyps: salicylate sensitivity