Mineral deficiency • Recognize and compensate for deficits

Author: Anna Haugg, medical writer
Last updated: December 30, 2021

The body needs minerals for many metabolic processes and functions. Admittedly, sufficient amounts are normally taken in through food. But a one-sided diet or excessive diets as well as various diseases can promote a mineral deficiency. How to recognize it and what then helps.

In order to prevent a mineral deficiency, minerals must be ingested in sufficient quantities through the diet. These include trace elements such as iron, fluorine, iodine, zinc, copper and selenium as well as the bulk elements magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium and chloride. The latter are present in the body as ions, which means they can conduct electricity and are therefore also referred to as electrolytes. However, a one-sided diet can lead to a mineral deficiency. In addition, the body needs particularly large amounts of minerals in certain phases of life.

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Electrolytes work in teamwork

The nerves control all organs and muscles in the human body via electrical currents. Electrolytes regulate many mechanisms in teamwork. In many cases, various minerals influence each other, so one mineral can promote or inhibit the effect of others.

This applies, for example, to calcium and magnesium: calcium causes the muscle cells to contract (contraction), magnesium ensures that they relax. The muscle cell can only work properly if the concentrations of both electrolytes are in equilibrium. For the functionality of the minerals, their ratio to each other is just as important as the total amount available in the body.

Causes of mineral deficiency

If the body no longer receives the necessary minerals in sufficient quantities, this can have various causes.

Insufficient supply of minerals:

  • improper, unbalanced diet
  • Malnutrition
  • one-sided diets

Excessive loss of minerals

  • profuse sweating (e.g. massive loss of salt through exercise)
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Anorexia nervosa: compulsion to starve, bulimia
  • Alcohol consumption (alcoholism): Alcohol slows down the absorption of electrolytes and increases their excretion. So it effectively removes electrolytes from the body. The hangover the morning after or the nocturnal calf cramp indicate that a particularly large number of minerals have been excreted as a result of excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Abuse of laxatives
  • Taking diuretics, in addition to water, more minerals are excreted


  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • certain disorders of the hormonal balance, for example hormones of the pituitary gland, the parathyroid gland or the adrenal gland

Mineral Deficiency: Symptoms and Associated Diseases

The signs of mineral deficiency are rather diffuse and unspecific, such as tiredness, muscle problems or an increased need for sleep. Nevertheless, various symptoms can be named that can characteristically become noticeable in the event of a deficiency in certain minerals.

  • calcium: Muscle cramps, insufficient or increased breakdown of bones (rickets in children, osteoporosis in adults), skeletal pain, chronic changes in skin, hair, nails and teeth

  • Chlor: Muscle weakness and lack of stomach acid – a loss of more than 45 grams of chloride is life threatening

  • Chrome: poor sugar utilization, decreased fat metabolism and increased cholesterol levels, arteriosclerosis

  • To demand: Reduced concentration of the iron-containing red blood pigment (hemoglobin) and, as a result, restricted oxygen supply, loss of appetite, tiredness and easy fatigue

  • Fluor: Softening of bones (osteoporosis in adults), susceptibility to tooth decay

  • iodine: Enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter), hypothyroidism, growth disorders, fatigue, poor concentration, lack of drive

  • Potassium: Muscle weakness and cramps, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, flatulence, constipation, cardiac arrhythmias, increased urine volume, loss of appetite (anorexia), drop in blood pressure

  • cobalt: Anemia

  • copper: reduced formation of red blood cells and reduced iron utilization, reduced immune defense, disorders of bone formation, disorders of pigmentation of skin and hair

  • Magnesium: Muscle cramps, twitches and tremors, brittle nails, tooth decay, dizziness, sweating, nervousness, headache, depressive mood, cardiac dysfunction, kidney dysfunction, menstrual cramps

  • Mangan: Disturbance of bone formation, deformation of bones and cartilage, disturbance of fat and carbohydrate metabolism, delayed growth, infertility

  • sodium: Weakness, falling blood pressure, muscle cramps, impaired consciousness

  • Nickel: Disruption of iron absorption by the body, decreased oxygen supply

  • Phosphor: Muscle weakness, bone softening, in children: rickets

  • Selene: Growth disorders, heart disease

  • silicon: Connective tissue weakness, gum disease, tooth decay, hair loss

  • Zink: Disturbance of protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, loss of appetite, impairment of the sense of taste and smell, delayed wound healing, susceptibility to infections, hair loss, flaky skin

Prevent mineral deficiency

One should make sure to eat a balanced and varied diet as much as possible. Eat plenty of plant-based foods such as whole grain products, fruits and vegetables. Use fatty foods, especially those of animal origin, sparingly. In addition, the food should be prepared in a nutritious manner. Vegetables and fruit should be washed briefly before chopping. Basically, it is advisable to use little cooking water and then use the cooking water to make soups or sauces.

It’s better to eat sweets in moderation. Alcohol should be avoided, as well as sausage products with a high phosphate content and cola drinks, which contain a lot of phosphate and are considered calcium robbers. You should also drink enough. Mineral water and unsweetened tea are particularly recommended. Fruit juice spritzers are also suitable if they contain no more than a third of juice and at least two thirds of water or mineral water.

After particularly strenuous activities, special electrolyte drinks can help to quickly balance the fluid and mineral balance. Even with a mineral deficiency as a result of severe diarrhea or vomiting, it is important to quickly supply the body with the missing electrolytes. Special preparations are available in the pharmacy.

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Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by www.lifeline.de.

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