So you are eating nutritious food, even taking your multivitamins daily, but your tests still show a deficiency in vital vitamins and minerals. Wonder what could be going wrong? Maybe there’s something else that is playing spoilsport. Experts help you figure it out. Alcohol According to Dr Purushottam Vashistha, gastroenterologist, Fortis Hospital, alcohol interferes with the absorption of nutrients in the body, particularly vitamin B (B1, B3 and folate) and vitamin A, and leads to severe nutritional deficiencies. Alcoholics also tend to be deficient in vital minerals like iron, calcium and zinc. “Drink within limits (this works to around two drinks (30 ml) every day for men and one drink for women) to prevent this,” he says.
Smokers are probably aware of the toxins they take in when they smoke, but most don’t know that they are also depleting their bodies of vital nutrients with each puff. “Smokers tend to be deficient in vitamin C, as their bodies use it in excess to detoxify. It also leads to iron deficiency. Calcium absorption too is greatly jeopardised,” says Dr SD Jain, consultant, internal medicine, SL Rajeha Hospital.
Tannins in tea hinder the absorption of iron and zinc from food. The caffeine in it reduces the body’s ability to absorb dietary calcium, and also increases its excretion via the kidneys. So drink tea at least half an hour before or after meals, and take iron and calcium supplements two hours before or after your cuppa. Coffee and soft drinks too contain caffeine and can lead to a decrease in bone density.
“Some medicines like aspirin, beta blockers, antacids, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer and diabetes-control drugs can decrease your body’s ability to absorb vitamins (particularly A, C, D, E and B12). Long-term use of contraceptive pills may also deplete three types of vitamin B — folic acid, B12 and B6, as well as zinc and magnesium. So keep a check on the pills that you are popping. Antibiotics also disturb the bacterial flora in the intestine (kill digestion-aiding bacteria), so supplements may be required,” says Dr Jain.Medical disorders“Irritable bowel syndrome can lead to inadequate digestion and thus deficiencies,” says Dr Vashistha. Chronic infections too can cause problems with parasites such as hookworms and tapeworms sapping nutrients from food that you eat.