Physical Contributors to Stress: Nutritional Deficiencies 

Knowing how your diet can contribute to stress and how that affects the body, will help you make more informed decisions in regards to your lifestyle and habits.


Macronutrient Deficiencies

It is important to strive for a diet that is based in whole foods and is nutritionally balanced. Inadequate intake of any of the macronutrients can cause an imbalance in the body. Carbohydrates are the bodies primary and preferred source of energy as well as being involved in a long list of other functions throughout the body. Inadequate intake can result in: poor nervous system function, ketosis, elevated cholesterol, digestive issues and extreme fatigue. Protein is an essential nutrient in nearly all parts of the human body as it has an extremely long list of functions. Inadequate intake can result in: loss of protein rich tissues, weakness/increased injury, compromised immune system, decrease in skin, hair and nail strength and integrity, and compromised cell signaling. Fats are essential to our health being are involved in a nearly never ending list of functions including energy production and cell structure. Inadequate intake can result in: lack of fat soluble vitamin absorption, increased risk of heart-related issues, uncontrollable appetite, mood swings or depression and compromised cell/tissue structure. 

Micronutrient Deficiencies

Micronutrients include both the vitamins and minerals that are found in the foods that we consume. When a person is not consuming a balanced diet, especially if they are following a Standard American Diet, they have an increased risk of a deficiency in a variety of micronutrients. Some of the micronutrients that are most common deficient in the general population include:

  • B vitamins: deficiency can lead to lack of usable energy, decrease in blood cell production/increased risk of anemia and compromised nervous system function.
  • Vitamin D: deficiency can lead to decreased calcium absorption, mood swings/depression and compromised bone density.
  • Vitamin A: deficiency can lead to increased risk of vision issues, increased susceptibility to infections and retarded growth in children.
  • Iron: deficiency can lead to lack of hemoglobin production, decreased oxygen delivery to tissues and organs and weakness/listlessness.
  • Calcium: deficiency can lead to decreased bone density, impaired muscle contraction, compromised nerve conduction and compromised blood clotting.
  • Phosphate: deficiency can lead to decreased bone density, inability to produce usable energy (ATP) and compromised cell structure.

Big Picture Consequences

Knowing how your diet can affect, lead to or alleviate, stress in the body, will help you make more informed food choices throughout your day. Different nutritional deficiencies can have unique stress responses in the body. Lack of consumption of exogenous building blocks of energy results in the breakdown of necessary internal tissues. Inadequate consumption of cellular building blocks can lead to compromised tissue/organ structure and function. Deficiencies in the essential pieces of the immune system causes it to become compromised, increasing the risk of infection or disease. Chronic inflammation caused by continued stressors on the body can have cyclical nutritional effects. Creating a viscous cycle including elevated blood sugar, unwanted lipid/fat synthesis and depletion of nutrients. Nutrition behavior effects including over-eating, under-eating and compromised food choices, can also be a result of stress and cause more stress in turn.



  1. Awareness:
    • Review the major symptoms of macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies.
    • Review from previous weeks, sources of these nutrients and note if you may be at greater risk of developing a deficiency.
  2. Tracking:
    • .Create a food log for at least 3-5 consecutive days.
    • Note any trends:
      1. Are there any nutrients that you are lacking on a regular basis?
      2. Are there any smaller holes that could be filled in?
      3. Are you consuming too much of something?
      4. Are there any swaps or adjustments you can make to increase the nutrient density of your diet?
  1. Action:
    • .If you answered yes to any of the questions above in part b, pick 1-2 to focus on.
    • Make a noticeable, but maintainable change:
      1. Ex: If there is a lack of adequate amounts of a macronutrient – Add an extra serving in at one of your meals.
      2. Ex: If you are consuming excessive amounts of simple carbohydrates – switch one out for a complex carbohydrate option.
      3. Ex: Inadequate fruit/vegetable intake can result in a variety of micronutrient deficiencies – include 1 extra serving of fruit or vegetables into your diet.