Vitamins are essential to living a healthy and happy life. Depleted levels of nutrients can limit the body’s ability to fight off disease and infection. In addition, it can cause life-threatening health conditions. Everyone needs a daily combination of vitamins and minerals to build and repair strong bones, a healthy heart, nerve function, skin, and many other vital bodily functions.
Most people tend to lean heavily on supplements to get vitamins. However, they don’t provide nearly enough nutrients needed, especially for individuals who aren’t consuming any of that particular vitamin in their diet. The truth is, having a good nutrition plan and a varied diet filled with a rainbow of vegetables and fruits can prevent being nutrient deficient. Understanding what vitamin deficiency is, the causes, symptoms, and what it feels like can give you insight on how to identify them so that you can seek help immediately quickly.
Vitamin Deficiency Meaning
Vitamin deficiency simply means a person is lacking a vitamin or vitamins that are beneficial for good health. Typically, a vitamin-deficient individual will lack healthy red blood cells in their body due to less than the healthy amount of certain vitamins. Generally, when a person doesn’t consume enough vitamins, they will experience minor to severe health problems. In addition, some individuals may experience deficiencies if they have trouble processing or absorbing these vitamins.
Why am I vitamin deficient?
There are many causes for vitamin deficiency. Although you can learn all of the symptoms of vitamin deficiency, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause unless you get your bloodwork done. Nutrition and vitamin blood tests help detect vitamin, gluten, calcium, iron, and other mineral deficiencies that may be lacking.
Most people are vitamin deficient because they simply consume the recommended amount of vitamins over time. Some people don’t eat enough vegetables and fruits to give them a wide array of vitamins. Fruits usually contain some combination of Vitamin, Vitamin B1, B2, B6, Vitamin C, and folate. Vegetables will typically have other vital nutrients that other food groups may not have high concentrations, such as Vitamin D, E, and K.
Following a strict vegan diet could also lead to vitamin deficiency since you would be lacking vital nutrients from animal-based products such as fish, fish oils, beef liver, fortified milk, and egg
yolks. In some vitamins, animal-based foods are more bioavailable than vegan-based foods. Bioavailability means the number of nutrients that enter your digestive system. For example, animal-based foods containing vitamin A are 20 times more bioavailable than plant-based foods.
Sometimes your body simply can’t
absorb or process vitamins efficiently. Your intestine is responsible for absorbing the nutrients from your food and sending them into your bloodstream. This allows it to be further processed and distributed to the various structures throughout your body, including your skin, hair, bones, and other organs.
Sometimes people may suffer from malabsorption syndrome where they cannot absorb enough of certain nutrients, thus causing vitamin deficiency. Depending on the specific type of nutrient that cannot be absorbed, there could be several root causes like low iron levels in your blood (anemia) or problems with your digestive system.
Here are some causes for malabsorption:
Being lactose intolerant
Damage to the intestine by surgery, trauma, inflammation, or infection
Live, gallbladder, parasitic infection, or pancreatic disease
Frequent use of antibiotics
Chronic pancreatitis, Crohn’s disease, or celiac disease
Treatment or medications that can damage the lining of the intestine, such as radiation therapy for certain cancers
Consuming tapeworm from contaminated foods since they can sap nutrients from your body.
Diets low in fat can reduce the absorption of vitamin E
Excessive alcohol consumption impacts folic acid levels
Some medications and antibiotics such as isoniazid may lead to vitamin B6 deficiencies
Anticonvulsants can reduce folic acid absoroption
In addition to absorption and dietary causes, sometimes other health-related conditions can lead to vitamin deficiency as well. For example, obesity is often linked with low vitamin D levels. That’s because fat cells isolate vitamin D, which doesn’t allow it to release into the bloodstream. Oftentimes, people who are obese need to consume larger doses of vitamin D supplements to maintain normal vitamin levels. Additionally, diseases like kidney and liver diseases can lead to vitamin deficiency. That’s because these diseases decrease the number of enzymes that are typically used to convert the vitamins into the form that would be used in the body. Thus, lack of sufficient enzymes means inadequate levels of vitamins in the body.
Symptoms of Vitamin Deficiency
Identifying vitamin deficiency early on can help prevent complicated health problems in the future. Symptoms are how your body communicates to you about potential vitamin deficiencies. Once you’ve recognized these symptoms, you can easily adjust your diet. Your best bet is to consume a nutritious and well-balanced diet to ensure you get all of the vitamins your body needs.
Damaged nails and hair or hair loss
Insufficient biotin or vitamin B7 is a common cause of brittle or damaged nails and hair. Biotin is used to convert food into energy. Noticeable symptoms include splitting, thinning, or brittle hairs and nails.
Hair loss is common for adults, especially as they reach 50 years old. Losing a noticeable amount of hair can result from deficiencies in vitamin B7, vitamin b43, linoleic acid (LA), zinc, or iron.
Cracks or mouth ulcers at the corners of your mouth
Canker sores or mouth ulcers are generally a sign of insufficient B vitamins and iron. People with mouth ulcers may consider consuming foods high in riboflavin, thiamine, and pyridoxine.
Assuming you are brushing and flossing properly, bleeding gums may be caused by a lack of Vitamin C. This vitamin plays a pivotal role in preventing cell damage and improves immunity and wound healing. Consuming three to four portions of vegetables and two pieces of fruit daily can prevent vitamin C deficiencies.
Dandruff and scaly patches
A poor diet may commonly cause dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. There are various vitamins that affect these areas, such as vitamin B6, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and zinc. Consuming green vegetables, dairy, meat, and fish can help.
White or red bumps on the skin
Red or white goosebumps that are accompanied by ingrown hairs may appear in adults when a person seems to consume diets low in vitamin A and C.
Blurred vision at night
People with vitamin A deficiency may commonly experience reduced vision in darkness or low light. That’s because vitamin A produces rhodopsin, a pigment in the retinas of the eyes that aid in seeing at night. Night blindness can have severe consequences leading to potential blindness.
How long does it take to become deficient in vitamins?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a defined length of time of how long it takes to become deficient in vitamins. There are various factors such as the existing vitamin levels in your body, dosage, and speed of absorption. Failing to meet the daily requirements by a small margin can cause deficiency within a few months. However, completely depriving yourself of certain nutrients can cause deficiency within a few weeks.
If you’re uncertain whether you are deficient in vitamins, the best way to tell if you have too little nutrients is by getting blood tests from your physician. Your doctor will take a physical examination of you to check your oral health, abdomen, hair, nails, skin, and other areas of the body that can signal vitamin deficiency. Blood tests are usually a part of the routine checkup to evaluate organ health and check for signs of diseases.
Here are the recommended dosages for some of the most common vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin A - 700 to 900 micrograms per day
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) - 0.8-1 mg per day
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) - 1.1-1.3 mg per day
Vitamin C - 70 - 90 mg per day
Vitamin D - 15 micrograms per day
Vitamin E - 15 micrograms per day
Vitamin K - 120 micrograms per day
Iron - 8 mg per day for men and 18 mg per day for women
Calcium - 1000 mg per day
Omega 3 - 1000mg per day
Keep in mind, depending on your health conditions; you may need to consume more than the recommended amount to maintain proper levels of vitamins in your body.
What does vitamin deficiency feel like?
How you feel depends on the specific vitamin that you are deficient in. However, there are some common symptoms of what a person may feel like when deficient in one or multiple vitamins.
Fatigue is a common feeling that people experience when they lack the proper levels of nutrients. Your body cells need the right amount of vitamins to function properly and feel healthy. For example, inadequate vitamin B12 levels can reduce normal red blood cell production, thus impairing oxygen delivery. As a result, insufficient oxygen delivery can cause a feeling of lethargy, breathlessness, or even feeling faint. In extreme cases, a person may have other relatable symptoms such as headaches, noticeable heartbeats, pale skin, and even hearing sounds coming from inside the body.
Vitamin deficiency can also play a big role in your emotions and how your cognitive abilities. People with vitamin deficiencies may experience mood swings, depression, impaired judgment, and even memory problems. Since vitamins aren’t being broken down and distributed into your body, it can severely impact how different body parts perform and heal your body. Your body can experience weakness, impaired vision, insomnia, and even loss of appetite as well. These feelings can also be accompanied by the symptoms mentioned earlier. And if left untreated, deficiency diseases may arise, which affects your long-term health.
Common Vitamin Deficiency Diseases
Imbalances in diet could lead to vitamin deficiency. A prolonged period of deficiency can lead to a deficiency disease.
Here are some common vitamin deficiency diseases:
Scurvy is a disease linked to a vitamin C deficiency. People with this disease typically experience spotty skin, swollen and bleeding gums, and even losing teeth. They also may experience general weakness and slow wound healing.
Rickets is a serious disease that causes bones to soften, resulting in deformities and fractures. This disease is typically caused by vitamin D deficiency.
Beriberi is a condition that can be characterized by brain, heart, and nerve abnormalities. It’s typically a result of severe vitamin B1 deficiency. People with Beriberi may experience a wide variety of symptoms such as tingling and numbness in hands and feet, memory loss, breathing problems, trouble speaking, depression, and confusion. This is a serious disease that must be treated immediately; otherwise, it can lead to dementia and possibly death.
Pellagra is a vitamin deficiency disease that causes dark red patches on the feet, hands, calves, neck, and face. An individual with Pellagra may also experience vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. This disease can be caused by a deficiency in niacin or vitamin B3.
Osteoporosis is a condition that reduces bone loss, bone density and increases the risk of fractures. This disease is normally caused by a deficiency in vitamin D and calcium.
Tetany is a disease that leads to tingling and numbness sensations in the hands and feet, cramping, diarrhea, muscle pain, and abdominal pain. It’s typically caused by calcium, potassium, or magnesium deficiency.
Goiter is a condition that leads to pain and swelling in the neck. Sometimes, lumps may even appear at the front of the neck. It’s usually a result of iodine deficiency.
Hemophilia is a condition that causes unexplained bleeding, swelling in joints, blood in stool or urine, and nosebleeds. A vitamin K deficiency can cause hemophilia.
Night blindness or nyctalopia is when people experience vision impairment at night. This means people have poor vision in dimly lit environments or poor vision. Generally, this disease is caused by vitamin A deficiency.
How a Nutritionist Can Help
Nutritional deficiencies are very common even in first-world countries like the United States. According to the CDC, 10.5 percent of the U.S. population are deficient in vitamin B6, 9.5 percent of women are deficient in iron, and 8.1 percent are deficient in vitamin D.
Malnutrition is quite common in even healthy individuals. However, many people who suffer from conditions like diabetes, inflammation, endocrine issues, and others may be at a greater risk of vitamin nutrition. People who are older, overweight, or frequently smoke are also at risk as well.
At Natural Care Chiropractic, our nutritionists will work with a doctor to gather your medical history, records, blood tests, and physical examinations to assess the problem. Then, they’ll devise a customized nutrition plan to ensure you are getting ample vitamins from your diet. They will factor in any allergies or other dietary restrictions you may have. Our nutritionists will recommend the proper dosage of vitamins and supplements to take to ensure you get the right levels of nutrients in your body. Schedule an appointment with a nutritionist from our team today.