Signs of Vitamin Deficiency You May Be Overlooking
The intricate workings of the human body rely on the triangle of health: nutrition, sleep, and exercise. That triangle, especially nutrition, is what enables our body to sustain itself with energy and strength. Our nutrition provides the carbohydrates, sugars, proteins, vitamins, and minerals our body needs. It is nearly impossible to attain a perfect diet 24/7, and it is only natural that there may be shortfalls in some areas like vitamin intake. However, prolonged periods of shortfalls of vitamin intake is not healthy for the body and may lead to vitamin deficiency. Signs of vitamin deficiency may be overlooked, as it is not always evident that lack of vitamin intake is the issue. However, understanding the signs of vitamin deficiency, when to see a doctor, and possible solutions are vital to maintaining a happy and healthy body.
- A vitamin deficiency is lack or shortage of one or more essential vitamins
- Brittle hair and nails, hair loss, and bleeding gums can be signs of a vitamin deficiency
- A doctor will be able to diagnose a vitamin deficiency and create a treatment plan
What Are Vitamins?
According to the National Library of Medicine, vitamins are defined as “a group of substances that are needed for normal cell function, growth, and development,”. Vitamins may be confused with or used interchangeably with minerals, but there is a distinction between the two.
While they are both micronutrients, vitamins are organic substances produced by plants or animals. In contrast, minerals are inorganic substances produced by soil and water. So, you can have a vitamin deficiency, a mineral deficiency, or both which would be classified as a micronutrient deficiency.
Vitamins are broken into two different categories: water-soluble and fat-soluble.
- Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and are excreted through the urine. Water-soluble vitamins must be consumed regularly to avoid deficiencies. B-12 is an exception to this rule as it is stored in the liver.
- Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body in the liver, fatty tissues, and muscles.
Vitamins are primarily absorbed into the body through one’s diet or supplements if necessary.
What is Vitamin Deficiency?
Vitamin deficiency, medically termed avitaminosis, is defined as a deficiency (lack or shortage) of one or more essential vitamins. Vitamin deficiencies can result from a handful of contributing factors, ranging from lifestyle choices to medical conditions. Below are a few examples of how vitamin deficiencies can develop.
- Lack of dietary intake of vitamins
- Excessive alcohol intake
- The body’s natural inability to absorb vitamins
- The use of prescription drugs
- Conditions such a Celiac and Crohn’s
- Gastrointestinal surgeries
- Metabolic disorders and immune system disorders
Most Common Vitamin Deficiencies
- Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and works to keep cells healthy and protect vision.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and has many responsibilities including collagen production, wound healing, iron absorption, and protecting cells by disarming free radicals.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and like calcium and magnesium, supports bone health, protecting them against breaks and fractures.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and its main functions are enabling the absorption of vitamin A and protecting against free radicals.
- B-Complex Vitamins
B-complex vitamins are water-soluble and are extremely important to the human body for a number of reasons. B-complex vitamins release energy from food, produce energy, and build proteins and cells.
Signs of Vitamin Deficiency
Brittle Hair and Nails
If you’re experiencing weak nails that break often or dry hair and split ends, you likely have a biotin deficiency. Biotin is a part of the B-complex vitamin family, specifically as a B7 vitamin.
As we learned above, B-complex vitamins build proteins and cells. While a biotin deficiency is not very common, lack of these building blocks can lead to the symptoms of brittle hair and nails.
Dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are often associated with excessive dryness of the scalp, but have you ever considered lack of B-complex vitamin intake to be at the root of the problem? That’s right - lack of B-complex vitamins may contribute to dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. Specifically, lack of intake of niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), and pyridoxine (B6).
Hair loss is one of the most common symptoms of aging, but premature or excessive hair loss may be indicative of a vitamin deficiency. Niacin (B3) and Biotin (B7) both greatly contribute to the health of the hair and lack of intake of these B-complex vitamins may speed up or cause hair loss.
Do your gums bleed often while brushing your teeth? While this may be a result of rough brushing or not enough flossing, it may also be a result of a deficiency in vitamin C. Lack of adequate intake of fruits and vegetables can lead to low vitamin C levels or a deficiency.
Mouth Ulcers or Cracks in The Corner of The Mouth
Mouth ulcers and cracks in the corner of the mouth can be painful and indicative of deficiencies of multiple vitamins apart from the B-complex family. A study evaluating recurrent ulceration in patients found that 28.2% of study participants had vitamin deficiencies in thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), and pyridoxine (B6).
While cracks in the corner of the mouth can be a result of excess salivation, they are also associated with a deficiency in riboflavin (B2).
How To Know If You Have a Vitamin Deficiency
If you are experiencing any of the signs of vitamin deficiency above, schedule an appointment with your doctor. They can order a full blood work panel and test for any deficiencies. Blood work is the only way to know for certain if you have a deficiency in any vitamin.
How to Increase Vitamin Intake
- Additions to Your Diet
One can eat the rainbow to increase vitamin intake by adding colorful fruits and vegetables to their diet. In addition to eating more fruits and vegetables, diets rich in beans, nuts, seeds, poultry, and organic meats will help increase B-complex vitamin intake.
Sometimes, it is difficult to get all the nutrients you need in a diet due to access to certain foods or dietary restrictions. Thus, taking supplements will help you get the nutrients that are lacking in your diet. You may be thinking, then what supplements should I take? The answer is not that simple. You should always meet with a doctor before starting any supplements.
- Lifestyle Changes
If your vitamin deficiency is the result of lifestyle habits such as excessive alcohol intake or smoking, a doctor may be able to help you address those habits in order to make healthier lifestyle choices.
Vitamin deficiencies should not be taken lightly, as vitamins play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of healthy bodily functions. If you are experiencing any signs of vitamin deficiency or believe you may have a deficiency, consult with a doctor. A doctor will be able to determine if you have a deficiency and help you establish a treatment plan which may include additions to your diet, supplements, or lifestyle changes.
Written by Lauren Conklin