Testing for a Vitamin Deficiency Could be Your Missing Health Puzzle Piece
If you're frustrated that your dedication to a well rounded, vitamin rich diet is still leaving you feeling less than perky, it's probably because your body can't absorb all the amazing nutrients you're trying to give it. Testing for a vitamin deficiency can lead you to answers about what your body is and is not absorbing properly.
- Long standing health problems might be the result of a vitamin deficiency
- Figuring out which vitamins your body is not absorbing can help you treat symptoms and feel less drained
- Singling out deficiencies can be tricky, but it's worth the effort
Effects of vitamin deficiency
Vitamin deficiency is characterized by a shortage of healthy red blood cells produced by low levels of specific vitamins, also known as anemia. Folate, vitamin B-12, and vitamin C are the three main vitamins connected with typical vitamin deficiency, however there are a few other common ones. Anemia can develop if you don't get enough folate, vitamin B-12, or vitamin C in your diet, or if your body has difficulties absorbing or processing these nutrients.
Testing for a vitamin deficiency at home is tricky because symptoms normally occur over a period of months to years. The signs and symptoms of vitamin insufficiency may be minor at first, but as the shortage increases, they become more noticeable. The signs and symptoms of vitamin deficiency include:
- Mental confusion or forgetfulness
- Shortness of breath
- Pale or yellowish skin
- Weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or tingling in your hands and feet
- Personality changes
- Unsteady movements
- Irregular heartbeats
The three main anemia causing deficiencies:
1. Folate deficiency
Folate, or vitamin B-9, is a nutrient found primarily in fruits and leafy green vegetables. A deficiency might result from a diet that is persistently low in these foods. If your body is unable to absorb folate from meals, you may be deficient. The small intestine absorbs the majority of nutrients from food. If you're having trouble absorbing folate, it's possible that:
- You have a small intestine disease, such as celiac disease.
- A big portion of your small intestine has been surgically removed or bypassed.
- You consume an excessive amount of alcoholic beverages.
- You take prescription medications, such as anti-seizure meds.
Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding, as well as persons who are on dialysis for kidney illness, have a higher demand for folate. If this increased demand is not met, a shortage may occur.
2. B-12 deficiency
A diet low in vitamin B-12, which is found primarily in meat, eggs, and milk, can cause vitamin B-12 insufficiency also known as pernicious anemia. People with autoimmune illnesses of the endocrine system, such as diabetes or thyroid disease, may be at a higher risk of developing pernicious anemia. However, the most common cause of vitamin B-12 deficiency is a lack of a chemical known as intrinsic factor or IF, sometimes the immune system will attack the cells that create IF.
Intrinsic factor is a protein made by the stomach that binds to vitamin B-12. IF transports the B-12 through the small intestine and into circulation throughout the body. Vitamin B-12 cannot be absorbed without intrinsic factor and is excreted as waste. Deficiency in vitamin B-12 can also develop if your small intestine is unable to absorb vitamin B-12 for causes other than intrinsic factor deficiency. This may occur if:
- You've had stomach or small-intestine surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery.
- Your small intestine has aberrant bacterial development.
- You have an intestine illness, such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease, that prevents the vitamin from being absorbed.
- You've been infected with a tapeworm after eating tainted fish and the tapeworm depletes your body's nutritional reserves.
3. Vitamin C deficiency
Vitamin C is especially important to our hair, skin and nails among many other things. If you don't obtain enough vitamin C from your diet or if your ability to absorb vitamin C from meals is impaired you may experience a deficiency. Certain chronic conditions, such as cancer, increase your risk of vitamin C insufficiency by interfering with the absorption of the vitamin. Other factors that can lead to a vitamins C deficiency include:
- Nutrient poor diet
- Alcohol abuse
- Intestinal problems or other medical issues
- Certain medications
Having a vitamin deficiency will not only make you feel awful, it also increases your risk of many serious health problems, including:
- Pregnancy complications - Pregnant women who are deficient in folate are more prone to have difficulties, including early birth. Birth abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord can occur if a developing fetus does not receive enough folate from its mother.
- Nervous system disorders - Vitamin B-12 insufficiency can cause neurological issues such as tingling in your hands and feet, as well as balance issues. Because vitamin B-12 is required for optimum brain function, it might induce mental disorientation and forgetfulness. Neurological issues can develop permanently if vitamin B-12 insufficiency is not treated.
- Scurvy - Results from a lack of vitamin C. Its symptoms are anemia, debility, tiredness, spontaneous bleeding, pain in the limbs, particularly the legs, swelling in various regions of the body, and occasionally gum ulcers and tooth loss are all symptoms.
If you think that you are experiencing a vitamin deficiency, the first step is to monitor your symptoms. Keep a journal, take note of things like diet, sleep, energy level, etc. Be detailed! The more information you have the easier it will be for your doctor to determine the correct course of action. Your doctor will almost certainly ask you a series of questions. Being prepared to respond to them may free up time for you to go over areas where you wish to spend more time.Your doctor might ask you:
- When did you first notice symptoms?
- What is the severity of your symptoms?
- Is there anything that seems to help your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to make your problems worse?
- Are you a vegan or a vegetarian?
- In a typical day, how many servings of fruits and vegetables do you consume?
- Do you consume alcoholic beverages?
- If yes, how frequently and how many drinks do you have on a regular basis?
- Are you a cigarette smoker?
These are not only good to be able to answer for you doctor but they are great questions to reflect on by yourself when you are wanting to make obtainable goals around healthy lifestyle changes.
Written by Kiana St. Onge