The NutriGold Blog

Vitamin Deficiency

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You feel like you’re doing everything you can to live a healthy lifestyle: you exercise regularly, you eat well enough, drink enough water, and you get seven-ish hours of sleep on a nightly basis.

And yet, something in your body still feels a little bit off. You frequently feel fatigued, or maybe you experience muscle aches more often than you used to. You might even feel shortness of breath, get sick frequently, or experience trouble with your vision. So, what’s going on with your body?

It’s time to consider whether you might be suffering from a vitamin deficiency.

What Is a Vitamin Deficiency?

A vitamin deficiency, is a deficiency of one or more essential vitamins. Because your body can’t produce these essential vitamins on its own, you get them through your diet.

When your body has a vitamin deficiency, your body will try to signal you, and tell you what it needs. These signals usually come as symptoms, such as fatigue, frequent sickness, slow healing, or depression.

What Are Some Common Vitamin Deficiencies in Americans?

Americans are notorious for relying heavily on processed foods, refined sugars, and a convenience-based diet; it’s all too easy to slip into a pattern of choosing what’s easiest over what’s most nutritious. Because of that tendency, the most common vitamin deficiencies that Americans face are a lack of Vitamins B12, C, D, and E. Other common vitamin deficiencies apply to specific populations, like vegans, the ill, the elderly, or others who may not get vitamins through their food, or have trouble absorbing vitamins fully.

Here’s a closer look at common vitamin deficiencies in America and what symptoms may occur - plus who’s at risk for these deficiencies.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps your body produce DNA and sufficient amounts lower the risk of neural tube defects during development. Your cells needs Vitamin B12 to function optimally. However, Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products like meat, poultry, eggs, and cheese, meaning that vegans and vegetarians are likely to be deficient. Several studies have found that vegetarians and vegans show higher rates of B12 deficiency than other populations.

Another population that’s especially susceptible to B12 deficiency is the elderly. Studies estimate that more than 20% of the elderly population may be suffering from Vitamin B12 deficiency, since B12 absorption decreases with age.

Warning signs that may indicate a B12 deficiency include weakness, tiredness, and lightheadedness; shortness of breath; pale skin; numbness or tingling; or vision loss, among others.

Vitamin C

Are you eating your daily servings of fruits and veggies? If not, you might be at risk for Vitamin C deficiency.

As you might already know, Vitamin C is an immune system booster and antioxidant that helps repair and regenerate tissue. If you have low levels of Vitamin C, you’re likely to experience fatigue, muscle weakness, joint aches, and bleeding gums...a severe Vitamin C deficiency might even lead to the development of scurvy, just like sailors on long voyages suffered from hundreds of years ago!

You might be at risk for Vitamin C deficiency if your diet consists of more meat and potatoes than fruits and vegetables. Some research has also shown that smokers are at higher risk for Vitamin C deficiency, since smoking impairs the body’s absorption of Vitamin C.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a big role in bone health and reduces the risk of several diseases; however, it’s rare in food-- only found in fish, eggs, and mushrooms-- meaning you could easily miss out on having Vitamin D in your daily diet.

Plus, if you live in a cloudy, sun-deprived climate, or if you wear sunscreen every day, your skin won’t produce the Vitamin D you need to reap the benefits of this nutrient. The same goes for if you have a dark skin tone; with more melanin in your skin, your body naturally slows down the production of Vitamin D.

The symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are subtle enough that you might overlook them if you’re not vigilant. Bone pain and muscle weakness might indicate a deficiency, since Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. You may also feel a little more tired than normal, or even a little depressed. That’s because your body makes Vitamin D after you’ve been exposed to the sun, and the hippocampus and other areas of the brain that regulate your mood contain Vitamin D receptors. Lower levels of Vitamin D, then, may cause these areas to function at a less than optimal level.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that shields you from cell damage, muscle weakness, and neurological issues while enhancing your blood circulation. Without it, you’re likely to experience eye problems (such as cataracts) or skin issues like acne or blisters. You might also feel weak in your muscles or like you’re constantly unsteady on your feet.

But, how’s this for irony? Your attempt at a healthy diet may be causing your Vitamin E deficiency.

Vitamin E is most common in foods with high fat content, like nuts, seeds, and oils. If you’re following a low-fat diet in an effort to lose weight, you might accidentally be depriving yourself of Vitamin E. The trick to getting in your Vitamin E while still maintaining a healthy diet? Distinguishing between good fats and bad fats. Good monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats include avocados, almonds, or sunflower seeds. You can continue to cut out trans fats and saturated fats from your diet without losing out on Vitamin E.

Conclusion


Chances are, if you follow a nutritious, well-balanced diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, you’re likely to be getting the amount of vitamins your body needs to function optimally. However, if you’re feeling a little bit off or noticing unusual symptoms that you can’t easily explain, it might be time to consider whether you’re at risk for vitamin deficiency, and whether taking a vitamin supplement may help you get back to feeling like your best self.

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