The majority of Americans suffer from at least one vitamin deficiency, but don’t even know it. It’s easy to pass off that fatigue as not getting enough sleep, or attribute the brittle hair to stress. It’s a growing problem, however, and it helps to know what you’re looking for so you can live a fuller life.
What Causes Vitamin Deficiency
The SAD (Standard American Diet) is one of the more varied diets on the planet. We have access to so many different foods that it should be easy to get all or most of the vitamins we need. Unfortunately, so many foods are processed that they’ve lost the majority of their nutrients. Some of the most important vitamins are replaced, which is why you’ll find cereals and milk that are fortified with things like iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin D. What many don’t realize is that there are far more vitamins and minerals that are required in order for our bodies to function properly.
Even if you eat well, plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, it can be difficult to cover all the bases and it’s not uncommon even for those who pay careful attention to their diet to be lacking in one or more vitamins.
Correcting a Vitamin Deficiency
While the ideal solution would be to eat the perfect combination of foods to get the right amount of vitamins, it isn’t very practical in today’s hectic world. Most people simply don’t have the time to meticulously plan and source their meals for maximum vitamin absorption. Eating right is definitely a step in the right direction, but you will probably need to use supplements, as well.
Vitamin supplements can be purchased individually or in multi-vitamins. If you just want to be sure that you’re getting a good mix of vitamins, then the multi is a good choice. However, for those who are receiving what they need in their diet and are only deficient in one or two things, then the individual supplements can be the way to go. This allows you to tailor the mix to fit your individual needs.
Signs of Vitamin Deficiency
While each vitamin has its own problems brought on by its lack, there are some general indications that you need to look into a multi-vitamin. When your body doesn’t receive the nutrition it needs, you’ll find that you are worn out, even after sleeping a full night. Fatigue is a very common symptom of a deficiency. Excessive hair loss, skin rashes and anemia are also signs that you are lacking something.
When the body is low on one or more vitamins, the immune system is often compromised, as well. This means that diseases like a simple cold or the flu will tend to last longer than normal and you may find that you are more prone to infections than usual. If you pay attention to your body, you will notice if something is wrong.
Vitamin A: When you are low in this vitamin, eye problems result. First, night blindness and dry eyes, then more severe issues indicate problems. In countries where Vitamin A is not available readily, people can even go blind from lack of it. In children, a deficiency could be apparent with a failure to grow properly.
Vitamin B: There are several vitamins included in this group. B1 causes beriberi in its absence, a disease that results in muscle weakness and brain damage. Lack of B2 can cause hair loss, ulcers in the mouth and on the skin, rashes and itchiness, among other symptoms.
If you don’t have enough B3, you could develop pellagra, which usually presents itself in the form of stomach problems and diarrhea, as well as rashes caused by the sun. Too little B5 and you’ll suffer from fatigue, nausea, headaches and tingling in the hands and feet. B6 deficiency usually results in anemia, feelings of dizziness and loss of hair.
Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, is particularly important for women of child-bearing age. A lack of it during pregnancy could cause spina bifida in the unborn child or spontaneous abortion. B12 is another important vitamin, without which you suffer from the same symptoms as B5 deficiency.
Vitamin C: It’s fairly rare to find a deficiency in Vitamin C, since so many processed foods are already fortified, but taking extra means your immune system will be stronger. Signs that you are lacking in this important vitamin include fatigue, bleeding gums and slow healing of wounds.
Vitamin D: The lack of this vitamin has been named as a cause of certain kinds of cancer, such as breast and colon cancer. Less severe symptoms of deficiency include twitching muscles, sleep issues (particularly in small children), pain in the joints and osteoporosis.
Vitamin E: Not enough Vitamin E usually results in eye problems, especially a limit to how far you can move your eyes upwards. Severe deficiency could result in blindness. Lack of this vitamin can also cause fertility issues, miscarriages, as well as problems with the liver, brain and bone marrow.
Vitamin K: Anyone low on this vitamin will find that they bruise easily and tend to bleed more than normal with small cuts and scratches. Frequent nosebleeds could be a sign that you are low on Vitamin K.
Even if you feel that you get enough of each vitamin, that might not be true. Some foods, such as carbonated beverages, act as barriers, preventing the absorption of certain vitamins, so while you may be ingesting enough, your body might not be actually absorbing everything. This is one area that multi-vitamins treat well, since they have the optimum mix of vitamins to enhance the actual absorption.
To stay strong and healthy, it’s important to let your body have what it needs. Vitamin deficiencies are often mild in Western countries, but they do affect the quality of life and when it’s something so easy to treat, why not fix the problem?