Each and every day we depend on the healthy functioning of our bodies to go about our lives. It’s important then to keep ourselves healthy through daily intake of vitamins and minerals. A diet rich in essential vitamins goes a long way in maintaining our general wellbeing and lets us both look and feel our best.
Oftentimes, however, we find ourselves feeling run down and tired, or looking a little bedraggled, seemingly for no reason. In a lot of cases, this is down to us being deficient in specific vitamins or nutrients. Even the most well-planned diet can have its blind spots that may manifest in some sort of health problem.
Here then, we’ll discuss some of the most common symptoms of a diet lacking in vitamins and their associated deficiency. We’ll also answer the question of how to treat vitamin deficiency and look at some other issues such as lifestyle choices that can play a role too.
The most common symptoms of vitamin deficiency are:
Other signs are harder to pinpoint but equally important to address. You may be otherwise fit and healthy, for example, but find yourself short of breath after a short walk. You may also feel listless or suddenly lose your appetite, or just generally not feel quite right.
While these can also be signs of something more serious and should always be checked out with your doctor, they can sometimes be attributed to your body lacking a key nutrient or vitamin.
Vitamin deficiency can manifest itself in many ways, and signs can differ a little from person to person. Nevertheless, there are some common themes. These are the most common symptoms and deficiencies that doctors and dieticians hear most often:
Technically called seborrheic dermatitis, scaly skin and its accompanying dandruff is a group of skin problems known to cause self-confidence issues. Symptoms will most commonly be found around oil-producing areas of skin such as the scalp, upper chest, face, and groin.
The most common cause of this type of ailment is a lack of B vitamins (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4852869/) in the diet as well as zinc.
One of the most common vitamin deficiencies is B12 and iron, typically expressed as a general feeling of fatigue and perpetual tiredness. Not getting enough iron and B12 means the body can’t produce enough red blood cells (anaemia), vital to carry oxygen around the body and fulfil our energy needs.
For those who like to look their best, it’s important to have healthy-looking hair and nails. Brittle hair and nails may be a sign that you are low in B7, otherwise known as biotin, as well as vitamin C. This is especially the case for those on long-term medication, smokers, and women who have been pregnant.
Ulcers, lesions, and generally sore gums and areas around the mouth are a possible indication that you’re low in iron (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3165514/) and B vitamins (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3576783/).
If you notice more hair than usual in the brush or falling out when you shower, it might be a sign that you’re low in vitamins. Other than iron, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium are all known to play a vital role in maintaining healthy hair and follicles. Frequently, hair is not falling out but simply breaking, so ensuring strong growth is the remedy.
Each vitamin and mineral we take in through our food plays multiple, overlapping roles in maintaining our body and mind’s wellbeing. Understanding the role they play and spotting the signs of their deficiency is key to keeping your diet balanced and healthy.
|Vitamin A||Dairy, oily fish, liver||● Poor night vision
● Dry skin and throat
● Poor wound healing
|B vitamins+folic acids||Whole grains, meat, nuts, peas||● Fatigue
● Nerve pain
|Vitamin C||Citrus fruits, Berries, Broccoli, sprouts||● Rough skin
● Curl body hair
● Scooped fingernails
● Easy bruising
|Vitamin D||Oily fish, red meat, eggs||● Fatigue
● Bone pain
● Muscle weakness
|Vitamin E||Plant oils, Wheatgerm, nuts and seeds||● Slow reflexes
● Bad coordination
● Weak muscles
|Vitamin K||Leafy vegetables, Oils
|● Easy bruising
● Blood clots under nails
● Excessive bleeding
|Calcium||Dairy, Soya, green vegetables||● Muscle cramps
● Dry skin
● Ridged nails
|Zinc||Meat, Shellfish, dairy||● Loss of appetite
● Hair loss
|Iron||Red meat, Nuts, beans||● Extreme fatigue
● Pale skin
● Fast heartbeat
|Selenium||Brazil nuts, Fish, Meat, eggs||● Difficult conceiving
● Mental fog
|Iodine||Sea fish, Shellfish, seaweeds||● Difficulty remembering
● Weight gain
Vitamin deficiencies are typically caused by a poor diet. A diet that does not include the necessary vitamins may take some time to show symptoms, however. Because the body can usually store up vitamins and minerals, it is often the case that people feel fine for quite a while before their lack of nutritional intake begins to manifest in terms of health problems.
Complicating things a little, chronic illnesses can also lead to vitamin deficiency. This is tricky to diagnose as it’s often unclear whether the deficiency is causing the chronic illness or the other way round. In either case, doctors, nutritionists and dieticians will always recommend a healthy, rounded diet of whole foods where possible, including the essential vitamins and minerals.
Excessive stress, smoking, drinking, and drug use can also lead to vitamin deficiencies. Affected by foreign substances or lack of due care and attention, the body can often have difficulty absorbing and metabolising the vitamin and minerals we get from food. In the case of severe addiction, the nutritional choices are also sometimes lacking, leading to compounding health issues.
There are some diseases and health issues that are known to cause or be caused by vitamin deficiencies. These include:
A chronic digestive disorder that affects the immune system, celiac disease causes damage to the small intestine. Gluten consumption exacerbates the vitamin deficiency issue and prevents adequate nutrient absorption.
A pigmentary disorder associated with the destruction of melanocyte cells, vitiligo (https://vitiligosociety.org/) has been linked to a lack of B12, copper, zinc, vitamin D, and folic acid in the diet. Reintroduction of these and adequate sunlight has been known to help prevent further symptoms.
Also known as thrush, candida (https://onbetterliving.com/candida-signs/) causes itchiness, discharge, and irritation in the groin area of men and women. It is known to be caused by a lack of vitamin B6, magnesium, and essential fatty acids.
While vitamin deficiencies aren’t known to cause the itchy skin condition known as psoriasis, not getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals can impair the body’s ability to heal, making the issue worse. Vitamin D and B12 are considered two such key components to a healthy diet that can combat flare-ups.
While antidepressants are often necessary to treat severe depression, it’s also the case that we’re just a little low in necessary nutrients. With depression and other issues like insomnia being a compounding health problem, diet often falls to the wayside. Low vitamin D, for example, is linked to depression and even dementia.
Most commonly treated with the inclusion of extra vitamin D in the diet, infertility is something that can often be easily treated through diet. The inclusion of plenty of vitamin D is also important in the role of breast milk production.
Vitamin deficiency can be treated effectively through a well-rounded diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, complete protein sources. Apps such as Cronometer (https://cronometer.com/) are great for tracking micronutrients and can help you spot the minerals and vitamins you may be lacking in.
While vitamin supplements can be taken to treat symptoms directly, this should only be done after consulting a doctor or dietician. Too much of a vitamin or mineral can have a toxic effect on the body and be worse than a deficiency.