Vitamins are nutrients that are important for the regular and smooth functioning of the human body. On average, the human body requires about 13 different kinds of vitamins to stay healthy and active. Each of those vitamins has separate functions and benefits for the human body.
However, sometimes we may not get sufficient amounts of all the required vitamins, causing the body to get weaker and suffer from illnesses related to the lack of vitamins in the body. This is called a “vitamin deficiency” and deteriorates the health of a person over time.
Symptoms of vitamin deficiency
There are varied symptoms of vitamin deficiencies. Most of the symptoms begin to show only when a person hasn’t had enough vitamins in their body for several months. Some of the common symptoms are:
Due to the lack of essential vitamins, most bodily functions tend to slow down making the body feel weaker, not allowing one to focus on daily activities, and feel tired.
Loss of bone density
As the human body ages, due to the absence of the right amount of vitamins, the bones become softer, leading to a brittle bone disorder called osteoporosis. This is caused due to the bones lacking density.
Dry skin and hair
Lack of vitamin B7 causes hair to lose its elasticity and leads to breakage of dry and damaged hair. A lot of hair may be lost due to this reason. Deficiency in vitamin A and C may cause dry and flaky skin and cause rashes and red or white bumps on the surface.
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked as the cause of postpartum depression in several cases. Studies have shown that a lack of enough vitamins in the body, causes exhaustion and depression in a person.
Vitamin B12 deficiency results in irritability and mood swings. The vitamin helps in the breakdown of homocysteine and prevents depression and other mood-related disorders.
The deficiency of vitamin K delays blood clotting during injuries leading to easy bruising and bleeding.
Poor wound healing
The deficiency of vitamin B and D leads to lesser production of antibodies to heal the wounds on time.
Predisposition to infections
Vitamin D deficiency makes a person liable to more infections and illnesses due to a weakened immune system.
Skin colour changes
Vitamin B12 deficiency leads to skin disorders where the skin changes colour in patches, Examples of such disorders are vitiligo and hyperpigmentation.
Causes of Vitamin Deficiency
The reason why one might experience vitamin deficiency is because of their poor choices in diet. One may not include food items containing certain kinds of vitamins due to personal dislike towards that food item or other reasons.
Similarly, a person’s absorption capacity of certain vitamins may be poor, resulting in a deficiency of that vitamin.
Essentials for Vitamin deficiency
The 13 essential vitamins required to fight vitamin deficiencies are:
Vitamin D, also known as calciferol is a vitamin that keeps the bones and teeth strong and muscles healthy. It is found in salmon, egg yolk, animal liver, etc.
Vitamin K, also known as phylloquinone is a vitamin that builds stronger bones and aids blood clotting. It is found in broccoli, cabbage, and other green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid is a vitamin that forms collagen and keeps the skin healthy, boosts immunity and maintains bone health. It is found in oranges, lemon, potatoes, etc.
Vitamin B1 thiamine
Vitamin B1 or thiamine boosts memory and concentration and improves nerve pain in diabetics. It is found in fish, lentils, yogurt, etc.
Vitamin B2 riboflavin
Vitamin B2 or riboflavin provides energy to the body by breaking down proteins into amino acids. It is found in dairy products, organ meat, salmon, etc.
Vitamin B3 niacin
Vitamin B5 pantothenic acid
Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid synthesizes fats faster and improves eye and hair health. It is found in mushrooms, beef, cereal, etc.
Vitamin B6 pyroxidine
Vitamin B7 biotin
Vitamin B9 folate
Vitamin B9 or folate helps in the production of DNA and RNA and improves the faster growth of cells and tissues in infants. It is found in sunflower seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, etc.
Vitamin B12 cobalamin
Vitamin B12 or cobalamin keeps the nerve endings and blood healthy. It is found in milk, eggs, salmon, etc.
Complications of Vitamin Deficiency
When a person suffers from vitamin deficiencies for a prolonged period, it takes a toll on their health and causes severe health issues and dangers for the body:
Decreased sensation of the hands and feet
Vitamin B12 helps in maintaining the nervous system of the body. Therefore, a deficiency of the vitamin could reduce the quality of function of the nerves in our body, present in our hands and feet. Hence, people with a deficiency often experience less to no sense in their limbs.
Weakness of the toes and fingers
Vitamin deficiencies affecting the nervous system may affect the nerve endings of the nervous system in our fingers and toes. This leads to weakness and a tingling sensation in one’s toes and fingers.
Vitamin A is an essential vitamin to safeguard the light-sensing cells in our eyes. A deficiency of the vitamin often leads to blindness and other poor vision-related problems.
Adults who have a deficiency of vitamin D and B12 often experience problems with memory and remembrance. Such vitamin deficiencies affect the brain’s memory retention capacity and could lead to more severe disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Children that lack sufficient amounts of vitamin D, often show signs of aggressive behaviour and lack of anger control towards the smallest issues. It also causes anxiety disorders during the adolescence stage.
Shortness of breath
When a person lacks a sufficient amount of vitamin B12, the production of healthy red blood cells is hindered, causing the oxygen transportation throughout the body to face complications. This leads to shortness of breath by doing very less physical activity, panting, etc.
Tachycardia is a condition where a person has a heartbeat higher than 100 beats per minute. This could be caused due to the lack of red blood cells in the body because of the lack of vitamin B12.
Rare effects of Vitamin Deficiency
There are certain rare adverse effects caused due to vitamin deficiencies that may harm the body and cause discomfort.
Restless leg syndrome is a condition where a person has an uncontrollable urge to keep moving the legs, due to an uncomfortable sensation. This is often linked to a vitamin D deficiency in a person.
Insufficient levels of vitamin B12 in one’s body affect the energy levels of the person, and creates havoc with one’s sleep schedule and patterns, leading to sleepless nights or constant sleepy days, which is a condition of insomnia.
Increased stroke risk
The deficiency of vitamin B12 increases homocysteine levels, which is considered a major cause of strokes and other such disorders. Therefore, the deficiency of vitamin B12 could increase a person’s risk of strokes.
The deficiency of vitamin B12 and vitamin E may lead to the degeneration of the spinal cord, leading to problems like difficulty in coordinating movements, speech trouble and other spine diseases.
Treatments of Vitamin Deficiency
Vitamin deficiencies can be treated and overcome by making some changes in our daily lifestyles and by seeking professional help.
Deficiencies of essential vitamins can be prevented from worsening by making certain dietary changes. Inclusion of vitamin-rich foods such as dairy, green leafy vegetables, fish and other vitamin-rich foods after consulting with experts and dieticians can help in improving one’s conditions.
To get adequate amounts of vitamins for the body, prescribed vitamin supplement capsules can be consumed. The human body may have issues with faster and easier absorption of vitamins; therefore, supplements are the best ways to make sure we get the right amounts of nutrients.
When the vitamin deficiency manifests into various disorders and complications in the body, immediate medical treatment can help save the situation and render healthier conditions.
Tests for Vitamin Deficiency
There are 2 methods by which vitamin deficiencies are detected and diagnosed.
The most common way of diagnosing a vitamin deficiency is through a blood test. When the blood shows a low red blood cell count or enlarged mass of red blood cells, it is most likely that the person has a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Through endoscopy and colonoscopy along with anaesthetic medications, a camera is inserted into the person’s mouth and rectum respectively, and the colon and upper portion of the intestines are examined, to check for any malfunctions of the organs that affect the body’s absorption capacity of vitamins.
Through endoscopy, a camera is inserted through the person’s mouth to examine the upper portion of the intestines. Similarly, through colonoscopy, a camera is inserted through the person’s rectum to examine the colon and internal organs.
These tests are performed to check for any malfunctions of the organs that affect the body’s absorption capacity of vitamins.
Prevention of Vitamin Deficiency
Prevention of the adverse effects of vitamin deficiency can be done by including vitamin-rich foods in one’s diet. Such foods not only provide the necessary vitamins, but they also provide the body with other nutrients and minerals and help in keeping a person healthy.
Vitamin B12 Foods
- Broccoli, spinach, green leafy vegetables
- Breakfast cereals
- Dairy products
Vitamin B9 Foods
- Broccoli, asparagus
- Bananas, strawberries and lemon
- Organ meat and mushrooms
- Grain products
It is very important that every adult, consumes about 400 mcg of vitamin B9 and 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 every day, to stay healthy and have sufficient vitamin levels.
Foods rich in Vitamin B12 include
Every 100 grams of beef has 5.9 mcg of vitamin B12
Every 100 grams of chicken has 0.3 mcg of vitamin B12
Every 100 grams of Salmon and tuna has 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12
Every 100 grams of chicken, goat, lamb, or beef liver makes up to about 3571% of the daily required amount of vitamin B12
2 large eggs contain about 1.1 mcg of vitamin B12
1 cup of fortified foods such as cereal makes up for about 62% of the daily required value of vitamin B12
Milk and cheese
One cup of whole milk makes up for about 46% of the daily required value while one slice or 22 grams of cheese makes up for 28% of the daily required value of vitamin B12
1. What is the most common vitamin deficiency?
Vitamin D, which helps in strengthening our bones and muscles while preventing us from diabetes, is the most common vitamin deficiency.
2. What happens if you have a vitamin deficiency?
The deficiency of vitamins causes the RBCs to malfunction, thereby obstructing the transportation of oxygen throughout the body leading to fatigue, breathing difficulties, etc.
3. How quickly can you fix a vitamin deficiency?
It might take about 3 to 4 months to raise the vitamin levels and to remain healthy.
4. How to boost my vitamin levels?
Taking morning walks for vitamin D, the inclusion of dairy and meat in your diet, and using vitamin supplements can help in making up for the vitamin deficiency in your body.
5. Can lack of vitamins cause sleepiness?
Lack of vitamin B12 in the body can lead to sleepiness, weakness, and fatigue at all times.
6. How do I know if I’m lacking vitamins?
Poor skin, hair and nail health, constant fatigue, mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, etc are signs of vitamin deficiencies.
7. How can you prevent vitamin deficiencies?
Inclusion of dairy products, meat, eggs, leafy vegetables, etc in one’s diet can prevent complications caused due to vitamin deficiencies.