Haven’t quite been feeling yourself lately? Maybe you are somewhat achy, lightheaded, irritable, or feel like your immune system is out of whack? You might actually be suffering from some of the most common vitamin deficiencies. Here is a look at the top five vitamin deficiencies, their symptoms, and how to prevent them from arising in the first place.
1. Vitamin D Deficiency
Individuals who have darker skin, spend a lot of time indoors during the day, or who are pregnant or obese are more likely to suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. Tiredness and aches and pains may occur. As it plays a key role in calcium absorption from the gut, Vitamin D is important for healthy bones.
If you think you might be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency, give this little trick by Dr. Oz a try. Simply place your thumb on your sternum, which is the bone that goes vertically through the center of the chest. Did you flinch? If you experience any pain or an uncomfortable sensation while pressing on this bone, you may in fact be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. (Note – that test is not completely scientific – So don’t rely solely on this test, but you already knew that!)
Generally, a deficiency occurs when an individual doesn’t get enough sunlight or doesn’t take daily supplements. So it is very common in some countries, where sunlight is at a premium. To give a vitamin D deficiency the boot, one must simply spend more time in the sunlight with skin exposed or take a daily multivitamin. It is that simple!
2. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 plays multiple roles in the body. Perhaps most important is its function to keep homocysteine levels in check. What is homocysteine?, you ask… This amino acid helps to decrease heart disease risk as well as produce red blood cells.
Individuals suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency can experience weakness, lightheadedness, rapid heartbeat, upset stomach, and diarrhea or constipation, among other things. However, more serious issues can arise if the deficiency isn’t corrected. This includes tingling or numbness in the fingers and toes, difficulty walking, and mood changes.
Worried? Don’t be. According to WebMD, you can curtail your chances of suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency by consuming an adequate amount of meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, yogurt and cheese. If these items are not daily staples for you, ask your doctor about taking a multi-vitamin that contains B12.
3. Vitamin B6
According to Medline Plus, a deficiency in B6 can lead to confusion, depression, irritability, and the presence of mouth and tongue sores. Sound like you? A deficiency in B6 is a serious issue considering this water-soluble vitamin is responsible for making antibodies, maintaining normal nerve function, breaking down proteins, and keeping blood sugar levels in normal ranges.
The best way to avoid a B6 deficiency? That’s easy…just eat right! Eating a balanced diet consisting of a variety of foods can mean the difference between healthy and unhealthy levels of vitamin B6. Specific foods that provide an adequate amount of B6 include bananas, avocados, nuts, poultry, whole grains, and meat.
4. Vitamin A
The World Health Organization has indicated that a deficiency in vitamin A is a public health problem in more than half of all countries. Not having enough vitamin A in the body can result in visual impairments and blindness, an increase in the risk of severe illness, and possibly even death.
How can you prevent a vitamin A deficiency? Yet again, the easiest way to get enough vitamin A is to eat healthy! Meat, eggs, milk, and other dairy products can provide vitamin A. Dark green, orange, and yellow vegetables should also be consumed as they contain beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A in the body.
Already suffering from a vitamin A deficiency? Treatment involves vitamin supplements or receiving injections of the vitamin.
5. Vitamin C Deficiency
Have you heard of the disease scurvy before? If so, you might be familiar with the fact that this disease is caused by a severe deficiency in vitamin C. While most individuals suffering from a vitamin C deficiency will never get scurvy, they may experience anemia, bleeding gums, lowered immunity, dry and splitting hair, and nose bleeds, to name a few.
Medline Plus outlines the importance of vitamin C in promoting growth and repair of tissues in the body and blocking damage caused by free radicals.
Worried you may be at risk? There are some preventative steps you can take. First and foremost, eat your fruits and vegetables. They all contain some amount of vitamin C. You can also get vitamin C through some fortified foods and beverages. Just take a look at the label!
The take home message here is that a healthy, balanced diet is vital. Still worried that you might be a victim to one of the deficiencies outlined above? Call your doctor. Determining if you have a vitamin deficiency can mean the difference between good and poor health.