Vitamin deficiencies are alarmingly common, even in developed countries like the United States. So, how are you supposed to know you’re lacking in essential nutrients, other than by getting tested at the doctor’s office?
Today, we look at 20 signs of vitamin deficiency. Some of these signs are surprising, so stick around till the end.
First, let’s look at the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency.
Number 20. Dry Eyes.
A lack of vitamin A can cause problems with your eyesight; a well-known one is dry eyes.
Vitamin A is essential for the health of the cornea, the clear outer layer at the front of the eye which allows light to enter.
It helps to make tears, which keeps the eye lubricated and comfortable.
When the body is deficient in vitamin A, the conjunctiva can dry out.
The conjunctiva is the thin membrane covering the white of the eye, which helps to lubricate the eyes.
When there are not enough tears or mucus, the cornea can become abnormally dry or inflamed.
Number 19. Night Blindness.
One of the early signs of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness-the inability of the eye to adjust to the dark.
The underlying cause of night blindness is the lack of a vitamin A-rich substance called rhodopsin in the retina.
Rhodopsin is a light-sensitive protein that absorbs low light levels when we enter a dark environment, allowing us to distinguish shapes, objects, and movements in dim lighting.
Low levels of vitamin A hinder the production of rhodopsin, which ultimately impairs a person’s ability to see in the dark.
Number 18. Anemia.
You may be surprised to find out that low levels of vitamin A can be a root cause of anemia. That’s because people with vitamin A deficiency tend to have low iron status, which can lead to anemia. Normally, vitamin A helps the body absorb iron to make new red blood cells.
Without vitamin A, the ability of the body to produce iron-rich red blood cells decreases dramatically. A 2013 study published in the journal Nutrients found that vitamin A supplements can both prevent iron deficiency anemia and reverse it.
Luckily, it’s easy to correct vitamin A deficiency through your diet. There are two main food sources.
Plants with beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body.
These are the yellow, red, and green fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, and cantaloupe.
And animal-based foods with retinol, the active form of vitamin A. These include liver, salmon, mackerel, milk, cheese, and egg yolks.
Next, let’s explore the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Number 17. Mouth Ulcers.
An interesting sign of vitamin B12 deficiency is mouth ulcers, otherwise known as canker sores.
This happens because lower levels of B12 can cause the body’s oral mucosa-the tissue that lines your inner mouth-to become weaker and less able to protect itself from bacteria and other invading agents.
The vitamin B-mouth ulcer connection was proven in 2009 when Israeli doctors gave subjects a nightly dose of vitamin B12 and found that it prevented canker sores.
Number 16. Dizziness.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is an often overlooked cause of dizziness.
One common cause of B12 deficiency is pernicious anemia. In pernicious anemia, the intestines cannot absorb B12 properly, so your body cannot produce enough red blood cells. As a result, you have a low red blood cell count and less oxygen circulates to your brain and other parts of your body.
Vitamin B12 deficiency itself ALSO causes anemia which results in dizziness, shortness of breath, and difficulty walking.
In addition, not having enough vitamin B12 causes problems with your nervous system, including feeling off-balance, pins and needles, and blurry vision, which all contribute to dizziness.
Number 15. Heart Palpitations.
Does your heart sometimes feel like it’s about to burst out of your chest? Anemia brought on by a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause this scary experience. This is because your blood pressure drops and your heart rate increases significantly, and this gives rise to palpitation episodes.
Number 14. Skin Inflammation.
Besides B12, you should also pay attention to your levels of riboflavin – or its other name: vitamin B2. A deficiency in vitamin B2 can cause inflammation of the skin like a rash or dermatitis. Severe cases show up as cracks in the corners of the mouth and a swollen, red tongue.
If you are on any kind of restrictive diet or have a digestive issue like celiac disease, then it is vital to pay extra close attention to this subtle warning sign.
Fortunately, all the symptoms we’ve mentioned can be counteracted by increasing the intake of foods rich in vitamins B12 and B2 or through supplements.
These include beef, animal liver, shellfish, fish, meat, eggs, milk, nutritional yeast, and B12-fortified foods.
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Next, let’s discuss the symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency.
Number 13. Wrinkles.
Too little vitamin C will increase signs of aging, such as wrinkles. That’s because vitamin C helps produce collagen, the protein that keeps your skin elastic and youthful.
So what can you do if your vitamin C levels are low? Just by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, and spinach, you could see a dramatic effect on your skin.
Number 12. Broken Blood Vessels.
A lack of vitamin C not only makes wrinkles more visible but can also cause broken blood vessels on the skin. Also known as spider veins, these small, dilated blood vessels appear close to the surface of the skin and are usually red, purple, or blue.
Eating vitamin C-rich foods can prevent spider veins, but cannot make them go away.
Number 11. Swollen Gums.
Vitamin C deficiency often shows up in the mouth in the form of red, swollen, and irritated gums. If your gums feel especially sensitive, try eating foods that contain vitamin C.
Now, let’s explore the warning signs of vitamin D deficiency.
Number 10. Sleep Issues.
Vitamin D doesn’t just help our bones—it’s also essential for a good night’s sleep.
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to sleeping problems, such as shorter hours in bed and restless nights.
It can also increase inflammation of the nose and tonsils, which can cause snoring or obstructive sleep apnea.
Recent research has found that those with a vitamin D deficiency have an astounding 50% higher risk of sleep disturbances. To avoid these issues, make sure to get plenty of sun exposure or take a vitamin D supplement.
Number 9. Hair Loss.
One surprising sign of a vitamin D deficiency is hair loss. This is because vitamin D is involved in the production of keratin, a protein that makes up your hair.
When there isn’t enough vitamin D to stimulate your hair follicles, new hair growth can be stunted.
Number 8. Mood Changes.
If you have a vitamin D deficiency, you may notice changes in your mood, such as feeling down or tired or experiencing signs of depression.
That’s because Vitamin D helps maintain levels of serotonin—better known as the ‘happiness hormone’—within our brains.
Many scientists believe that depression may be caused by low levels of serotonin in the brain.
Number 7. Slow-Healing Wounds.
If you find that it’s taking your body a long time to heal scrapes, cuts, and other skin wounds, this could be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is essential for proper recovery. It helps regulate cell growth—so getting enough is necessary for forming new healthy skin cells in injured areas.
Moving on, let’s examine the telltale symptoms of a vitamin E deficiency.
Number 6. Balance Issues.
Vitamin E deficiencies are uncommon, but they can occur in people with cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease. A common symptom of a vitamin E deficiency is “balance problems”.
If you’re falling more often than usual and you think you might be deficient in vitamin E, it’s time to get your levels checked.
Number 5. Nerve Pain.
Nerve pain, which is often described as burning, stabbing, or shooting pain, can be caused by a vitamin E deficiency. Studies show that vitamin E injections can help to reduce neuropathic pain.
This is because vitamin E protects the fatty sheaths around our nerve cells; and when we don’t have enough, these sheaths can become damaged.
Number 4. Muscle Pain.
It may come as a surprise, but vitamin E plays an important role in maintaining our muscles. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who took 400 IU of Vitamin E every day had less muscle damage.
So you should pay extra attention if you are not very active, but your muscles are weak and sore.
You can prevent vitamin E deficiency, by increasing your intake of foods like sunflower seeds, avocado, spinach, broccoli, almonds, and peanuts. However, skip “vegetable oils” as these are highly processed. See our video on foods that cause gut inflammation.
Next, let’s get into the signs and symptoms, of a vitamin K deficiency.
Number 3. Clotting Issues.
Vitamin K is important for hemostasis, or blood clotting.
The body needs vitamin K to produce proteins for blood clotting, so that wounds can stop bleeding and heal.
People who are living with absorption issues such as cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, and short bowel syndrome should pay extra close attention to how they clot, since they are at increased risk for vitamin K deficiency.
Number 2. Easy Bruising.
Do you bruise like a peach? If you bruise at the slightest bump, you should consider getting bloodwork done. Easy bruising may be a sign that there is not enough vitamin K circulating in your bloodstream.
Number 1. Blood in the Stool.
Spotting blood in your bowel movements is almost always a cause for concern. And this could be a symptom of excessive bleeding caused by vitamin K deficiency. No matter what the cause is, it’s worth getting checked out by a doctor.
Both vitamin K1 and K2 foods support normal blood clotting, so it’s important to get enough of these two vitamins.
Vitamin K1 foods include green leafy vegetables such as collard and turnip greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and lettuce.
And vitamin K2 foods include natto, sauerkraut, pastured egg yolks, and some cheeses.
While the causes of each vitamin deficiency are different, they almost always involve insufficient intake, poor absorption, underlying health concerns, and medications.
I hope you enjoyed this video. The next video to watch is “foods that cause gut inflammation”.
As always, this video is educational and does not constitute medical advice; we are not doctors.
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And watch out for a future video, when we talk about mineral deficiencies.