Recently I outlined how getting your vitamins can be very beneficial to your health. I also discussed that you can go too far by overdosing on the various vitamins which can lead to a number of adverse effects. Today I would like to discuss the other extreme – vitamin deficiency. Just as getting too many vitamins can cause undesirable symptoms, not getting enough can also negatively impact your health. In this article I will be discussing the adverse effects of not getting enough vitamins and outlining how you can make sure you get enough of each.
1) DIFFICULTY PERFORMING ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS:- Vitamins are essential nutrients that are required by your body so that the cells can function properly. Therefore, the immediate impact of not getting enough vitamins is that your body will struggle to perform essential functions such as growth, producing new cells, healing wounds and protecting your existing cells from oxidative damage.
2) VISION PROBLEMS:- Not getting enough vitamin A makes the cornea very dry which causes damage to both the cornea and the retina. This often leads to problems with your vision . Night blindness (a condition that makes it difficult or impossible to see in dim light) is usually the first sign of a vitamin A deficiency but if left untreated this can develop into full blindness. A lack of vitamin B2 has also been linked with eye damage which could contribute to vision problems.
3) BERIBERI:- A vitamin B1 deficiency causes condition called beriberi to develop. There are two main types of beriberi; dry beriberi and wet beriberi. Dry beriberi affects the nervous system and leads to pain, loss of feeling in your extremities and weak muscles. In the worst cases it can cause partial paralysis and brain damage. Wet beriberi affects the cardiovascular system and can enlarge your heart, increase your heart rate and weaken the capillary walls. In the worst cases it can lead to heart failure.
4) SKIN PROBLEMS:- Low levels of vitamin B2, B6, B7 and E can all lead to problems with your skin. Being deficient in vitamin B2 can make your skin greasy, scaly or dry. Not getting enough vitamin B6 can cause your lips to become cracked and sore. A vitamin B7 deficiency can lead to dry skin, rashes and fungal infections. Consuming low amounts of vitamin E is linked with the development of age spots (brown pigmentations that appear on the skin).
5) PELLAGRA:- Not consuming enough vitamin B3 can lead to pellagra. This condition has a number of unpleasant symptoms including diarrhea and skin inflammation. It also has a negative impact on your mental health causing aggression, insomnia and ultimately dementia. If left untreated pellagra can prove fatal.
6) MENTAL PROBLEMS:- Vitamin deficiencies can also have a negative impact on your mental health. As discussed above not getting enough vitamin B3 causes pellagra which negatively impacts your mental health. An extended vitamin B7 deficiency can lead to depression. Not consuming enough vitamin B12 can in the worst cases cause dementia.
7) BLOOD PROBLEMS:- Being deficient in vitamin B9, B12, C, E and K can lead to a number of blood related disorders. Not getting enough vitamin B9 causes macrocytic anemia, a condition where your red blood cells are larger than normal which reduces the overall number of red blood cells in your blood stream. A vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to pernicious anemia, a similar condition to macrocytic anemia. Being deficient in vitamin C leads to the development of a condition called scurvy which can cause bleeding and make it difficult for your wounds to heal. A lack of vitamin E can lead to hemolytic anemia, a condition where your blood cells become extremely delicate and break down faster than they can be replaced. Not consuming enough vitamin K can lead to uncontrollable bleeding from your eyes, gums and nose.
8) BONE PROBLEMS:- Not getting enough vitamin D causes bone disorders in both adults and children. In children it leads to rickets, a condition which causes the bones to bend, swell and fracture. In adults it causes osteomalacia, a condition similar to rickets where the bones become soft. A lack of vitamin K can lead to the development of osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become less dense and fracture more easily.
As you can see vitamin deficiencies can have a number of adverse impacts and make it difficult for your body to function properly. Some of the symptoms are much less common than others (scurvy is very rare in developed countries whereas anemia is much more prevalent) but all of them are unpleasant. The majority of vitamin deficiencies are down to a poor diet that is lacking in certain vital vitamins. These can be addressed by identifying the areas of your diet where certain vitamins are lacking and then adding the necessary foods.
However, there are a number of other factors that can cause your body to lack certain vitamins. Alcoholism and heavy alcohol consumption can interfere with the absorption of various vitamins. There are also a number of conditions and diseases that prevent your body from processing vitamins properly including cancer, crohn’s disease, liver disease and stomach problems. Certain medications including anti-biotics, anti-coagulants (blood thinning medication), oral contraceptives and painkillers can inhibit the body’s ability to use vitamins. Getting very little sunlight can also cause a vitamin D deficiency, although this can be addressed by increasing your dietary vitamin D intake. If you believe you may be deficient in certain vitamins as a result of any of the above factors then you should consult your doctor right away and explain your concerns. They will then be able to test you for vitamin deficiencies (usually by performing a blood test) and give you the appropriate advice for topping up your vitamin levels if necessary.
Whether your vitamin deficiency is a result of diet or other factors the symptoms are never pleasant. Your doctor is the best person to consult on this topic as they will be able to address any concerns you have and provide you with a professional opinion on what you should do top up your vitamin levels. With their advice you can avoid vitamin deficiencies, consume adequate levels of each vitamin and improve your overall health.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you ever experienced a vitamin deficiency? Are there any other negative symptoms that I have missed out?