Most people get almost all the nutrients they need to function from their diet. At times when they don’t, vitamin supplements can act as a safety net to fill in the gaps for what you’re not eating.
But did you know that you can still be deficient in the vitamin while taking a multivitamin or eating a balanced diet? This is because everyone is different and our bodies need different things. A general multivitamin may not address a significant deficiency in certain nutrients. It is important to know the symptoms of vitamin deficiency so that you can spot them if they occur and adjust your diet accordingly.
What is a vitamin deficiency?
A vitamin deficiency is exactly what the name suggests: your body is operating without enough of a certain nutrient. They are incredibly common; it is estimated that 2 billion people worldwide are vitamin deficient.
Vitamin deficiency is divided into two categories – primary and secondary deficiency. A primary vitamin deficiency means that you need to eat more of the foods that contain the vitamin. In this case, you can often adjust your diet to make sure you meet these needs. Or take a supplement if you have dietary restrictions that prevent you from eating these foods, such as food allergies.
Secondary deficiencies occur when your body does not absorb nutrients as it should. This can happen due to an underlying disease such as celiac disease or cystic fibrosis. Additionally, secondary deficiency results from our bodies absorbing fewer nutrients as we age. Malabsorption can then combine to cause other deficiencies, as in the case of calcium and vitamin D. Older people whose bodies have stopped producing vitamin D can develop calcium deficiency because vitamin D is critical for calcium absorption.
Common signs that you may have a vitamin deficiency
Vitamin deficiencies are common. However, they don’t always present with symptoms you might associate with a vitamin deficiency. Here are the common signs of vitamin deficiency that you may be overlooking.
One of the most common symptoms of vitamin deficiency is fatigue or feeling weak and tired. Many things can cause this, making it difficult to isolate symptoms that stem from something else, such as sleep deprivation. Chronic fatigue that doesn’t go away no matter how much you sleep or rest can mean a vitamin deficiency.
Fatigue signals a lack of:
2. Muscle weakness and pain
Another common sign of vitamin deficiency is muscle weakness or cramps. Again, this is hard to pin down directly to nutrients, given that you can have aches or pains in your joints for many reasons. The most well-known deficiency associated with muscle weakness is vitamin D. However, several B vitamins and magnesium can also contribute to weakness.
Muscle weakness and joint pain can indicate a deficiency of:
Targeting your diet to see where you are lacking is the first step you can take to address vitamin deficiencies. It’s worth seeing your doctor if you can’t find obvious gaps in your diet.
3. Severe hair loss
Hair loss can occur due to several reasons such as genetics, medical conditions, hair treatments and hormonal imbalances. Lack of key nutrients for hair growth can also be the cause. If your hair is thinning or not as healthy as it used to be, it could be because you’re not getting enough of these nutrients:
It is important to note that unless your hair loss or damage is due to a vitamin deficiency, taking vitamins will not make your hair grow back thicker. Finding the source of your hair loss is the only way to know how to deal with it. Hair growth vitamins can only help you stay healthy if you are deficient, but they are not magic pills. It is always better to focus on your diet which supports hair health.
4. Dry skin
Even if you use moisturizers and everything you should, you can still end up with dry skin or dandruff. Your diet may be to blame for this. Having enough of the right vitamins and minerals is essential for healthy, hydrated skin and scalp. It’s not just dry skin – scaly patches, bumps and dandruff – all indicate a possible vitamin deficiency.
If you have dry skin, you may be deficient in these vitamins:
5. Slow-healing wounds and a weak immune system
Several vitamins are essential for a functioning immune system: vitamins E, C, and K. Vitamin K is the nutrient required for the formation of blood clots. Without an adequate amount in your body, a normal cut can become a big problem. This also applies to internal bleeding, which is difficult to identify without medical intervention.
Vitamin deficiency not only determines how long you bleed; they also affect how long it takes for the wound to heal. Vitamin C works with anti-inflammatory properties that help close wounds. Deficiency will delay tissue repair.
Nutrient deficiencies in these vitamins can affect your immune system and your ability to heal wounds:
6. Mood swings
A vitamin deficiency can also dictate how you feel. Most people are familiar with seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that occurs when there is less sunlight to provide us with vitamin D. However, mood swings and depression due to vitamin D deficiency are not limited to the winter months . It is estimated that 42% of Americans do not get enough vitamin D.
Vitamin B6 deficiency has also been found to contribute to mental conditions such as anxiety and depression. Although more research is needed, several studies suggest that taking vitamin B6 supplements may help reduce symptoms because it produces chemical messengers that inhibit brain impulses, resulting in a calming effect.
7. Changes in vision
In addition to the natural changes in our vision that occur with age, vitamin A deficiency can contribute to vision problems. Vitamin A plays a key role in vision by supporting the production of retinal pigments. Without enough vitamin A, production stops, resulting in night blindness, or a compromised ability to see in dim light and darkness.
Night blindness can occur independently of vitamin A deficiency, so you shouldn’t start taking a supplement unless you know the source. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that it is stored in our body’s fat stores. An excess is called vitamin A toxicity, characterized by symptoms such as headaches, joint pain, and nausea.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that is essential for eye health. Deficiency can lead to vision loss over time.
8. Numbness in fingers or toes
A lesser known and more alarming sign that you may be deficient in the vitamin is numbness in your hands, feet and legs. The main culprit behind this deficiency is vitamin B12, which plays a role in our nervous system by producing myelin. Myelin is the protective layer that surrounds the nerve. A lack of B12 means your body won’t produce enough myelin and your nerves are susceptible to damage. Then you feel pins and needles in your arms and legs.
Nutrients that are linked to numbness in the hands and feet:
If you experience tingling or numbness that persists, see your doctor right away to find the cause and develop a treatment plan.
Too long; didn’t read?
Anyone can be deficient in vitamins. They are often overlooked because of how common some of the symptoms are. However, symptoms should not be ignored, especially those that affect your ability to move, lift and see. A change in lifestyle and diet is the best way to stop deficiencies. Although taking supplements is also common.
Talk to your doctor if you’ve had persistent symptoms that aren’t related to anything else. They can do blood tests to make a definitive diagnosis and create a treatment plan.