How to Spot a Vitamin Deficiency

Every day you rely on your body to do thousands of activities. To work correctly, the body needs a daily supply of the right vitamins and nutrients found in healthy foods. If the body doesn’t get these necessary nutrients, you may notice signs of health problems. Here’s how to spot a vitamin deficiency.

Excessive hair loss

Most people have over 100,000 hair follicles on their head. It’s normal to lose 50 to 100 strands of hair a day. But if you notice an excessive number of hairs in your brush or shower day after day, check the foods you’re eating. You may have a vitamin deficiency that requires more of these essential nutrients:

  1. Vitamins B3, B7 and D – Your hair needs plenty of vitamins B3 (niacin), B7 (biotin) and D to keep it healthy. Foods rich in both niacin and biotin are nuts, leafy greens, whole grains, lean meats, fish and dairy. In addition, about 40% of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency. Some people get enough D by taking a sunny stroll each day during lunchtime. But if you can’t get outdoors, eat plenty of foods containing vitamin D. These include salmon, tuna, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified orange juice and milk. Or, just take one tablespoon of cod liver oil about every three days.
  1. Zinc and iron – For healthy hair, you also need the right amounts of zinc and iron. A deficiency in these minerals can impact cell division, and DNA and protein synthesis, necessary for hair growth. Good food sources are similar to those listed for vitamins B3 and B7. Additional sources of zinc include dark chocolate, shellfish, red meat, beans, nuts, eggs and dairy.
  1. Linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – These are essential fatty acids that help keep your hair healthy and growing. LA is found in whole grains, nuts, vegetable oils and leafy vegetables. ALA is found mostly in walnuts, soy nuts, and flax and chia seeds.

Brittle nails

If your nails chip, split or break easily, your body may need more vitamin B7. It’s one of the same vitamins that helps hair grow. Adults age 19 and older with brittle nails may notice some improvement by taking 30 micrograms of a biotin supplement. But researchers say people will achieve better results by eating biotin-rich foods. Avoid a vitamin B7 deficiency by eating broccoli, cauliflower, bananas, sweet potatoes, spinach and eggs.

Mouth lesions and cracks

We’ve all had them: burning, painful sores in the mouth or cracked skin on the lips. Medical experts say a deficiency in iron or B vitamins is the culprit. One study found that people with mouth ulcers were twice as likely to be low in iron. Another study revealed that 28% of people had deficiencies in vitamins B1, B2 and B6. Plus, it’s been proven that taking B12 every day prevents mouth ulcers. Good sources of B vitamins are eggs, dairy, poultry, fish and organ meats. Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potatoes are good sources as well.

Painful gums

If you don’t get enough vitamin C in your diet, you may have problems with painful, swollen or bleeding gums. Because your body can’t make enough vitamin C naturally, you need to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. This vitamin deficiency is easy to cure. Next time you’re at the store, pick up produce items high in vitamin C. Purchase fresh vegetables such as brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, bell peppers and broccoli. And load up on fruits such as oranges, kiwi, papaya, cantaloupe and strawberries.

Medical experts say that the healthiness of your mouth could be an indicator of your overall wellness. Learn more about how dental health affects body health.

Bumpy skin

Small bumps on your skin could be a sign of keratosis pilaris. These bumps are red or white and usually occur on the arms, thighs or cheeks. Often this condition is genetic, but it also could indicate that you’re deficient in vitamins A and C. Lack of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) can cause skin inflammation as well. To treat the condition, your doctor may prescribe a topical cream. Plus you’ll need to eat more foods rich in these vitamins. However, with fat-soluble vitamins like A, taking too much can cause a toxic reaction.

Poor night vision, dry eyes

If you struggle to see well at night, you may have a vitamin A deficiency. Researchers found that vitamin A helps produce rhodopsin, which allows people to see in low light. In addition, people can develop a dry eye condition called xerophthalmia. Difficulty seeing in the dark is a key symptom. However, it generally can be alleviated by taking vitamin A as prescribed by your doctor. If not caught early, it can lead to blindness. However, once again, beware of taking too many fat-soluble vitamins like A.

Another early symptom of xerophthalmia is the development of white foamy growths in the white part of the eye. They may appear slightly elevated. An eye doctor can remove most of the growths. However, they won’t entirely disappear until the body’s vitamin A deficiency is replenished. The best way to increase vitamin A in the body is by eating the right foods. These include dark leafy greens, yellow-orange vegetables like carrots, dairy, eggs and fish.


Everyday Health

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