Despite living in an age where modern medicine should mean that our diets and the supplements we take give us all the nutritional requirements our bodies need, this is rarely the case. The influx of fast food and a lifestyle of work hard, play hard means that many people are actually deficient in one or more of the vital vitamins that keep our bodies going. This can lead to a wide range of ailments and illnesses. In this blog, we’re going to delve deeper into the common vitamins that so many of us lack, often without even realizing it.
What Is A Vitamin Deficiency?
First, let’s look at what a vitamin deficiency is. Vitamins are required to keep our bodily functions running, and a certain level of those vitamins in our body is required for optimum functioning. A deficiency is when you have less than the optimum level of the vitamin in your system.
You can experience a deficiency for a short period and have mild symptoms, or you may experience one for an extended period of time and develop severe symptoms. To get to the point where you are vitamin deficient, you need to consume less of the vitamin that your body uses on a daily basis.
It’s important to note that your body’s requirements of a specific vitamin can change over time. The older we get, the more we may need of one vitamin and less of another. The same goes for periods of heightened activity or training, and periods of rest or recuperation from injury or illness. Additionally, what works for one person may not work for another. Our digestive systems, immune systems and metabolic systems are all different.
What Vitamins Are We Most Commonly Deficient In And How To Replenish Them?
When wondering if you’re getting enough of a specific vitamin, it’s important to try replenishing them in as natural a way as possible. If symptoms persist, it may be a good idea to seek advice from a nutritionist, dietitian, or doctor, as well as get your blood tested for vitamin levels.
Now, let’s dive into the most common vitamin deficiencies:
1. Vitamin B6
What it does: Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 is good for the brain. In fact, it’s crucial to our early development as an unborn fetus, and as babies, toddlers and small children. This vitamin is also a vital part of the process of releasing energy from our food and creating red blood cells.
The signs you might be deficient: In a major study done in the USA in 2017, it was found that vitamin B6 was the leading vitamin deficiency in the country amongst both children and adults. It’s common for people who have digestive issues due to intestinal disease or kidney disease to be deficient in vitamin B6. Other groups that are at risk of a deficiency include pregnant women, smokers, alcoholics or heavy drinkers, and those who are obese.
Where you find it: Bananas are a great source of vitamin B6. Proteins like chicken, chickpeas and fish are all rich in vitamin B6 too.
2. Vitamin B12
What it does: Another name for vitamin B12 is cyanocobalamin. It’s another vitamin that helps your body to create and form red blood cells. It also aids in maintaining the nerve cells throughout your body, making it a fairly critical vitamin to keep in good supply in your body.
The signs you might be deficient: A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to a number of conditions, including anemia. This is because your body can’t make red blood cells, which are crucial for transporting iron around your body. Other major symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include depression and a consistently sore tongue.
Where you find it: The best source of vitamin B12 is meat and animal products such as dairy, meaning deficiencies of this vitamin are often found in vegans and vegetarians.
3. Vitamin D
What it does: When it comes to strengthening bones and muscles, vitamin D is incredibly important. It’s known to help protect bodies against diabetes and cancer, and boost your overall immune system.
The signs you might be deficient: Almost half the population of the USA is likely to experience some level of vitamin D deficiency. This type of deficiency is more prevalent in people of color, especially Latinos and African Americans. Symptoms can include depression and fatigue, as well as muscle weakness and pain.
Where you find it: Your best source of vitamin D isn’t a source in the usual sense of the word—it’s sunlight. Getting your body out into the sun for a short time each day stimulates the production of vitamin D. You can also get it from fatty fish and fish liver oil, liver and eggs. Additionally, many dairy products in the USA are fortified with vitamin D, making milk, cheese and yogurt good sources.
4. Vitamin C
What it does: Vitamin C is a critical part of your body’s ability to heal itself. Our systems use it to build blood vessels, muscle, cartilage and the collagen for bones.
The signs you might be deficient: Gum disease and skin problems are a major sign of a vitamin C deficiency. And you are at risk of a compromised immune system. Early signs include bleeding gums, extremely dry skin and wounds taking a long time to heal.
Where you find it: The orange will always be the classic source of vitamin C. Lemons, grapefruit, strawberries and kiwi fruit are great sources too. On the vegetable side, broccoli is an excellent source, as are green peppers.
5. Vitamin A
What it does: Vitamin A is all about your eyes, and a deficiency is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in children around the world
The signs you might be deficient: A major sign in both adults and children of a deficiency is night blindness, which is when you have difficulty seeing in low light conditions. You may experience dry eyes or the skin around your eyes becoming dry and irritated.
Where you find it: The classic source of vitamin A is carrots. We all know the stories about Bugs Bunny and how well rabbits can see in the dark. Leafy greens are another great source of vitamin A.
In today's world, there are vitamins and supplements to boost everything from your overall health to the efficiency of your workout. There’s no reason why you should ever suffer from a lack of nutrition or nutrients. Knowledge is power. Now that you know more about the common vitamins so many of us miss out on, you can keep your body functioning at its optimum.