Common health problems that may be related to vitamin deficiencies
Even in the presence of a healthy diet, nutritional deficiencies are common, especially if you tend to avoid certain food groups — such as seafood — or if you aren’t consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Many common health problems that we tend to accept as an unavoidable part of life are actually often linked to these nutritional deficiencies. Instead of relying on another cup of coffee to combat your fatigue, or seeking out treatment for minor but bothersome issues such as dry skin or brittle nails, it’s always a good idea to take a look at your diet first. Adding certain foods or taking a supplement may help you increase your energy, improve skin tone and texture, relieve headaches, stabilize mood, and even combat health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance.
Following are some common health conditions that may be related to nutritional deficiencies:
- Fatigue or lack of energy. If you’re often tired, even after getting enough sleep, it could be due to a vitamin deficiency. Fatigue is often the result of low levels of B vitamins, particularly B1, B2, and B12. B vitamins help the body convert food into energy; if you have low levels of any of the B vitamins, you may not be getting enough energy from your food, even if you’re eating a healthy diet. All of the B vitamins are also water soluble, which means they can’t be stored by the body and must be replenished daily. B12 is found primarily in animal foods, so deficiencies are common among vegans and vegetarians. And your ability to absorb B12 from food decreases with age, so older adults may need to take supplements. Vitamin B12 is commonly taken as a sublingual spray in order to increase absorption.
- Dry, flaky, or bumpy skin. Many skin issues are the result of low vitamin A levels. Vitamin A can be created by the body from beta carotene, a nutrient found in orange foods like carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, as well as leafy greens. But beta carotene must be ingested along with a source of dietary fat in order for it to be absorbed by the body. When eating foods high in beta carotene, combine them with high-fat foods such as fatty fish, olive oil, or coconut oil.
- Soft, brittle nails may be the result of an omega-3 deficiency. Low levels of omega-3 are common, especially among individuals with a risk variant in the FADS1 gene that makes it difficult for carriers to convert plant-based oils into a useable form. To keep omega-3 levels balanced, eat fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, or take a fish oil supplement.
- Headaches and migraines have been linked to low levels of both vitamin D and vitamin B2. Vitamin D is produced by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight. If you aren’t getting enough (and most people aren’t), it can lead to numerous health problems, including a weakened immune system, fatigue, and headaches. The official daily vitamin D recommendation is 600 IUs (international units), but some health professionals recommend getting as much as 8,000 IUs daily. Ten minutes of midday sun in the summer (without sunscreen) will provide enough vitamin D, but only if you’re fair skinned. People will darker skin and people who live far from the equator should take a vitamin D supplement. Studies have also found that migraine sufferers cut the frequency of their migraines in half by taking 400mg of vitamin B2 daily.
- Mental sluggishness and forgetfulness can be caused by low levels of folate, or vitamin B9. Folate is essential for many processes throughout the body, including proper brain function. Low levels of folate are common, especially in people who drink alcohol or have conditions that affect the digestive system, such as inflammatory bowel disease. People with a risk variant in the MTHFR gene are also at risk of low folate levels. Make sure your diet includes lots of leafy greens, and take a folic acid supplement if necessary.
- Irritability is also linked to folate deficiency, as well as low levels of vitamin B1. Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, helps strengthen the immune system and supports proper function of the nervous system, which may help with stress management. Thiamine can be found in foods such as pork, beef, poultry, beans, and nuts.
- Depression. Much like irritability, depression is associated with low levels of thiamine, folate, and vitamin D.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but many associated risk factors can often be prevented through diet and lifestyle modification. Heart disease has been associated with low levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Type 2 diabetes is also associated with low vitamin D levels. Studies have found that people with type 2 diabetes experienced worse symptoms when they had lower levels of vitamin D, particularly during winter months. Supplementation with vitamin D may also help improve insulin sensitivity.
- Osteoporosis puts people at an increased risk of broken bones, and is also associated with bone and joint pain. Although we commonly associate osteoporosis with a calcium deficiency, low vitamin D levels can also be to blame. The body needs adequate levels of vitamin D in order to absorb calcium.
You can find out if you have genetic risk variants that put you at risk of certain nutritional deficiencies by ordering your genetic report from Vivaliti DNA. Download a free sample report to discover everything you get with your completely customized genetic report!