Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is sometimes called the sunshine vitamin because your body makes it from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to sunlight.
This vitamin has recently garnered a lot of attention for its role in immune health, specifically regarding COVID-19. It’s also critical to bone health and many important functions throughout your body.
Most adults should get 1,500–2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily. While certain foods, such as fatty fish and fortified dairy products, do contain this vitamin, it’s difficult to get enough through your diet alone.
It’s no surprise, then, that vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies worldwide.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays critical roles in the proper functioning of your body, including bone health and immunity. It may even help prevent cancer and protect against several chronic conditions, including:
- bone loss
- type 2 diabetes
- heart disease
- multiple sclerosis
An estimated 1 billion people around the globe have low blood levels of the vitamin.
Getting this evaluated and treated properly is important for your overall health.
Sometimes the level is so low you need a prescription for the vitamin D for several weeks to obtain an effective level.
One research review found that almost 42% of U.S. adults have a vitamin D deficiency. This figure goes up to almost 63% in Hispanic adults and 82% in African American adults.
Vitamin B12 & Folate Deficiency
Vitamin deficiency anemia is a lack of healthy red blood cells caused by lower than usual amounts of vitamin B-12 and folate.
This can happen if you don’t eat enough foods containing vitamin B-12 and folate, or if your body has trouble absorbing or processing these vitamins.
Without these nutrients, the body produces red blood cells that are too large and don’t work properly. This reduces their ability to carry oxygen.
Symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath and dizziness. Vitamin supplements, taken by pill or injection, can correct the deficiencies.
Vitamin deficiency anemia usually develops slowly over several months to years. Signs and symptoms may be subtle at first but usually increase as the deficiency worsens. These may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Pale or yellowish skin
- Irregular heartbeats
- Weight loss
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Muscle weakness
- Personality changes
- Unsteady movements
- Mental confusion or forgetfulness
What is iron-deficiency anemia?
Iron-deficiency anemia is a blood disorder that affects your red blood cells. It’s the most common form of anemia. It happens when your body doesn’t have enough iron to make hemoglobin, a substance in your red blood cell that allows them to carry oxygen throughout your body. As a result, iron deficiency may cause you to feel short of breath or tired. These symptoms develop over time. When iron deficiency is diagnosed, you may be prescribed iron supplements. Healthcare providers will also ask questions and do tests to determine why you developed iron deficiency.
How does iron-deficiency anemia affect my body?
Iron-deficiency anemia symptoms happen over time. Initially, you may have low iron and feel fine or have symptoms that are so mild you don’t notice them. Left untreated, however, iron-deficiency anemia can make you feel tired and weak. You may notice pale skin and cold hands and feet. Iron-deficiency anemia can also cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded. Occasionally, it can cause chest pain, a fast heartbeat and shortness of breath. Iron deficiency can cause you to have unusual cravings for non-food items such as ice, dirt or paper.
How does iron-deficiency anemia develop?
Normally, your body brings in a steady flow of iron from the food you eat. Your body stores excess iron so it’s available as needed to make hemoglobin. Iron-deficiency anemia develops when your body uses the iron stores faster than they can be refilled, or when the flow of iron into your system has slowed. This occurs in three stages:
- First stage: Iron stores are depleted. In this stage, the supply of iron to make new hemoglobin and red blood cells is dwindling but hasn’t yet affected your red blood cells.
- Second stage: When iron stores are low, the normal process of making red blood cells is altered. You develop what’s called iron-deficient erythropoiesis, sometimes called latent iron deficiency. Erythropoiesis is the medical term for the process of producing new red blood cells. In this stage, your bone marrow makes red blood cells without enough hemoglobin.
- Third stage: Iron-deficiency anemia develops because there isn’t enough iron to make hemoglobin for red blood cells. In this stage, the hemoglobin concentration will drop below the normal range. This is when you may begin noticing iron-deficiency anemia symptoms.
What is the most common cause of iron-deficiency anemia?
Losing blood is the most common reason people develop iron-deficiency anemia. Some common reasons include:
- Bleeding in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which may cause bright red blood, or dark, tarry or sticky appearing stool. Ulcers, polyps, and colon cancer are common medical conditions that cause GI tract bleeding. Some people develop GI tract bleeding after regular long-term use of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Bleeding in your urinary tract.
- Blood loss due to an injury or surgery.
- Heavy menstrual periods.
- Frequent blood donation.
- Frequent blood tests. This is especially true for infants and small children who have many blood tests.
There are several reasons why your body may not absorb iron, including:
- You have an intestinal or digestive condition like celiac disease, autoimmune gastritis, or inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease.
- You have a Helicobacter pylori infection of your stomach.
- You’ve had gastrointestinal surgery, including weight loss surgery, that prevents your body from absorbing enough iron. For example, people who’ve had gastric bypass surgery or a gastrectomy may develop iron-deficiency anemia.
- You have certain rare genetic conditions that disrupt your body’s ability to absorb iron.
Vitamin B1 & B6 Deficiency
What is thiamine (B1)?
Thiamine is a vitamin your body needs for growth, development, and cellular function, as well as converting food into energy.
Like the other B vitamins, thiamine is water-soluble. That means that it dissolves in water and isn’t stored in your body, so you need to consume it on a regular basis. In fact, your body can only store around 20 days’ worth of thiamine at any given time.
Fortunately, thiamine is naturally found in a variety of foods and added to others via fortification. It’s also commonly added to multivitamins or taken as an individual supplement or as part of a vitamin B complex.
Some of the best places to find thiamine in your diet include foods like:
- enriched white rice or egg noodles
- fortified breakfast cereal
- black beans
- sunflower seeds
- acorn squash
- many commercial bread varieties
Not getting enough thiamine can lead to thiamine deficiency, which can happen in as little as 3 weeks and affect your heart, nervous system, and immune system. True thiamine deficiency is rare among healthy individuals with adequate access to thiamine-rich foods.
In highly industrialized countries, most people who experience true thiamine deficiency are experiencing other health conditions or procedures.
Vitamin B6 is in most foods, but people can have vitamin B6 deficiency if they do not absorb it properly.
- Many foods contain vitamin B6, but extensive processing can remove the vitamin.
- People may have seizures, a scaly rash, a red tongue, cracks in the corners of the mouth, or a pins-and-needles sensation in the hands and feet.
- The diagnosis is based on symptoms, the presence of possible causes, and response to vitamin B6 supplements.
- Vitamin B6 supplements, taken by mouth, can correct the deficiency.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is essential for the processing (metabolism) of carbohydrates, amino acids, and fats (lipids), as well as for normal nerve function and for the formation of red blood cells. It also helps keep the skin healthy.
Good sources of vitamin B6 include dried yeast, liver, other organ meats, whole-grain cereals, fish, and legumes.