What is a Vitamin Deficiency?
Vitamin deficiency occurs when there is insufficient or poor dietary intake of essential vitamins. Inadequate levels of vitamins may result in an array of miserable conditions and make the body feeble and vulnerable to many diseases.
Types of Vitamin Deficiency
Vitamin deficiency can be classified into two types:
Primary deficiency is when an inadequate vitamin intake causes a person to become deficient. It is due to not receiving the necessary levels of a vitamin from your diet and this type is basic; it can be easily cured by adopting a special vitamin diet or taking vitamin supplements.
When a deficiency occurs as a result of a disease or lifestyle factor, this is called secondary deficiency. For example, smokers need to increase their intake of vitamin C by 30-50%. Another example is when someone’s lifestyle causes them to get minimal sun exposure which cause a deficiency in their vitamin D levels. This deficiency can affect the calcium absorption needed for healthy bones.
Common Causes of Vitamin Deficiency
Disorders related to vitamin deficiency are uncommon in developed nations due to an adequate food supply. However, there are other factors that may give rise to these conditions.
- Diets low in fat reduce the absorption of vitamin E.
- Alcohol consumption has an impact on folic acid levels.
- Medications can also cause vitamin deficiencies.
- Certain antibiotics such as isoniazid can cause B6 deficiency.
- Anticonvulsants can decrease absorption of folic acid and drugs such as methotrexate and sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim can interfere with folic acid metabolism.
Vitamin Deficiency Can Lead to Severe Diseases
Primary vitamin deficiency when left untreated, may expand and result in a serious disease. Although there are so many different diseases that are linked to the integrated deficiency of vitamins, the four most common diseases are as follows:
The first disease to be directly linked to a vitamin deficiency was scurvy . Scurvy is characterized by general malaise and lethargy, progressing on to spotty skin, losing teeth, and bleeding and swollen gums. Slow wound healing and general weakness is also a regular symptom. If left untreated scurvy can be fatal.
In 1753 the Scottish Surgeon, James Lind postulated in his Treatise on the Scurvy that lemons and limes, a key source of vitamin C, may be used to prevent scurvy. His recommendation was proven as fact in 1932. Today, vitamin C is used to correct the deficiency leading to scurvy worldwide.
Vitamin D deficiency is often associated with rickets , a disease that causes the softening of bones in children usually resulting in fractures and deformities. This is due to the fact that vitamin D plays a key role in calcium absorption and the building of strong, healthy bones.
Rickets is not a common disease in U.S. however, poor exposure to vitamin D can always cause it. Children of 6 months to two years of age are more prone to this disease if they are only breastfed by their mothers. It is recommended that such children are exposed to UVB rays, or that fortified milk is included in their routine diet.
Beriberi is a condition in which a person has a severe deficiency in vitamin B1. It is characterized by nerve, heart, and brain abnormalities. An alcoholic binge can worsen the brain abnormalities in a person with chronic vitamin B1 deficiency.
Beriberi symptoms include: numbness and tingling in hands and feet, memory loss, problem in breathing, possible paralysis, problem in speaking, confusion, and depression.
Beriberi needs quick attention and if not treated with an adequate supply of vitamin B1, it can lead to dementia and even death.
Pellagra is a vitamin deficiency disorder in which dark red patches occur on face, neck, hands, calves, and feet. The person who has developed Pellagra is also likely to suffer from constipation, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. In this condition, the mouth and tongue get red, swollen and develop sores.
This disease can be caused by malnutrition or an over dependence on a particular type of food or drink, such as maize or wine. Among the leading causes, acute deficiency of vitamin B3 or Niacin is the most prominent.
Vitamin deficiency can be both mild and deadly in effect. It is always a better option to incorporate a routine healthy eating regimen to avoid deficiencies of any of the essential vitamins. Among all the key vitamins that play some role for the well-being of human health, vitamin B-complex and vitamin D are critical. Make sure you are getting enough of them and look for supplements if your levels are not improving with a planned diet.