How to Know if You Have a Vitamin Deficiency

Having a vitamin deficiency can condition the functioning of the body internally, giving rise to several different diseases. Learn more.
How to Know if You Have a Vitamin Deficiency
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 27 May, 2023

When there’s a vitamin deficiency, a series of physiological alterations may develop that negatively affect the feeling of well-being. For this reason, dietary adjustments will have to be made to solve these deficiencies and make the body function efficiently again, which would avoid major complications.

Before starting, it’s essential to emphasize that to avoid insufficient nutrient intake, it’s best to plan a diet that’s as varied as possible. Foods of plant origin should have a significant presence in the diet. In the same way, an imbalance at the energy level must be avoided, as otherwise, you could experience a gain in body fat.

Symptoms of vitamin deficiency

Next, we’re going to discuss what the main symptoms of a vitamin deficiency in the body are. On some occasions, these signs can be diffuse, so if they occur, consulting with a nutrition professional will be necessary in order to make an assessment of the nutritional status and to be able to adjust the diet based on deficiencies.

Deficiency of group B vitamins

Group B vitamins normally participate in different metabolic processes. They make it possible to obtain energy and use it. Now, for most of them, having a deficit is rare, as they’re found in many different foods. However, there are two or three that are especially significant.

First of all, we must comment on the case of folic acid. It’s a determining nutrient during pregnancy, as the requirements are increased during this time.

A vitamin deficiency in this regard would cause the fetus to experience a greater risk of suffering problems with the closure of the neural tube. This is evidenced by a study published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology. To prevent this situation, vitamin supplementation is recommended from the moment pregnancy is planned.

At the same time, we must talk about vitamin B12. This compound is found only in foods of animal origin, so it must be supplemented in the case of vegan diets. An insufficient supply could cause megaloblastic anemia, due to problems in the formation of red blood cells. An investigation published in the journal The Annals of Pharmacotherapy explains it. In this case, extreme tiredness and fatigue will be experienced.

However, it’s enough to correct the dietary contribution of the nutrient in order for the situation to be controlled again. It’s usually more difficult to solve anemias generated from insufficient iron consumption, given the low availability of this mineral. The same isn’t the case with vitamin B12. It could even be administered intravenously for a faster effect.

Vitamin C deficiency

Vitamin deficiency can cause scurvy.
Scurvy has many clinical manifestations, one of which is gingival bleeding.

Vitamin C performs many functions within the human organism. Among them, we must highlight its antioxidant action and its influence on the defense system.

It’s responsible for modulating both the innate and adaptive function of immunity, as stated in a study published in the journal Nutrients. For this reason, an insufficient supply could lead to a greater susceptibility to infectious-type diseases.

Likewise, severe vitamin C deficiency could give rise to a disease called scurvy. This is accompanied by anemia, bleeding gums, and poor wound healing.

In fact, the nutrient itself is decisively involved in the absorption of iron at the intestinal level, this being a mineral with low availability. If there’s an insufficient supply of vitamin C, it’s possible that the transport of oxygen in the blood becomes poorly functional.

In the same way, we’re talking about a vitamin that stimulates the endogenous synthesis of collagen. This is the most abundant protein in the human body. It’s part of almost all the tissues of the body and manages to give elasticity and contractility to the muscles.

In the event that its genesis isn’t adequate, you could experience a greater risk of muscle injury, as well as problems in the regeneration of lean mass.

However, regular consumption of foods of plant origin is usually enough to avoid a vitamin C deficiency. Both citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables usually provide the nutrient in high amounts, meeting daily needs.

Of course, due to its water-soluble nature, we’re talking about a substance that doesn’t accumulate in the body, so daily consumption is needed.

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is a widespread problem throughout the world. This nutrient is found in foods such as oily fish, eggs, and fortified dairy products.

However, it’s never present in high doses. The good news is that it can be generated endogenously, although exposure to sunlight is essential for this. There are some times of the year when radiation isn’t sufficient to guarantee an optimal synthesis.

The truth is that vitamin D deficiency can cause many health problems, which can be serious. For example, it’s associated with an increased risk of developing chronic and complex diseases. This is evidenced by research published in the journal Reviews in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders. Likewise, it’s common to experience a situation of tiredness and fatigue, in addition to greater susceptibility to infectious processes.

It’s even worth mentioning that a vitamin D deficiency negatively affects sports performance. It can affect performance and muscle strength values. There’s even speculation about the possibility that an insufficient supply of the nutrient increases the risk of muscle injury, which is why more and more experts recommend supplementation.

Of course, the quality of the endogenously synthesized vitamin is superior to that of the dietary one, presenting different configurations.

What must be taken into account is that we’re talking in this case about a fat-soluble nutrient. For this reason, there are reservoirs in the body. A good strategy to avoid problems in the medium term is to get enough sun exposure during the summer months. This will generate enough vitamin D that can be accumulated, serving for the whole winter.

Vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A is another fat-soluble nutrient. In this case, we’re talking about a substance that’s usually present in many red, yellow, or orange plant foods. It’s also present in butter and eggs.

It’s not common to experience a deficit, but it’s a situation that can occur. Normally, the symptoms occur with eye disorders, immunity problems, and night blindness.

However, care must be taken with supplementation. Unlike other previously mentioned elements, an excessive intake of vitamin A can be toxic to the liver, as confirmed by a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. For this reason, it’s best to ensure a varied diet with the presence of vegetables that ensures that the requirements are met.

It’s important to note that vitamin A deficiency may also be caused by alterations in the absorption of fats. In this case, it would be necessary to attack the focus of the problem, which can be located in the quality of the microbiota or in the formation of bile acids. If the nutrients can’t be digested optimally, other associated disorders may be experienced.

Vitamin E deficiency

Vitamin deficiency is worrisome.
The rare deficiency of vitamin E can be associated with several diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases.

Vitamin E acts primarily as an antioxidant. This means that it neutralizes the formation of free radicals and their subsequent accumulation in the body’s tissues.

Thanks to this mechanism, the incidence of many chronic and complex diseases can be reduced, as confirmed by research published in the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Normally, it’s not frequent to experience a vitamin E deficiency, but if the nutrient values aren’t sufficient, in the medium term, there may be a greater risk of developing complex diseases, such as those of a cardiovascular type. In the most serious cases, an insufficient supply of the nutrient can lead to difficulty walking or muscle weakness.

In any case, the signs subside immediately if a supplement of this substance is included in the diet. It should be noted that vitamin reserves are low, but several foods contain it inside. Avocados would be a good example.

It can even be synthesized endogenously from the microbiota if its diversity is adequate. However, if there are problems in the absorption of fats, a sustained deficit could occur.

Vitamin K deficiency

When an inadequate supply of vitamin K is experienced, alterations in blood coagulation could be experienced, which makes any bleeding a dangerous process. We’re talking about a nutrient whose deficiency reduces prothrombin levels. In fact, such a situation could cause infant morbidity and mortality.

However, in adults, it’s rare for a problem of this style to truly occur. We’re talking about a vitamin that’s present in most green vegetables.

In addition, it can be synthesized from the bacteria that inhabit the intestine. Presenting a competent microbiota will be decisive to ensure that nutritional needs are met.

In any case, it must be taken into account that there are drugs that interact with the vitamin. For this reason, the consumption of certain foods can be restricted when you’re under a medication regimen focused on the treatment of cardiovascular disease. In this case, it’ll always be crucial to follow the specialist’s instructions.

It’s important to watch out for signs of vitamin deficiency

Now you know the main symptoms and the implications of a lack of vitamins. It’s important to keep them in mind in case you experience them so you can quickly go to see a specialist.

As a general rule, the problem is usually corrected by normalizing dietary intake, although on some occasions, resorting to supplements is necessary. Before taking them, it’s always important to consult a professional.

Before concluding, it should be noted that to maintain a good state of health, taking care of your diet isn’t enough. It’s key to implement other habits, such as the practice of physical activity on a regular basis.

Also, sleeping adequately every night will make a difference. During sleep, a series of repair processes are launched that guarantee balance during the day.

Este texto se ofrece únicamente con propósitos informativos y no reemplaza la consulta con un profesional. Ante dudas, consulta a tu especialista.