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5 Common Signs Of Vitamin Deficiency To Watch Out For!

vitamin deficiency

There is no doubt that a nutrient-rich diet plays an essential role to keep you healthy and fit. And one such major nutrients that are required for the body are vitamins. Vitamins are needed for growth and development as well as protect you against a whole range of diseases. A vitamin deficiency occurs when the body fails to absorb or doesn’t get the essential vitamins from the diet. This is when you may need to supplement your diet with vitamins to meet the body’s requirement and lead a healthy life. But if you fail to meet the vitamin requirement, it can lead to various health problems ranging from indigestion and skin disorders to malnutrition and physical deformity.

But the good thing is that there are certain signs and symptoms of vitamin deficiency which can help you to know that your body is deficient in the vitamins. So increasing the intake of these vitamins through diet or supplements can help you to prevent the associated health complications.

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Here are some of the common signs of vitamin deficiency you need to be aware of!

1. Brittle hair and nails

There are numerous reasons for brittle hair and nails and one of those is the deficiency of Vitamin B7, commonly known as biotin. The vitamin is needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It breaks down food into sugar, lipids and amino acids. It also plays an important role in maintaining your skin and hair health. The deficiency of biotin is very rare but when it occurs it can lead to thinning or splitting of hair and brittle hair, which are some of the noticeable symptoms.

If you are a smoker, drink excessive alcohol, are pregnant or suffer from digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, you are at high risk of suffering from this vitamin deficiency. Moreover, prolonged use of antibiotics can also make you deficient in biotin. If you have a habit of eating raw egg whites, you might suffer from biotin deficiency as the presence of avidin, a protein in raw egg whites, can bind to biotin and might reduce its absorption.

Include foods rich in biotin such as nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, whole grains, spinach, cauliflower, banana, dairy, egg yolks, fish, and meat to meet the daily requirement of biotin through diet. Most people try taking supplements for brittle hair and nails. But supplements are not for everyone, so talk to your doctor before using supplements.

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2. Mouth ulcers

An insufficient intake of vitamins and minerals can be linked to lesions in and around the mouth. Studies have shown that frequent mouth ulcers, which are also known as canker sores, can be caused due to lack of Vitamin B or iron in the diet. A study published in the Journal of Oral Pathology and Medicine[1] showed that around 28% of patients with recurrent mouth ulcers had deficiencies in thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and pyridoxine (vitamin B6).

The dietary sources of thiamine, riboflavin, and pyridoxine include legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, green vegetables, organ meats, poultry, fish and dairy. So if you are suffering from frequent mouth ulcers, it could indicate a deficiency of B-vitamins. Add these foods to your diet and if the symptoms fail to improve through dietary changes, do consult your doctor to know the exact cause of the symptom.

3. Bleeding gums

If you are suffering from bleeding gums, it can be blamed on a diet deficient in Vitamin C. This is because, Vitamin C acts as a potent antioxidant which plays a vital role in the healing of wounds, boosting immunity and preventing cell damage. As the body does not produce Vitamin C, the only way to meet the requirement of this vitamin is through diet.  

The deficiency of Vitamin C is quite rare in people who eat fresh fruits and vegetables. That being said, many people fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables to meet the requirement of this vitamin. The intake of a low level of Vitamin C for a very long period of time can lead to symptoms such as bleeding gums. It can also lead to easy bruising, slow wound healing, and dry skin.

To meet your daily dose of Vitamin C, include foods rich in this vitamin in the diet. These include fruits such as guava, pomegranate, strawberries, pineapple, watermelon, lemons, and sweet lime, and vegetables like amaranth (cholai), amla, cabbage, capsicum, and drumstick leaves.

4. Hair loss

Hair loss is one of the common symptoms in both men and women. Although low levels of thyroid hormones and lack of iron and zinc are known to cause hair loss. Deficiency of niacin, which is Vitamin B3, is also a key reason for hair fall.  Niacin deficiency may be a possible cause for hair fall in people with alopecia, which indicates that niacin is needed for healthy hair[2].

A diet rich in niacin can prevent and may also slow down hair loss. The natural food sources of niacin include green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, meat and dairy products. Most people tend to take vitamin supplements to boost hair growth and reduce hair loss. However, it is best to consult a dermatologist to know the exact cause of hair loss before taking any supplements.

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5. Skin rash

Vitamin B 6 deficiency is one of the causes of itchy skin rash[3]. The vitamin, which is commonly known as pyridoxine, plays a key role in immune function and metabolism. It has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The vitamin helps in the synthesis of collagen, skin protein, which is needed for maintaining the skin healthy. And lack of this vitamin can lead to an appearance of a skin rash on the scalp, face, neck, and chest.

Your body isn’t able to store Vitamin B6, which is the reason you need to consume it on a regular basis to avoid this vitamin deficiency. Vitamin B6 is widely found in animal and plant foods such as soybeans, legumes, seafood, nuts, eggs, lean meat, whole grains and fortified foods such as oatmeal and nutrition bars.

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

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1. Nolan A, McIntosh WB, Allam BF, Lamey PJ. Recurrent aphthous ulceration: vitamin B1, B2 and B6 status and response to replacement therapy. J Oral Pathol Med. 1991 Sep;20(8):389-91.

2. Guo EL, Katta R. Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2017 Jan 31;7(1):1-10.

3. Inubushi T, Takasawa T, Tuboi Y, Watanabe N, Aki K, Katunuma N. Changes of glucose metabolism and skin-collagen neogenesis in vitamin B6 deficiency. Biofactors. 2005;23(2):59-67.

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