Health Care Lifestyle

How Vitamin Deficiencies Can Affect Your Health

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Have you been experiencing unexplained symptoms like fatigue or skin problems that are not due to another condition? You might be lacking essential nutrients in your diet, and the discomfort is being caused by a vitamin deficiency. Let’s explore some of the most common vitamin deficiencies, how they affect you and how your primary care provider can help.

Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A supports a healthy immune system, glowing skin and good vision. While too much vitamin A (usually through over-supplementation) isn’t safe, especially for children, healthy adults typically need 700 – 900 micrograms (mcg) of it per day.

If you’re not getting enough vitamin A in your diet, you might experience:

  • Acne breakouts
  • Chest and throat infections
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry skin
  • Infertility
  • Night blindness
  • Stunted growth

It’s hard to get too much vitamin A from your diet alone, so you can safely increase your levels by eating more dark leafy greens, oranges, carrots, squashes, pumpkin, egg yolks and fish oils.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 is important for a properly functioning nervous system, blood cell formation, brain function and mood. It’s found in fish, meat, eggs and dairy products. It’s also commonly added to foods like fortified breakfast cereals and breads. The recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms.

Without enough vitamin B12, you might notice uncomfortable symptoms or even dangerous conditions such as:

  • Anemia
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swollen tongue
  • Tingling and numbness in your hands, feet or legs

Most people can get enough vitamin B12 from eating a balanced diet. Because plant foods don’t contain a lot of it, vegetarians and vegans are prone to a B12 deficiency, as well as older adults and those with digestive issues that affect nutrient absorption. These individuals and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can benefit from a vitamin B12 supplement.

Folic Acid Deficiency

Folic acid deficiency occurs when you don’t receive enough folate (vitamin B9) or in natural forms of folic acid found in foods. Folic acid deficiency can lead to anemia — a condition that happens when you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body’s tissues.

Symptoms of folic acid deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores
  • Neurological issues
  • Weakness

Folic acid deficiency is prevented and treated by eating a healthy diet. This includes foods rich in folic acids, such as nuts, leafy green vegetables, enriched bread and cereals and fruits. The recommended daily amount of folic acid for adults is 400 micrograms.

Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium is a mineral found in the earth’s crust and your body. It’s needed for healthy bones, heart, muscles and nerves. Magnesium also helps control energy, blood sugar and blood pressure.

If you don’t get enough magnesium, you might experience:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Sleepiness
  • Weakness

Increase your magnesium by incorporating peanut butter, spinach, bananas, milk and salmon into your diet. The recommended daily amount of magnesium for an adult is 400-420 milligrams.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D helps our immune system function at its best, keeping us from getting sick with viruses or other infections. It’s found in fatty fish, egg yolks and orange juice. It’s also known as “the sunshine vitamin” because you can increase your vitamin D levels by spending time in the sun.

Vitamin D deficiencies are common. If you are deficient in this crucial vitamin, symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent illnesses from viruses or infections
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle pain
  • Slow wound healing

It’s recommended children and teens get at least 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day and 2,000 IU for healthy adults. You can get it through your diet and 15 – 30 minutes of safe sun exposure per day. Your doctor might recommend a supplement based on your health history and lifestyle.

Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is a mineral that your body uses to fight infections and produce cells. It is especially important for immune function, wound healing, blood clotting and thyroid function.

If you are deficient in zinc, you may experience some of these symptoms:

  • Decreased sense of smell and taste
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of alertness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Open sores on the skin
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Wounds that won’t heal

Long-term treatment for zinc deficiency starts with changing your diet. Start including more seeds, wild rice and poultry into your diet. The recommended daily amount of zinc for an adult is 8 – 11 milligrams.

How We Can Help

An important part of a healthy, whole life is getting enough nutrients to stay well. Our skilled primary care providers can use tests to diagnose vitamin deficiencies and help you make changes to your diet and/or add safe supplementation based on your needs. Learn more and make an appointment at We want you to feel your best in body, mind and spirit.

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