Eating a nutritious and balanced diet has many benefits. Conversely, a diet that is lacking in several nutrients may cause some funny and not-so-good symptoms.
When you experience these symptoms, it is your body’s way of telling you that you are deficient in some minerals and vitamins. By recognizing them, you can make adjustments, and supplement where necessary.
In this article, we will spell out the most common signs of vitamin deficiency and the best way to resolve them.
Brittle nails and hair as common signs of vitamin deficiency
Many factors may contribute to the brittleness of your nails and hair. Deficiency in biotin is one of these factors.
Another name for biotin is vitamin B7. Biotin facilitates the conversion of food into energy. It is rare to find a person suffering from biotin deficiency, but when it happens, splitting, thinning, and brittleness of the nails and hair show up as the most obvious symptoms.
Heavy drinkers or smoker, pregnant women, and people who suffer from digestive ailments such as Crohn’s disease have a very high risk of developing biotin deficiency.
The prolonged use of medications such as antibiotics and anti-seizure medications also contributes to biotin deficiency (2).
Studies have shown that eating the raw form of egg whites can also contribute to biotin deficiency. Why is this so? Avidin is present in raw egg whites. Avidin is a protein that has a high affinity for biotin. By binding to biotin, it reduces its absorption (1, 3, 4).
Adults who have brittle nails or hair can try supplementing with 30 mcg of biotin daily.
Cracks or ulcers in the corners of the mouth
The presence of lesions around the mouth, or in the mouth is commonly associated with a deficiency in minerals and vitamins.
For example, mouth ulcers or canker sores, usually indicate deficiencies in B vitamins or iron.
A particular study observes that patients who have mouth ulcers are most likely deficient in iron (10).
Another study found that 28% of mouth ulcer patients were deficient in riboflavin, thiamine, and pyridoxine (vitamin B2, B1, and B6 respectively) (11).
A person who is severely dehydrated or who bleeds excessively may have angular cheilitis. This is a condition that causes splitting, cracking, or bleeding at the corners of the mouth. Angular cheilitis may also be caused by a low intake of B vitamins, or iron (10, 11, 12, 13).
Iron-rich foods include meat, poultry, dark leafy greens, whole grains, and seeds (14).
Enrich your diet with these foods if you experience any of these symptoms.
Bleeding gums as common signs of vitamin deficiency
Most times, bleeding gums may be traced to a rough tooth brushing. However, a diet deficient in vitamin C can also contribute to gum bleeding.
Vitamin C plays a very vital role in immunity and wound healing. It is a potent antioxidant and helps prevent damage to the cells.
Deficiencies in vitamin C isn’t so common in individuals who eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits. The sad news is that many people do not eat adequate amounts of vegetables and fruits each day.
Perhaps this explains why studies involved in the screening of healthy populations estimate low levels of vitamin C in 13-30% of the populace, with 5-17% having a deficiency (21).
Scurvy is a serious complication of vitamin C deficiency. In scurvy, the immune system is depressed, while bones and muscles are weakened. The sufferer, therefore, feels lethargic and fatigued (24).
Ensure that you take an inadequate amount of vitamin C by eating no less than 2 pieces of fruit every day and 3 – 4 portions of vegetables daily.
White growths on the eyes & poor vision at night
A poor diet is a common cause of vision problems. For example, vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness, which makes a person unable to see in darkness or low light.
Why is this so? Well, vitamin A plays a very vital role in the production of rhodopsin, a pigment that is present in the retina of your eyes. It allows you to see at night.
If night blindness is left untreated, it worsens, leading to a condition known as xerophthalmia. This condition causes damage to the cornea, resulting in blindness (25).
Bitot’s spots is another common symptom of xerophthalmia. The spots are foamy, slightly elevated, white growths that show up on the whites of the eyes or the conjunctiva.
A part of these growths can be removed but they disappear after-treatment of the vitamin A deficiency (26).
The good news is that deficiency in vitamin A is rare in developed nations. People who think that their vitamin A intake isn’t adequate can increase their intake of vitamin A-rich foods like dairy, organ meats, fish, eggs, dark leafy greens, and vegetables with yellow-orange color (27).
If your doctor hasn’t diagnosed you with any deficiency, then you shouldn’t bother supplementing with vitamin A. That’s because the supplements are fat-soluble, and when they are taken in excess, can accumulate in the fat stores of the body, thus leading to toxicity.
Other common signs of vitamin deficiency include:
- Dandruff or scaly skin
- White or red bumps on the skin
- Hair loss
- Restless leg syndrome
Any diet that is deficient in vitamins and minerals can trigger several symptoms. Some of these symptoms are more common than others. You can always reduce or resolve your symptoms by taking foods that are rich in the appropriate minerals and vitamins.