Two Vitamins Defiencies That Can Be Harmful
We all heard of vitamins at least once in our life. Indeed, when we were young, we were often told to eat our fruits and vegetables to get vitamins. But, unfortunately, we grew up with this idea without really knowing for most of us why they are so important.
In this article, we will talk about two essential vitamins whose deficiency can create serious health problems.
What are vitamins?
Vitamins are substances that are necessary in small quantities for our body to develop and perform important bodily functions. Our body does not produce vitamins, except for vitamin D. They are consumed through food or supplements.
Vitamin A (retinol, retinoic acid) is essential for vision, cell growth, reproduction, immunity, and the skin. Vitamin A also has antioxidant properties. Our body produces some substances called free radicals due to environmental pressure (radiation, tobacco smoke, etc.). These free radicals are unstable molecules that are believed to play a significant role in aging, heart disease, and cancer.
Substances that have Antioxidants properties protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals.
What happens when our body lacks of vitamin A?
According to WHO, Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of child blindness and may increase the risk of maternal mortality(1). In addition, people with a deficiency in vitamin A may also experience dry skin, dry eyes, frequent infection, and even fertility issues.
What are the causes of vitamin A deficiency?
Vitamin A deficiency is mainly due to chronic malnutrition. As a result, it is rare in developed countries and more common in developing countries. In High-income countries, vitamin A deficiency is often due to a highly restrictive diet or a digestive disease leading to poor absorption of vitamin A.
How to correct vitamin A deficiency?
The treatment for mild forms of vitamin A deficiency includes consumption of vitamin A-rich foods such as liver, beef, oily fish, dairy foods, carrots, mangoes, spinach.
They may treat the severe forms of vitamin A deficiency causing symptoms by taking daily oral vitamin A supplements. Always take the doses recommended by your doctor to avoid vitamin A poisoning which can also have harmful effects on your health.
Also known as Cobalamin, Vitamin B-12 is a crucial B vitamin. Our body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells and DNA and support the normal function of our nerves.
What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?
A mild deficiency in vitamin B12 may be asymptomatic. However, untreated, it can lead to serious health issues. The most common symptom is anemia. We said early that vitamin B12 is needed to make red blood cells that carry oxygen in our body. So when someone lacks of vitamin B-12, they may not have enough red blood cells, and their tissues and organs won’t get enough oxygen. Without enough oxygen, the patient may experience symptoms such as tiredness and shortness of breath.
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms also include :
- fast heart rate,
- sensations of pins and needles in hands or feet,
- muscle weakness,
- mental confusion or forgetfulness.
Vitamin B12 deficiency in pregnant women can increase the risk of their baby developing a severe birth defect known as a neural tube defect(Spina Bifida, for example). A lack of vitamin B12 is also associated with common pregnancy complications, including spontaneous abortion, low birth weight.
Who are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency is common among the elderly. In fact, with age, the absorption of vitamin B12 becomes less efficient due to the cutback in stomach acid, which is needed to absorb vitamin B12. Since acid is necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12, drugs to reduce gastric acidity may also result in vitamin B12 deficiency.
Strict vegetarians and vegans are also at high risk of developing a B12 deficiency because there is no vitamin source of this b vitamin in plants.
People who have weight-loss surgery are also more likely to be low in vitamin because the surgery removes the part of the bowel that absorbs B12.
Long-term use of metformin, diabetes type 2 medicine is also known to interfere with vitamin B12 absorptiHealth conditions that affect your small intestine, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, are also causes of vitamin B12 deficiency.
How to treat vitamin B12 deficiency?
If the vitamin B12 deficiency is diet-related, your doctor will recommend you to eat food rich in vitamin B12 (meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products, and other foods from animals). If you have a vegan diet, you can eat cereals that have been fortified with vitamin B12 or take a vitamin B12 supplement.
If the cause of the vitamin B12 deficiency is not diet-related and can’t be corrected, you may need a vitamin supplement for life.