Vitamins are one of the most common types of supplements sold in the US, yet most people do not know whether they need them or what these vitamins really do. To understand how vitamins can affect us we need to understand why we require vitamins from a food source and the different types of vitamins. We require vitamins for our cells to function on a normal level and to keep our body working at maximum efficiency. The reason we must consume vitamins is because our body does not have the ability to synthesize the necessary amount of these nutrients by itself. It is vital to know that there are two different major types of vitamins, water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are quickly absorbed into the body and if we have too much then our bodies excrete them primarily through urine. As a result we require more of then vitamins on a more frequent basis to stay healthy. Fat-soluble vitamins on the other hand are absorbed and stored in our fat cells for future use. This can lead to a higher risk of a build up of toxicity from an overdose as the vitamins stay in our body longer. It is not recommended to take more than the daily-suggested dose of the vitamins due to the risk of possible toxicity, and the fact that your body can only absorb and use so much of it. There are a total of 13 vitamins, of which 9 are water-soluble and 4 are fat-soluble. We will give a breakdown of each vitamin in this section.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which is a vital nutrient for our skin and vision. A healthy dose of Vitamin A will help support good vision, healthy skin, bone growth, is a key component in cell division and reproduction, and is vital in reproductive health. A deficiency of Vitamin A can result in reduced night vision capability, general vision loss, and in extreme cases it can result in blindness.
Lack of Vitamin A will keep your skin from staying healthy causing it to dry up severely and crack. Furthermore, a deficiency of Vitamin A can increase your risk of infection, which in some cases can be fatal. Due to Vitamin A being a fat-soluble vitamin, there is a risk of overdose, which can occur from consuming more than 10,00 mcg.
An overdose of Vitamin A can cause nausea, headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, dizziness, liver problems, weak bones, and birth defects if the mother overdoses. Vitamin A can be found in root vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, gourd vegetables such as pumpkins and squash, bell peppers, cantaloupes, green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, beef, eggs and peaches.
Otherwise known as Thiamine, Vitamin B1 is a water-soluble vitamin, which is crucial for healthy nerve function. A healthy dose of Vitamin B1 will support a healthy metabolism, supports nerve health through the development of the myelin sheath, maintains a healthy heart rhythm by supporting nerve communication in the heart, keeps your immune system up by helping with nutrient absorption, lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by keeping your brain cells in check, helps us learn by supporting our short term memory functions, keep our mood stable by keeping healthy brain function, and finally it can help prevent glaucoma and cataracts from forming in our eyes. That is a lot of benefit from just one vitamin!
Deficiency of Vitamin B1 can be quite serious as it can cause an adverse array of effects. Deficiency can cause nerve damage which can lead to many effects such as nerve pain, memory loss, irritability, confusion, fatigue, and can lead to emotional issues such as anxiety or depression. Since it controls your metabolism a deficiency of Vitamin B1 will cause issues with digestion that result in prolonged cases of diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe loss of weight and anorexia, which in turn can lead to fatigue and weakness. Thiamine deficiency can also lead to cardiovascular issues which as an enlarged heart.
Being a water-soluble there are no adverse effects of overeating of foods rich in Vitamin B1 as your body will excrete it through urination. Vitamin B1 can be found in sunflower seeds, asparagus, lettuce, mushrooms, beans, spinach, eggplant, tomatoes, wheat, soybeans, and in seafood such as tuna.
Also known as Riboflavin, Vitamin B2 is a water-soluble vitamin, which is key to the breakdown and conversion of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and nutrients in food into energy sources for the body to use. This vitamin is essential for the absorption and use of oxygen in the body. As a result Vitamin B2 helps maintain healthy energy levels in the body and can be used to prevent or treat anemia. Riboflavin is also a very powerful antioxidant and it is helpful in protecting the body from certain types of cancers. Those who have a healthy dose of Vitamin B2 in their diet can also benefit from improved eye health, and healthier hair and nail growth.
Though very rare in developed nations due to higher quality diets that are usually high in Vitamin B2, a deficiency in this nutrient can be rather serious. Since Vitamin B2 works to help convert nutrients into energy, a deficiency in it can cause a very slow metabolism which result in heavy fatigue and anemia. Deficiency can also lead to sores and cracks on the mouth and lips, serious skin disorders, inflammation of the skin, mouth, tongue, throat, and mucus membranes. Furthermore, having a diet that lacks in Vitamin B2 can lead to nerve damage and serious changes in mood.
It takes quite a large dose of Vitamin B2 in order to experience anything close to an overdose effect. This is largely due to it being a water-soluble Vitamin, so the body quickly filters any excess vitamin in the body through urination. But taking excessive B2 can lead to a bright yellow hue to your urine, which is not harmful. But if you consume an almost impossible dose of Vitamin B2 then you may experience itching, numbness, sensitivity to light, and tingling sensations.
Riboflavin can be found in almonds, soy, mushrooms, spinach, whole wheat, yogurt, eggs, organ meats like liver, and fish like Mackerel.
Another of the B vitamins, B3 is also water-soluble and otherwise known as Niacin is an essential nutrient for lowering the risk of heart disease. The way it helps with this is by reducing atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries that eventually can lead to heart disease and infarction. Vitamin B3 is also vital in keeping a healthy balance of cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, which in turn also help reduce the risk of heart disease. Research has been done into the use of Vitamin B3 for maintaining heart health in those who have a high risk of heart attack and for improving heart health in those who have already experienced a heart attack. On a lesser note niacin is also known to help keep a healthy digestive system, skin, and nervous system.
Vitamin B3 deficiency on the other hand is a very serious issue. Not getting enough niacin in your diet can lead to a condition called pellagra. Though today it is most common in 3rd world countries, the US did see a serious epidemic of pellagra due to malnutrition in the very beginning of the 20th century. Pellagra is known to cause symptoms of dermatitis (aka eczema), diarrhea, dementia, and stomatitis (swelling of the mouth). Thankfully this can be reversed with a course of Vitamin B3 supplementation.
Even though Vitamin B3 is a water-soluble vitamin, an overdose from niacin is possible with a continually high dose. Consumption of over 1000 mg per day for an extended period of around 3 months is known to cause serious liver cell damage and liver toxicity.
Vitamin B3 is found in mushrooms, asparagus, nuts, brown rice, corn, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, carrots, turnips, barley, lentil, fruits such as peaches, chicken, and seafood such as tuna and salmon.
Another water-soluble member of the B vitamins, Vitamin B5, otherwise known as Pantothenic Acid is one of the more common types of vitamins in our diets. This vitamin is very important in keeping a high quality of life by keeping your body running at optimal performance. Vitamin B5 is important in keeping the hormones in your body perfectly balanced which can keep you feeling good and feeling healthy. As a result of the hormone balance B5 can help relieve stress and improve overall mood. The vitamin also helps balance the fats in your body by keeping good fats and removing any excess fats that can be harmful. B5 helps break down carbohydrates and fats into energy, resulting in more energy throughout the day and a more active mind. Pantothenic acid can also help keep you look youthful by balancing the hormones, which are responsible for tightening skin, thus reducing wrinkles and age spots. B5 also plays a vital role in generating white blood cells, which in turn boost your immune system and help heal wounds. Finally it is found that Vitamin B5 can directly improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms by directly reducing inflammation in your joints.
It is very unlikely you will ever experience Vitamin B5 deficiency, but the symptoms include irritability, depression, and fatigue due to poor metabolism of nutrients and a misbalance of hormones. Overdose of B5 is also very unlikely, but in a dose of over 10g per day, patients can heavy diarrhea, nausea, and heartburn. High doses can also cause fluid buildup in the joints and poor blood circulation. Vitamin B5 can be found in Broccoli, lentils, avocado, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, split peas, green leafy vegetables, squash, cauliflower, eggs, strawberries, and liver.
The fifth in our list of B Vitamins is Vitamin B6, otherwise known as Pyridoxine. This water-soluble vitamin is essential to your health and it is important that you consume at least 30-50mg of this vitamin per day. Pyridoxine can help slow down the cosmetic signs of aging by slowing the appearance of wrinkles and lines on our face. As a matter of fact it can also help slow or reduce hair loss by boosting hair growth. On a more serious aging note, Pyridoxine fights age-related macular degeneration in your eyes, which can prevent age related vision loss. Further more it is known to greatly relieve the symptoms of arthritis. It is crucial in the process of removing toxins from the liver, and is often recommended for those who suffer from liver ailments. B6 helps reduce the levels of homocystein in your blood, which is an amino acid that builds up in your blood when you eat meat. An excess of this amino acid is linked to heart attack. On a similar note Vitamin B6 is a key ingredient in creating hemoglobin in your blood, making it a great supplement for those struggling with anemia. Vitamin B6 is a powerful nutrient for boosting your cognitive functions. It has been linked in aiding and retaining cognitive function in patients of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. B6 is also known for maintaining a healthy emotional state by naturally producing serotonin in our body. Vitamin B6 has been linked to diabetes prevention, as well as being an essential nutrient for controlling diabetes in those who have already been diagnosed. Finally, for our expecting mothers out there, Vitamin B6 is shown to help prevent and treat morning sickness and nausea during pregnancy.
The benefits of Vitamin B6 are clear and many, but the consequences of having too little Vitamin B6 can be very serious. Deficiency can cause peripheral neuropathy, a disorder, which causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the extremities. In addition those with B6 deficiencies will experience symptoms similar to the Vitamin B3 deficiency disorder known as pellagra, including eczema and painful inflammation of the tongue and mouth. A deficiency in Pyridoxine can also cause serious psychological issues including depression, confusion, abnormalities in EEGs, and seizures, especially in children. On a more serious note deficiency can cause a serious case of anemia. If a pregnant woman is deficient in Vitamin B6, their child can have serious health issues including blood disorders and serious cognitive disabilities.
Toxicity in Vitamin B6 is very rare as it is water-soluble, but consuming over 500mg per day for an extended period of time can result in ataxia (loss of control of body movement) and loss of sense of body position and vibration. Recovery from toxicity can be slow and may include permanent damage to the nervous system. Vitamin B6 can be found in avocados, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans, peanuts, potatoes, brown rice, whole wheat, green left vegetables, bananas, bell peppers, beans, chicken, and fish meat like trout, tuna, and salmon.
Vitamin B9, other wise known as Folate in its natural occurring form, or Folic Acid in its form that is used in supplements, is the sixth of the water-soluble B vitamins. It is a vital vitamin for pregnant women to take because it ensures good spinal development in their babies, thus preventing serious birth defects. It is also good for promoting fertility in women who are looking to get pregnant. Folic Acid prevents stress from causing damage to our bodies and prevents the formation of lines and wrinkles on our faces. It prevents heart attacks by reducing the levels of homocystein, just like Vitamin B6. It is a powerful antidepressant and anti-anxiety supplement that is often prescribed by doctors to help patients cope with their symptoms. It fights anemia by helping your red blood cells divide and replicate in your body. It is often prescribed to anemia patients and those undergoing cancer treatment to help increase their blood count. Folic Acid is also known to help strengthen muscle fibers and help keep them strong and resilient against tension. Finally Vitamin B9 is essential for the healthy division of all cells in the body and maintaining a healthy DNA pattern. This in turn is a powerful tool for preventing cancer growth by controlling the quality of the cells created by the body.
In adults it is recommended to take at least 400 mcg per day, and 600 mcg in women who are pregnant. Deficiency is known to cause anemia due to poor red blood cell division. It is known to cause or exacerbate celiac disease symptoms due to improper formation of the stomach linings. Those who have low amounts of Vitamin B9 in their diets will often have more infections due to a reduction of white blood cells in their body. A serious condition can occur called thrombocytopenia, which is a low count of blood platelets. Your blood platelets help clot blood, which is vital in the case of a trauma or laceration. If too low you can experience the inability to stop bleeding, heavy bruising from light trauma, internal bleeding, blood in urine and stool, and eventually death from blood loss or a bleed in the brain. Folic Acid deficiency is also known to cause weakness and serious weight loss, diarrhea, and painful cracking of the mouth and tongue. Certain types of cancers can be caused directly from Vitamin B9 deficiency. Vitamin B9 is essential during a pregnancy, and women who have a deficiency in their diets can serious affect the baby. Deficiency is known to cause very low birth weight, serious birth defects, and cause a very high risk of preterm delivery.
Overdose of Vitamin B9 is extremely unlikely and requires an enormous dose to occur. If you consume over 15,0000 mcg of Folic Acid you may experience stomach issues, skin reactions, insomnia, and seizures. But lets be clear on how hard that is to accomplish. The recommended daily dose is 400 mcg per day for adults, making the toxic dose to be around 35 times the daily dose. Vitamin B9 can be found in whole grains, beans, peas, green leafy vegetables, avocado, peanuts, tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus, citrus fruits, bananas, papayas, and organ meats such as liver, kidneys, and hearts.
The last on our list of water-soluble B vitamins is Vitamin B12, otherwise known as Cabalamin. It is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the United States, yet it is very important for maintaining a good health. Vitamin B12 is essential in concerting carbohydrates into glucose, which is an essential form of energy for the human body. It also is quite essential in the role of neurotransmitter signaling, which helps the brain and nerves communicate with each other. As a result it has been shown to reduce the risk and effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is also shown to help improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Just as other B Vitamins, B12 is a powerful nutrient for removing homocystein and cholesterol from the arteries, as a result fights heart disease. It can be very helpful in keeping your skin healthy and youthful, s well as keeping your hair healthy, especially in keeping off baldness in men. In pregnant women, it can help in the growth of cells in the fetus, thus avoiding the development of birth defects in their children. Research shows that Vitamin B12 is essential in helping the immune system identify and fight off certain types of cancer, such as cervical, prostate, and colon cancer. Finally B12 is a major piece in the process of creating new red blood cells, and as a result is recommended for those who live with anemia.
Deficiency in Vitamin B12 can range from mild to crippling. Those who consume far less than 250mcg per day can have symptoms of chronic fatigue, muscle aches and weakness, joint pain, and shortness of breath. Deficiency is directly linked to feelings of dizziness, poor memory, and the inability to concentrate. In addition it is common to experience depression and anxiety with serious deficiency. People with a Vitamin B12 deficiency often complain of heart palpitations, and seriously increase their risk of heart disease and artery damage. B12 deficiency leads to bleeding gums and open sores on the mouth, as well as digestive problems like nausea, diarrhea, cramping and a significant loss of appetite. A high deficiency of B12 can be very serious, as it causes a form of anemia called pernicious anemia. This form of anemia if left untreated can cause memory loss, confusion, and possible long-term or permanent dementia due to brain damage.
Interestingly enough there are no known toxic effects from a high level of Vitamin B12. Patients with anemia often receive very high doses of B12, such as 2000mcg per day with no side effects. The US Food and Nutrition Board states no upper limit, though your body can only absorb so much in one day. Vitamin B12 can be found in abundance in Yogurts, milk, cheeses, fortified foods such as cereals, soy products, beef liver and meats, and seafood wise it is plenty in sardines and salmon.
Vitamin C other wise known as Ascorbic Acid, a water-soluble vitamin is one of the most commonly purchased vitamin supplements in the United States. It is a very important nutrient for keeping the immune system healthy and in check. It is the largest factor in keeping your immune system strong enough to fight off possible infections and for healing current infections. It may not be a cure for the common cold, but a healthy dose of Vitamin C will help your body fight off any infections faster. It is so powerful that cancer patients who are undergoing treatment report far less infections It is also found to be a powerful tool in improving mental health. Studies find that there is a significant reduction of symptoms in anxiety and depression patients when they consume enough Vitamin C. Finally Ascorbic Acid is a very powerful anti-inflammatory, which keeps your immune system in check, and can help reduce pain and fight off cancers.
Vitamin C deficiency is one of the better-known effects of malnutrition. Otherwise known as Scurvy, Vitamin C deficiency can be very much life threatening if not addressed. Scurvy was once common during the 17th and 18th century in sailors who had no access to fruits or vegetables while on their voyages, resulting in the deaths of thousands due to complications from symptoms. Today only 6-8% of the US population has a high enough deficiency in Vitamin C to cause scurvy like symptoms. The symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency can be fatigue, fever, malaise, and pain in the muscles. On a more serious note those with scurvy can experience the swelling and bleeding of the gums, severe tooth loss, extensive rash and red spots on the skin, and severe weight loss. Scurvy can also result in a very weak immune system, which in turn allows for the onset of more infections, and the inability to fight off current infection. The weakening of the immune system during scurvy is often fatal.
The upper limit for Vitamin C is 2000 mg per day, yet there is no real toxic effect of a high dose of Vitamin C. The most that can occur is nausea and diarrhea in the case of a mega-dose. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruit like lemons, oranges, & grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries, guava, black currant, pineapple, mango, papaya and vegetables such as red peppers, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, peas and cauliflower.
Vitamin D, otherwise known as Calciferol is a fat-soluble nutrient, which is quite unique compared to other nutrients due to the fact that it can be absorbed into the body through sunlight exposure. Vitamin D is a vital nutrient especially in children as it helps in the development and strengthening of bones. This is due to Vitamin D being a key factor in Calcium absorption into the body. It is also shown to boost children’s immune systems against the flu during winter seasons. Studies show that children with a Vitamin D supplement are 40% less likely to come down with the flu. Calciferol is also linked to helping control insulin levels, resulting in significant drops in the risk of developing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Vitamin D is also linked to a healthy immune system and a healthy dose of Vitamin D in children is found to greatly reduce the risk of illness such as asthma, dermatitis, and eczema. Pregnant women are also recommended to take plenty of Vitamin D in order to help promote healthy bone growth in their unborn babies. A healthy dose of Vitamin D on a daily basis has shown to prevent and slow cancer growth. Studies have shown that patients who have a high Vitamin D diet have lower chances of their cancer metastasizing to other parts of the body. Finally, and most commonly Vitamin D is essential in healthy energy levels and mood control, especially in the winter months when there is less sunlight.
Deficiency in Vitamin D can have serious repercussions on the human body. In children, a Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a ailment that causes bowing of the leg bones due to bone weakness. This condition can be crippling and possibly permanent if not treated. Deficiency in children is also the cause of poor bone development, stunted growth, and weak teeth. Adults can also be severely affected by a Vitamin D deficiency, which can cause bowing of the legs, soft bones, high risk of bone fracture, spontaneous fracture, and severe tooth decay. Vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women is known to cause severe birth defects in the bone development of the fetus. Another result of Vitamin D deficiency in the winter is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is characterized as fatigue and symptoms of depression in the winter due to a lack of sunlight. This wintertime disorder can be avoided and treated by Vitamin D supplementation during the fall and winter months.
Toxicity from Vitamin D is possible mostly with supplementation, and very rarely through natural sources. If consumed at over 4,000 IU per day, Vitamin D toxicity may occur. Symptoms can be over-calcification of the bones, hardening of the blood vessels, kidneys, lungs, and heart. Hypervitaminosis can also lead to severe headaches, nausea and loss of appetite, dry mouth, metallic taste, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. Vitamin D is found in sunlight, and can be supplemented in the winter using UV therapy lights. In food, Vitamin D can be found in mushrooms, fortified foods such as juices and milk, eggs, and plenty in seafood such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna.
The third of the fat-soluble vitamins in our list, Vitamin E, otherwise known as tocopherol, is one of the most common nutrients in our diet. It is important in reducing the naturally produced cholesterol in our bodies. It is critical in reducing free radicals, thus slowing the age process and helps us live longer. It helps strengthen the capillary walls of our skin and keeps our skin optimally moisturized, and due to its work as an anti-oxidant it is essential in keeping your hair looking healthy. As a anti-oxidant it also is vital in preventing macular degeneration in the eyes, and helps the body fight off and prevent cancer growth. Finally tocopherol is essential in balancing our endocrine system and maintaining our hormones, especially in women who struggle with PMS.
Due to the low amount of Vitamin E required on a daily basis, deficiency is extremely rare. It is mostly only seen in people who have conditions that keep them from absorbing nutrients from their food. As a result, Vitamin E deficiency usually requires the treatment of the underlying condition rather than supplementation. Deficiency though can have symptoms such as poor nerve communication, and muscle weakness.
Toxicity in Vitamin E is very rare as well and requires a dose of much more than 2000 mg per day, which for a recommended dose of 15mg per day, is a difficult feat to accomplish. In the rare case of toxicity, patients may experience the inability for their blood to clot. Vitamin E can be found in avocados, nuts, seeds, blueberries, olives, tomatoes, and green leafy vegetables.
The last water-soluble vitamin on our list in Vitamin H, also known at Vitamin B7, or more commonly known as Biotin, a common nutrient that can greatly improve your health. It is essential in the breakdown of carbohydrates and protein, and balances cholesterol levels, making it a vital piece of your healthy metabolism. The higher your metabolism, the easier it is to keep off extra pounds. In diabetics it can be very helpful in controlling blood sugar levels, and has been used for that purpose for many years. Like other vitamins, Biotin is known to help fight off the development of wrinkles on your skin, and it is a powerful tool against acne. Vitamin H is also essential in the healthy growth of hair and nails. Vitamin H is also essential in the construction of myelin around your nerves, making it a powerful nutrient in helping treat patients of Multiple Sclerosis, a disorder that is caused by the destruction of myelin in the nerve system.
Vitamin H deficiency is extremely rare and only seen in certain groups and in those who consume too many raw egg whites. Deficiency in Biotin can show symptoms of hair loss, rash on the face and genitals, sores on the tongue, dry eyes, depression, hallucinations, insomnia, and fatigue.
There are no known toxic effects of a Vitamin H overdose. Biotin can be found in nuts, whole grains, avocados, cauliflower, carrots, green leafy vegetables, raspberries, papaya, bananas, eggs, and fish such as salmon.
Simply known as Vitamin K in abbreviation for the Danish word Koagulation due to its role in helping blood coagulation, Vitamin K is the last on our list of vitamins and the 4th of the fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin K is essential in the maintenance of your bones. Those who have a K plenty diet are known to have denser and stronger bones that are harder to break. Vitamin K is also linked to the improvement of cognitive thinking, and it is found that those who have a healthy dose of Vitamin K often perform better on memory performance. This vitamin is also important in keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level by reducing and preventing a build up of minerals in your arteries, thus enabling your heart to freely pump blood to all parts of your body.
Deficiency in Vitamin K is very rare in modern times, but it can be very serious. Since it is essential in the clotting process in your blood, a deficiency can result in potentially fatal bleeding and hemorrhaging.
Since it is a fat-soluble vitamin, this nutrient can be overdosed on. A toxic dose of Vitamin K can lead to the damage of red blood cells, fatigue, and jaundice. Vitamin K can be found in parsley, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, green beans, peas, and carrots.
It is very clear with the information above, that it is very important to our health for us to take enough vitamins to fit our daily needs. The result of this can be a much better quality of life through not only on our basic physical well being, but our mental and psychological well being as well. Though as the saying goes, too much of a good thing can also be bad. We must be aware of how much of a certain vitamin we are consuming naturally and try to supplement those which we are not consuming enough of through our food. As you can see from the list of deficiency symptoms, not getting enough vitamins can be detrimental to your health. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms that have been noted above then we suggest you see your doctor about checking your blood levels. Your doctor can check your blood to make sure that you are getting enough vitamins in your diet. If not, then they can recommend a safe and effective daily dose to help curb any unwanted symptoms of vitamin deficiency. But should we take a supplement for all vitamins at once? I would say no, since we may be getting enough in our diet to avoid warranting any additional supplements. The best course is always to consult with your doctor and see how it can improve your life.
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