Do You Have a Vitamin Deficiency?


Hi, everybody.
I’m Dr. Keller Wortham. You know one of the most
common questions I get when patients come into my office
is should they be taking a vitamin supplement and do they
potentially have a vitamin deficiency. So, I’m going to spend some time today
talking about vitamins and what we get from our diet
and what we might need to supplement on top of that. First of all, let’s talk about
what a vitamin is. It’s a term we use a lot but actually,
do you know what a vitamin is? Well, let me tell you. A vitamin is basically
a substance a molecule that we desperately need
for our metabolism and for our life that we can’t generate
or synthesize in our own body so we need to get from our diet. If we don’t get these vitamins
from our diet, in effect, our metabolism shuts down
and we can die. So, it used to be that you got
plenty of vitamins from your diet but over time, as our diet has changed
and as our farming practices have changed and the soil that we farm in
often ends up being nutrient-deficient, oftentimes, even if we’re eating and eating what we think
is a healthy diet, we might end up with vitamin deficiencies. As I said, these vitamins
are crucial for life so you can end up with
some serious problems if you end up with vitamin deficiencies. So, although we’re in the United States,
there are still some common, relatively common
vitamin deficiencies here. Today, I’m going to list
the most common ones and then I’m going to talk about some other symptoms that you might have
that could be indicative of some less common vitamin deficiencies. Okay, so, one of the most common
vitamin deficiencies today is vitamin D. Now, maybe you’ve heard of vitamin D,
you might know that it’s very important for bone health and this is true
because vitamin D helps get calcium into the bones. It’s something that we need
for bone development and when we get vitamin D deficient
we can end up with brittle bones, we can end up–
if you’re developing as a child, you can end up with something
called rickets which is a bone developmental problem. Vitamin D has some other functions
as well. It’s very good at reducing certain
cancer risks including colon cancer and vitamin D is also very important
for thyroid function. Now, in addition to the fact
that maybe not as many people are eating enough
vitamin D in their diets today, there’s another issue. Vitamin D is made by the Sun. Okay, basically, the Sun helps
activate the vitamin D in our bodies and nowadays we’re spending
a lot less time outside and we might be wearing sunscreens
if we’re outside and therefore we’re blocking the UV light
that we actually need to activate the vitamin D
that’s in our bodies. So, if you think you might be
vitamin D-deficient, don’t worry. There’s a very simple way to test, you can ask your doctor
to test your vitamin D level and if you’re found to have
low vitamin D, then there are great ways
to increase it. A lot of dairy is fortified
with vitamins A and D, you can also take supplements. Vitamin D comes in capsules
and in drops and so it’s very easy to replace
those vitamin D levels if they’re low. Another common vitamin deficiency
in the United States is vitamin B12. Now, vitamin B12 is very important
for our neurologic health. It really is critical
for our nerve function and it’s also critical
for our immune system. If you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, you can start noticing issues
with immunity and if it gets pretty drastic, you can notice a decrease
in your nerve function. That could mean paralysis
or weakness of some of your muscles and numbness in parts of your body. Luckily vitamin B12 is
pretty readily absorbed and it tends to stay in the body
for long periods of time. However, if you’re a vegetarian,
you need to be careful here because your main sources of vitamin B12
are in meats and animal products. So, if you’re a vegetarian
and not eating meats and animal products, you might have to look to other places. Luckily, a lot of whole grains
are fortified with vitamin B12. So, we’ve got some farro,
it might have vitamin B12 in it; some of the cereals
that are out there might also have vitamin B12,
you can look on the label. And, again, if you’re worried
that you might have a deficiency, it’s a very easy blood test
for your doctor to run. If you’re found to have
a vitamin B12 deficiency, there are many ways to supplement it. There’s also a special category of people who lack something
called intrinsic factor. An intrinsic factor
is a very important molecule that helps get vitamin B12
out of the stomach and out of the intestines
and in to the bloodstream. And, if you genetically lack
that particular molecule, then you can end up
with very, very low levels of vitamin B12 and in that case,
you need to really be supplemented usually with injections of vitamin B12. As I said, luckily,
it stores in the body for a long time so even if that’s the case,
with some injections, you’re probably back
and right on the right track. A third relatively common
vitamin deficiency at least worldwide is vitamin A. Vitamin A actually is really important
for our eyes. Now, vitamin A
is important for our eyes because it helps make
a certain molecule called rhodopsin which is very important in the retina
and allows us to see especially with night vision. Actually, a leading case of blindness
in the world is a vitamin A deficiency. So, it’s much less common in
the United States but it still can happen. If you want to be tested
for vitamin A deficiency, you can, again, it’s probably
not something you have to worry about but luckily, we get a lot of vitamin A
from our foods. You’ve got vitamin A
in things like broccoli, you can get vitamin A in spinach,
you can get vitamin A, certainly, in like the orange things like carrots
and sweet potatoes. These are very rich sources of vitamin A. So, chances are, you’re probably
getting enough vitamin A in your diet. One important thing to know
about vitamin A: it is fat-soluble, meaning that it stores in the fat. So, actually, unlike some of
the water-soluble vitamins, you can’t take too much of it. That’s why it’s very careful
if you’re taking a vitamin supplement really look at the vitamin A doses of it. It shouldn’t be high in vitamin A
and if you take too much vitamin A and it stores too much
in your fat and your bloodstream, you can actually end up
with some devastating consequences. You can get fatigued in higher doses, you can even get brain damage
and even coma. So, careful with vitamin A. So, those are three of the big
deficiencies that we talk about. Now, I’m going to talk about
some symptoms that you might be experiencing
that could be indicative of other, albeit,
less frequent vitamin deficiencies. So, brittle hair and brittle nails. Maybe you’ve noticed your hair breaks
a lot easier and maybe you’ve noticed
that your nails don’t grow and they break and there can be a lot of reasons for that but one reason is a decreased level
of biotin in your blood. Biotin is also known as vitamin B7,
it’s an important B vitamin. It’s important to the health of the keratin in your
nails and your hair. Luckily, vitamin B7 is very plentiful
in egg yolks. So, if you’re getting egg yolks
in your diet, you’re probably getting biotin. It’s also common in nuts so if you’re
eating things like nuts and seeds, you’re probably getting
some biotin there. A second group of symptoms
you might notice are when you get those little cracks,
those ulcers in the corner of your mouth or canker sores inside of your mouth, a lot of times
those are caused by viruses but it’s also been shown
that people who have decreased B1 and B6 are more likely to get these ulcers
and get them more frequently. So, if you’re getting
frequent cracks in your mouth or ulcers inside of your mouth, it could be that you’re not getting
enough B1 which is thiamine or B6 which is paroxetine in your diet. Now, luckily, again,
those are readily available in eggs so a couple more reasons
to eat eggs. It’s also, again, in grains
like farro and other whole grains, whole wheat,
you get plenty of thiamine. A lot of foods are actually fortified
with thiamine so that’s important. Now, one thing about thiamine, if you’re someone who drinks
a lot of alcohol, alcohol can actually deplete
the levels of thiamine in your blood. So, we can often see alcoholics
who really abuse alcohol and with very, very low levels of thiamine
and it’s such an important vitamin for your metabolism that oftentimes
we have to give them a quick infusion of thiamine
just to reverse those issues. So, okay, moving on. Another thing that you might be noticing,
bleeding gums. Now, oftentimes bleeding gums
are just due to poor dentition if you don’t floss,
if you don’t brush properly, you can get bacteria that
buildup in your mouth and that can lead to gum disease. However, there’s a vitamin deficiency
that can also lead to gum disease and that’s vitamin C. Maybe you’ve heard of something
called scurvy. Scurvy isn’t around too much anymore
but back in the day, when sailors were on boats
for long periods of time, crossing the Atlantic,
they could end up with scurvy because there were no
fruits and vegetables on board for that long. They were eating fats and fish. And, fruits and vegetables and I’m going to pull up
like my oranges here, some beautiful oranges,
they are a primary source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is very
important for gum health because it helps make
the collagen molecule that’s so important in our gums
and also important in a lot of our connective tissue. So, people who have a
vitamin C deficiency, they also might end up
with some connective tissue issues. Tissue issues like weak vascular areas
so you might get bruising more frequency because their veins will break
more frequently. Vitamin C is very important
for kind of wound healing so if you cut yourself
and it takes a long time to heal, a vitamin deficiency like vitamin C
could be at play. Another group of symptoms
you might notice: dandruff. If you have dandruff, flaky skin
or seborrhoeic dermatitis which is kind of like itchy redness
that happens in the face, sometimes here,
sometimes around the forehead, that can be an issue with
small bacterial infections. However, there is a deficiency of B3
which is niacin and B2 which can also increase
the symptoms of dandruff or this seborrhoeic dermatitis. So, if you’re someone who gets
a lot of flaky itchiness, then you might want to increase
your sources in your diet of vitamin B3 and vitamin B2. So, vitamin B3, niacin is very common
in things like sweet potatoes, it’s common in nuts and seeds. I’ve got some chia seeds right here. It’s common in green veggies so you can get things
like broccoli and kale to improve your niacin
and your B3. And then, last thing: hair loss. A lot of people lose hair
for a lot of reasons. Stress can be one, pure, old, unlucky genetics
can be a reason for a hair loss. However, there are a couple things
that you can take that can really help improve your hair
and just either slow down or, certainly, reduce the amount
of hair loss you might have. The biotin that we mentioned
in the beginning, B7 is helpful. There are a couple of other things:
alpha-linolenic acid and just plain, old linoleic acid. Those are things that are very helpful
for hair growth. You get those in, again, chia seeds are very rich
in alpha-linolenic acid, vegetables like my broccoli
and my kale here, again. Greens like spinach have a
lot of alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid in it. So, if you’re eating a healthy diet,
you might be able to reduce the hair loss that you’re experiencing. Sometimes, it’s impossible to stop it
all the way but you might be able to slow it down,
reverse it in certain cases. So, there you go. That’s a quick rundown
of some of the common vitamin deficiencies that we see
and some symptoms that you might have that might be indicating,
other less common vitamin deficiencies but it’s important to know
that make sure that you’re getting a healthy diet full of fruits
and vegetables and whole grains. As you saw today, that’s where you’re going to
get the bulk of your vitamins and if you feel like you
might not be getting enough from your diet,
then consider a vitamin supplement. There are a lot of great vitamin
supplements out there on the market. I encourage you to find one
like Smarter Nutrition has where the vitamins are well-balanced,
they’re plant-based, they’re going to be much better
for the absorption of the vitamin in your bloodstream and they’re going to give you
the amounts that you need without overdoing it
on some of those vitamins that you want to be careful with. So, there you go.
Thanks for tuning in. Again, I’m Dr. Keller Wortham. That was vitamins for you. Maybe, next time,
we’ll talk about minerals, a whole another category. And, in the meantime,
I hope you have a great day and a great diet
and I will see you next time.

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