Let’s face it, modern convenience food is really — well, convenient! If you work crazy hours, have a long commute or need to balance a job and family life, being able to pop a TV dinner in at the end of the day or simple open up a can or box to get your meal sounds pretty darn good. But beware: there is a down side to eating this way: the risk of vitamin deficiencies.
Fatigue is one of the most common problems in people with low vitamin levels. But these deficiencies can cause some strange signs and symptoms that you might not even really recognize as an issue. Below are seven signs that you might be vitamin deficient — along with advice about foods to get into your diet that will help to treat this problem naturally.
1. Your muscles ache
If you notice that you are having muscle aches on a regular basis for no obvious reason (such as a strenuous workout), then you might be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. This deficiency is one of the most common, but it can be difficult to diagnose since the symptoms are so vague. But if these achy muscles are also accompanied by problems with your teeth and bones, get your levels tested. This vitamin is needed for health bones, teeth and muscles.
To get more vitamin D into your diet, try included milk or other dairy products (like yogurt or cottage cheese) that have been vitamin D-fortified or fatty fish like salmon or tuna (though no more than twice a week do avoid a mercury build-up). You should also try to get small amounts of exposure to the sun on a daily basis.
2. Your feet feel numb
If you notice a feeling of numbness or lack of sensation in your feet and also find that you have trouble walking (such as problems with balance or falling often), then low levels of vitamin B12 might be the problem. Why? Because vitamin B12 is necessary for the health and function of your brain and nervous system. If you do not have enough of it in your system, this can make it more difficult for the brain to communicate to the nerves and numbness and balance problems can result.
In order to up the levels of B12 in your diet, choose to eat more animal-based foods like fish, chicken and dairy products and more plant-based foods like milk or meat substitutes and breakfast cereals that have been B12-fortifed.
3. You have problems with night vision
Do you make excuses not to go out after dinner because it is hard for you to see at night? If so, you might be suffering from a vitamin A deficiency. This is because vitamin D is needed to make pigments for the photoreceptor cells in your eyes help you to see in low light. If you do not have enough vitamin A, your night vision can suffer and it can cause other visual problems like macular degeneration as well.
A vitamin A-rich diet should include leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and orange bell peppers, cantaloupes and eggs.
4. You have slow reflexes
If it feels like it takes a while to react to things — such as catching a ball or stopping the car suddenly is someone pulls out in front of you — it might not just be natural clumsiness on your part! A deficiency of vitamin E might be the problem. Vitamin E is needed for nerve health and, like B12, helps with the communication between your brain and the nerves which control your muscles and reflexes. A lack of this nutrient makes that communication hard.
Getting more vitamin E in your diet can be done by consuming more wheat germ (the richest source of this nutrient) as well as eggs and mayonnaise, organ meats, nuts and seeds and avocadoes.
5. Your wounds are hard to heal
If you notice that it takes a longer time than normal to heal up after you cut yourself or have some other injury, part of the problem might be a lack of vitamin C. That is because the skin cells and other cells that have to reproduce themselves in order to begin the heal process after an injury need vitamin C (along with vitamin A and zinc) in order to do this. Without these nutrients, it is a lot harder to heal and can increase your risk that the wound will get infected.
To get more vitamin C in your diet, add an abundance of citrus fruits (like lemons, limes and grapefruits) and leafy green vegetables (like spinach, arugula and kale) to your meals on a regular basis.
6. You feel blue often
Not all symptoms of vitamin deficiencies are physical. Everyone feels a bit glum sometimes, but if you notice that is problem is getting worse and you are experiencing depression or sadness most days, this might be due to a low level of vitamin B1. Like B12, this vitamin is needed for the health of your nerve and brain cells: if you do not have enough B1 in your body, these cells do not function as well and psychological problems like depression can result. This vitamin deficiency is rare, but can happen if someone is suffering from conditions like alcoholism, Crohn’s disease or anorexia.
B12-rich foods that you can add to your diet to help treat this include red and white meats and organ meats (like liver), peas, beans and lentils, wheat germ and blackstrap molasses.
7. You have bad breath
Bad breath, especially if you are brushing, flossing and practicing good oral hygiene, can also be because of a vitamin deficiency, in this case that of vitamin B3. That is because a lack of B3 leads to poor liver function. Since the liver is needed for the stomach and intestines to work properly, this will in turn lead to poor digestion, a leading cause of bad breath. This deficiency can also cause low energy levels is also common in people struggling with alcoholism.
In order to get more of this vitamin in your diet, eat plenty of organs meats, fatty fish, sunflower seeds and vegetables like beets.
In short, vitamin deficiencies can be difficult things to treat, mostly because people often will not realize there is a problem in the first place. If you do have any of the symptoms above and suspect this might be the problem, talk to your doctor. Simple blood tests are able to determine if levels of a particular vitamin are normal — and if they are not, you can then work with your doctor to come up with a plan of care that will boost those levels back to where they need to be and keep your body healthy.