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Deficiencies differ: vitamin needs are unique!

What is vitamin deficiency, what causes it, and what are the clinical implications?
Vitamin deficiency is caused by long-time insufficient absorption of certain vitamins, as consumed via our diet. It can be caused by:

 A diet lacking in correct quantities or quality of vitamins;

 Digestive system disorders;

 The taking of some medicines; and/or

 Metabolic changes brought on by intense physical and/or emotional stress, or during childhood, pregnancy, or old age.

Poliavitaminosis is a simultaneous lack of several vitamins, and is quite common. Meanwhile, vitamin deficiency (hypovitaminosis) involves inadequate volumes of a vitamin in our diet. Industrially prepared foods tend to lack vitamins, due to methods of cultivation and processing. In addition, strict diets — which are popular today — can cause deficiencies. 

In spring, after a long, cold winter, people tend to be more likely to suffer with vitamin deficiency, having lacked access to foods high in vitamins and minerals. Moreover, various gastrointestinal diseases, affecting the absorption of vitamins, come to the fore in spring. Some drugs used to treat gastritis or gastric ulcers can also reduce the absorption of vitamins.

If you feel sluggish, are often irritated by trifles, are dozy in the morning (even after having the required hours of sleep), and find it hard to concentrate, you may need to assess your diet, eating unprocessed foods rich in vitamins.

How does vitamin deficiency affect the skin?

Vitamin deficiency does affect our appearance, making us pale, with dull and dry skin, prone to irritation and inflammation, as well as acne. Vitamins A, E and C are vital. To prevent acne, turn to foods rich in these vitamins and take multivitamins. Vegetable oil, butter, citrus and other fruits, and vegetables are essential.

The signs of avitaminosis include skin dryness, peeling and cracking, which can lead to early aging of the skin. Specialists believe this problem to be related to lack of vitamin A, C, E and those in the B group. Those suffering from the genetic condition hyperkeratosis follicularis, whereby the skin erupts in lesions (on forearms, knees, thighs and shins) may benefit from taking Vitamin A. Doctors tend to recommend taking multi-vitamins, since prevention is always better than cure.

Age spots are another common symptom of vitamin deficiency; skin darkens and spots may grow larger and merge where vitamins A, E and C are lacking. Skin begins to age rapidly and sun exposure only aggravates the situation. Make sure you eat healthily and take vitamins but, if such spots appear, also see a dermatologist. With a doctor’s recommended treatment, pigmentation should reduce. Dark spots may disappear altogether once normal metabolic processes are restored.

Increased secretion from the sebaceous glands can develop if you lack vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and excessively oily skin encourages pimples. The lack of this vitamin also tends to inflame recurrent herpes, and may bring on nervous disorders, depression, gastritis and poor vision. Foods rich in vitamin B2 (eggs, oats, buckwheat, fish, legumes, yeast, mushrooms, apricots, cabbage, wholewheat bread and tomatoes) help reduce inflammation and swelling.

Dry and itchy hands may result from lack of vitamins A, E, C and D, with cracks and flaking taking time to heal, making skin inflamed. Skin on fingers may peel, causing anxiety and pain, and excessive wrinkles on hands. This problem is primarily caused by a lack of vitamin E (known for promoting youthful skin). Meanwhile, nails may become brittle and weak, with the nail plate uneven. Take multivitamins and foods rich in vitamins C, E and A (vegetables, milk, fruit, bread, vegetable oils and nuts). All help nails become healthy, strong and beautiful.

Remember that vitamin deficiency contributes to the development of various diseases. Lack of vitamin A can also cause ‘night blindness’: failing night vision. Meanwhile, lack of vitamin C can bring on scurvy, which is characterised by the following symptoms:

 Purpura (a rash of purple spots on the skin caused by internal bleeding from small blood vessels);

 Vascular fragility (causing easy bruising);

 Loss of teeth;

 Bleeding gums;

 Hypochromic anaemia;

 Decreased immunity; 

 Painful limbs.

Young children suffering from vitamin D and calcium deficiency may develop rickets, leading to serious musculoskeletal problems.

Manifestations of certain vitamin deficiencies vary and only a doctor can detect the nutrition lacking, often with the aid of blood test analysis. However, most deficiencies can be overcome through diet.

By Tatiana Zhukova, Doctor of higher category, D.M. Ph.D.
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