These micronutrients are a bit complicated. It’s easy to know that we’re living an unhealthy lifestyle, that we don’t get enough fiber, for example. But vitamin deficiency can occur with a healthy but limited diet. Not all of them are abundant in all vegetables and others are only found in sufficient quantity in foods of animal origin. The most famous example of this is vitamin B12, which, unfortunately, can only be found in meat, eggs and certain dairy products. For those people who by their diet (such as vegans) avoid consuming these foods at all costs, achieving B12 levels requires the intake of supplements created from certain bacteria. The same case is common in the elderly where red meat consumption decreases as they get older.
The main problem we face is that we are not aware of our vitamin deficiencies until we begin to notice the health problems that this condition brings. But it will be much easier to detect the problem in time if we are attentive to the keys that identify it:
Fragile hair and nails
There are many health problems that can cause these symptoms, but if we are generally ‘healthy’, it is most likely due to an acute lack of biotin, also known as vitamin B7. Although it is a rare deficiency, these are its main symptoms, but not the only ones. The complete list, according to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, is:
- Fragile nails
- Chronic fatigue
- Brittle hair
- Muscle pain
- Tingling of hands and feet
If we want to avoid it, the first thing we have to bear in mind is that we must discard raw egg whites. This is because they contain a protein called avidin, which, as explained in this study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is a compound that binds to B7 and can greatly reduce its absorption. Luckily, this protein is denatured by heat, so we don’t have to fear tortillas and fried eggs.
The second (and fundamental) step to avoid biotin deficiency is to consume foods rich in this micronutrient. As explained in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Database, they are as follows:
- Egg yolks
- Red meat
- Dried fruit
Cracked mouth sores and commissures
If we cannot link them to any specific condition, it is most likely due to a lack of iron or B vitamins. As researchers S. R. Porter, C. Scully and S. Flint of the Bristol Dental Hospital and School in England explain, patients with these oral lesions are twice as likely as the general population to have an iron deficiency. Another study at Glasgow Dental Hospital in Scotland explained that about 28% of mouth ulcer patients were deficient in thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (B2) and pyroxidine (B6).
On the other hand, multiple studies also corroborate that patients with fissures in the corners of the mouth, although it is in most cases an excess or lack of saliva, may also be due to the lack of iron and B vitamins.
If we want to avoid these more than uncomfortable symptoms, what we must do is consume:
- Red meat
- Dried fruit
Of course, its most common cause is gingivitis, which, according to Dr. Miguel Carasol Campillo, a specialist at the Ruber Juan Bravo Hospital in Madrid and a Gold Medal for Scientific Merit in 2017, “90-95% of the Spanish population suffers from it“. This symptom is characterized by inflammation and irritation of the gums. It may also be due to stronger than recommended brushing. But sometimes its cause is much more dangerous: a vitamin C deficiency.
This causes a disease called scurvy, very common among sailors who carried out transoceanic voyages several centuries ago and the main reason for carrying large quantities of oranges on board since it was described by the English doctor James Lind in the mid eighteenth century. Of course, if we do not remedy it once our gums have begun to bleed, we can suffer all the consequences of the disease that are much worse: purpura, pustules, loss of teeth, hair loss, intramuscular hemorrhages …
There are a lot of foods rich in vitamin C, these are some:
- Pepper (more vitamin C than all of the above)
Loss of night vision
Perhaps this is one of the most difficult symptoms to perceive unless we drive regularly at night in rural areas. One of its causes is vitamin A deficiency. This is necessary for the generation of an ocular protein: rhodopsin. This is a fundamental component of the rods of the retina, the cells responsible for the perception of light intensity. At night, or when for other reasons there is great darkness, paying attention we can see, but the colors disappear. That’s completely normal and that’s because cones (color receptors) have less sensitivity than canes.
This condition is known as ‘nicthalopia’, and although it can be caused by eye damage, its most common cause is vitamin A deficiency. It is imperative to resolve it quickly, because, as researcher A. Sommer of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States explains, it can lead to xerophthalmia, which can irreversibly damage the cornea and cause blindness.
Fortunately, we have a wide variety of foods that will make vitamin A deficiency almost impossible:
- Cod liver oil
- Orange or yellow vegetables