If you lead an inactive life, eat poorly or are exposed to high levels of stress in your work and/or personal life, you may be at risk of developing a vitamin deficiency
If you lead an inactive life, eat poorly or are exposed to high levels of stress in your work and/or personal life, you may be at risk of developing a vitamin deficiency.
"There are many causes for vitamin deficiencies. However, the most common one I see in my practice is an inadequate diet," says Penny Kendall-Reed, a naturopathic doctor practising in Toronto. "It is very difficult to get nutrient-rich foods in your diet when you are on the run as many of us are today."
Symptoms and diseases associated with vitamin deficiency can range from constant fatigue, insomnia, irritability and poor concentration to "clinical deficiencies" such as scurvy, which is caused by a lack of vitamin C. Clinical deficiencies take several months to occur and are less common than non-specific symptoms such as fatigue.
Kendall-Reed says that dieters who consume less than 1,800 calories per day may also risk being vitamin deficient. Strict vegetarians who do not consume nutritionally sound alternatives to animal protein are another risk group.
Lifestyle factors can play a tremendous role in vitamin status. Smokers, for instance, require 50 percent more vitamin C than their non-smoking counterparts. And women who take oral contraceptives require added vitamin B6 and folic acid.
"When recovering from surgery, your vitamin needs are also much different," says Kendall-Reed. "Many people don't realize that a surgery or long illness can take a tremendous toll on your body and can run you the risk of developing one or more vitamin deficiencies."
Lastly, those who have poor absorption and digestion may be more likely to develop vitamin deficiencies. The elderly are particularly at risk, as are those who take long-term medications. Some medicines, including antidepressants, anti-inflammatories and blood pressure lowering drugs, upset the vitamin balance in the body by changing the ability to absorb, use, store or excrete vitamins from food.
"Taking a high quality multivitamin is a great addition to your diet and will help combat stress and fatigue, as well as increase energy levels," says Kendall-Reed.