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The Vitamin Question

I don’t know about you, but I find the question, “do I take vitamin?” very confusing, especially if you are a woman over the age of 50. Do we really need to take vitamins? Your doctor can order individual blood tests to test levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that include vitamins A, D, C, K, and B-complex vitamins B-12, B-6, B-1 and folates, minerals like magnesium, calcium, selenium, and zinc. This can help you take the guess work out of the question. Besides having the blood tests done, there are things you can watch for that might tell you if you are deficient in a certain vitamin.

5 Signs Your Body May Be Nutrient Deficient

If you’ve noticed a mysterious health symptom that has no apparent cause, it’s worth considering whether a nutrient deficiency may be to blame. You may not get a diseasem but you can end up with impaired functioning, because vitamins are co-factors for all the bio-chemical reactions in the body. We need them to function properly.

1. Cracks at the corners of your mouth.

This can be a sign of iron, zinc, and B-vitamin (niacin, riboflavin, and B12) deficiency, or that you’re not getting enough protein. Good dietary sources of these nutrients include organic free-range poultry and eggs, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, oysters, and clams (if you can be sure they are harvested from non-polluted waters), Swiss chard, and tahini. Because vitamin C enhances iron absorption, be sure your diet also includes plenty of vitamin C-rich veggies like broccoli, red bell peppers, kale, and cauliflower.

2. Hair loss and a red, scaly rash (especially on your face).

This can be a sign of biotin (vitamin B7) deficiency. Your body needs biotin for metabolizing fats, carbohydrates, and amino acids, but it’s most well-known for its role in strengthening your hair and nails. Egg yolks from organic, free-range eggs are one of the best sources of biotin. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, avocados, mushrooms, cauliflower, nuts, raspberries, and bananas also contain biotin.

3. Red or white acne-like bumps (on your cheeks, arms, thighs, and buttocks).

This can be a sign of deficiency in essential fatty acids like omega-3s, as well as vitamin A or vitamin D deficiency. Increase your intake of omega-3 fats by eating more sardines and anchovies (or wild-caught Alaskan salmon) or taking a krill oil supplement. You can find vitamin A in foods like leafy green vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, and red bell peppers, while vitamin D is best obtained through safe sun exposure.

4. Tingling, prickling, and numbness in your hands and feet.

This can also be a sign of B-vitamin deficiency (particularly folate, B6, and B12). The symptom is related to the deficiency’s effect on the peripheral nerves and may be combined with anxiety, depression, anemia, fatigue, and hormone imbalances. Some good sources of B vitamins include spinach, asparagus, beets, organic free-range eggs and poultry, and grass-fed beef.

5. Muscle cramps (in your toes, calves, backs of legs, and arches of feet).

Muscle cramps may be a sign of deficiencies in magnesium, calcium, and potassium, especially if it happens frequently. Fix this by eating more almonds, hazelnuts, squash, dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, and dandelion), broccoli, Bok choy, and apples. They say that an estimated 80 percent of people are deficient in magnesium. Your doctor can test you for this if you are having any of the above-mentioned symptoms. Magnesium is a crucially important mineral for optimal health, performing a wide array of biological functions, including but not limited to: Activating muscles and nerves, creating energy in your body by activating adenosine triphosphate (ATP), help digest proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, serving as a building block for RNA and DNA synthesis and acting as a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin. If you take calcium, you must be careful as it could be a problem when taken in high quantities and can cause more harm than good. It's very important to have a proper balance between these two minerals. If you have too much calcium and not enough magnesium, your muscles will tend to go into spasm, and this has consequences for your heart in particular and could lead to a heart attack. Again, you doctor can test for your calcium levels. I was suffering from leg and foot cramps in the middle of the night so I started to alternate between calcium and magnesium every night before I went to bed; my leg cramps stopped after just two nights!

As anything in life, always err on the side of precaution and treat supplements like you would any other medicine: take them with caution. If you are taking regular vitamin supplements, or thinking about it, ask your doctor before doing so. And by the way, 100 grams of spinach has healthy amounts of vitamins A, C, E, K, several B vitamins, and essential minerals including iron and calcium. The truth is, if you eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fortified food, you're probably getting all you need. But supplements do offer an easy, just-in-case form of health insurance.

I guess what it really boils down to when it comes to the vitamin question, is if you feel you are deficient or do not feel right, make an appointment with your family doctor. The Mayo Clinic suggests if you suspect that you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, consider shifting your focus from supplements to eating better nutrient-rich whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as they may provide many benefits over dietary supplements.


Author: Kathryn Hartwell

References:,,, and


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