Performing a plethora of roles to maintain good health and development, vitamins are essential nutrients that we can’t live without.
Yet there are so many that perform wonders without our even actually being aware of it until we don’t get sufficient amounts and problems occur.
Vitamins are characterized by the following:
- They’re found naturally in food, with varying amounts
- They can’t be made by the body (save for vitamin D after sun exposure)
- They are organic in their structure and can be broken down by air, heat or acid, making it more difficult for your body to absorb them since cooking and storage affects their chemical structure – even exposure to air.
- They’re crucial for normal and healthy development and functions
- When they become absent from the diet, it can cause certain deficiencies
There are 13 essential vitamins which are divided into 2 categories:
- B vitamins
- Biotin (vitamin B7)
- Folic acid (folate, vitamin B9)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Thiamin (vitamin B1)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
These vitamins need to be replenished on a daily basis since they’re easily absorbed into the bloodstream as food is digested or supplements are dissolved. Present in the watery sections of the food you eat, water-soluble vitamins are continuously regulated via your kidneys. Any excess is flushed out with urine.
Some of the roles these vitamins play are:
- produce and release energy
- boost immune system
- maintain tissue health
- build proteins and cells
- Produce collagen present in skin cells, blood vessel walls and gums that aids in the process of healing wounds
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
These vitamins are quite difficult to figure out because we’re more likely to be deficient in these types of vitamins; yet taking them for prolonged periods of time, especially supplements, can be toxic and very harmful to your health. These vitamins aren’t as easily transported through the body as water-soluble vitamins.
In fact, any excess is stored in the liver and fat tissues for up to 6 months. First, they’re absorbed through the intestinal wall, then they enter the lymph vessels before making their way into the bloodstream.
Most fat-soluble vitamins need a protein carrier to facilitate their movement throughout the body.
Fat-soluble vitamins are responsible for the following:
- protect vision
- build bones
- protect the body against illnesses, diseases, and free radical damage
- blood clotting
- formation of healthy red blood cells
- interact together favorably to enhance absorption
Unfortunately, nutrient deficiencies are extremely common. The main culprits are poor diet, digestive problems, or chronic stress.
“Nutrient deficiencies alter bodily functions and processes at the most basic cellular level,” says lecturer at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, DC, Tricia L. Psota, PhD, RDN. “These processes include water balance, enzyme function, nerve signaling, digestion, and metabolism.
Resolving these deficiencies is important for optimal growth, development, and function.” They can also lead to diseases and chronic illnesses.
A common example is the lack of vitamin D and calcium can cause osteoporosis, a condition characterized by brittle bones.
People who are at most risk for nutritional deficiencies are:
- the elderly
- athletes who train intensively for long periods of time
- those with low income
- consumers of alcoholic beverages
- Some of the most common symptoms of vitamin deficiency are:
- hair loss
- oral health problems
- muscle cramps in the calves and arches of the feet
- muscle weakness
- shortness of breath
- irregular heartbeats
- mental fogginess
Every one of the 13 vitamins has a certain role but each also works in unison with the other 12 to lead to the best possible physical condition. This is why it’s so important to eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, beans and lentils, lean meat, and fish to make sure you’re getting all the essential nutrients your body needs to prevent deficiency, promote fat loss and enhance muscle gain.
Supplements and multivitamins are a great way to make sure you’re getting the vitamins you need. Talk to your doctor to make sure you’re getting the right amount instead of getting too little and not getting the most out of your supplements or getting too much and increasing your risk for toxic reactions. A simple blood test is all you need to know whether or not you’re vitamin deficient.