If any of these symptoms ring a bell, it’s worth speaking to your GP or a registered dietician to see whether supplements are suitable for you.
Also known as folate deficiency anaemia, Vitamin B12 deficiency has various symptoms which can include extreme tiredness, breathlessness, feeling faint, headaches, pale skin, loss of appetite and weight loss. Lacking B12 may cause you to develop anaemia, which can cause skin to gain a yellow tinge, mouth ulcers, a sore tongue, irritability and depression.
Your chances of a B12 deficiency are increased if you have Atrophic gastritis (a thinned stomach lining) or Pernicious anaemia – which makes it hard for your body to absorb B12.
You can be diagnosed with a blood test, and it’s worth getting checked as soon as possible, as symptoms tend to get worse if left untreated. Supplement yourself with your diet through oily fish, meat, dairy and eggs.
Find out more about Vitamin B12 deficiency diagnosis
While full-blown scurvy is a rare condition these days, there are problems that can be caused by a Vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is used by the body to make collagen – a type of protein found in tissues including your skin and bones. Without Vitamin C you may experience symptoms such muscle and joint pain, tiredness, red dots on your skin and bleeding gums. Diagnosis is performed using a blood test.
Up your Vitamin C levels by eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, especially citrus fruit, berries, tomatoes and sweet potatoes.
Read more about preventing scurvy
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones as it helps your body use calcium and phosphate from food. A Vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets, a disease where your bones become soft and deformed. Symptoms of a deficiency include sadness, muscle weakness, stress fractures, high blood pressure, sleepiness and feeling grumpy.
From March – September your body should produce all the Vitamin D you need from sunlight, but over the winter (or if you don’t get outside much over the summer) you will need to ensure you’re getting plenty in your diet and/or taking a supplement. Don’t take more than 100mcg of Vitamin D a day as it can cause too much calcium to build up in the body and damage your kidneys and heart. Supplements of 10mcg per day are enough for most people.
Dietary sources include oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified cereals.
While a mild deficiency has no symptoms, you may find yourself more tired. You’re also at an increased risk of throat and chest infections and gastroenteritis, so if you’ve been picking up more illnesses than usual, Vitamin A deficiency could be to blame. You may also experience dry skin and hair, poor vision in the dark or dry eyes.
Researchers have suggested there could be a link between Vitamin A deficiency and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin A helps boost your immune system and is mainly found in animal products including dairy, eggs, meat, oily fish, fortified cereals, and some fruit and veg such as carrots, mangoes, sweet potatoes and kale.
Like Vitamin C, Vitamin A can’t be made by your body, so you need to ensure you get plenty of it in your diet. Vitamin A supplements can increase your risk of osteoporosis and fractures, so make sure to consult your doctor if you’re worried about a deficiency.
Vitamin E deficiency is rare, and almost never a result of a bad diet. It’s more likely to be experienced by under-weight babies, people with rare disorders of fat metabolism, people with cystic fibrosis, or with stomach issues such as Crohn’s disease or who’ve had part of their stomach removed. Deficiency can cause neuromuscular problems, neurological problems, anaemia and problems with the retina that can cause blindness. Treatments involve taking supplements.
Vitamin K1 comes from leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, while K2 is made by your body. Vitamin K plays an important part in coagulation, or blood clotting, which prevents excessive bleeding when you hurt yourself. Therefore, the most obvious sign of a deficiency is bleeding too much, but you may also bruise easily, get small blood clots under your nails or produce very dark black stools, although it is unusual in adults who eat a balanced diet. But there are some drugs (including warfarin and antibiotics) which can stop you absorbing Vitamin K, so talk to your doctor if you’re worried.
Iron is important for making red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. If you’re low in iron you may develop anaemia. Symptoms include tiredness, shortness of breath and pale skin. If your periods have stopped but you still have anaemia, it may be a sign of bleeding in the stomach, caused by stomach ulcers, piles, swelling of the large intestine or bowel or stomach cancer, so it’s worth going to the doctor. Diagnosis is by blood test.
Boost the iron in your diet by eating plenty of dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and watercress, fortified cereals and bread, meat and pulses such as beans, peas and lentils. Cut down on tea, coffee, dairy and walnuts and almonds, as these make it harder for your body to absorb iron.
Zinc plays an important role in your organ systems including your skin, gastrointestinal tract and immune system. Symptoms of a zinc deficiency include skin problems including acne and eczema, wounds being slow to heal, a white coating on your tongue, burning mouth syndrome, a weak immune system and diarrhoea. Boost your zinc intake by eating pumpkin seeds, meat, cashew nuts, chickpeas and mushrooms.