Most people suffer from at least one type of medical condition, whether chronic or acute, and spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year in medical bills when the root cause very well may be some type of vitaminosis that could have been easily avoided. There are many types of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for the human body to function optimally and each person processes these nutrients differently which makes it difficult to maintain optimal levels. With our unique DNA, poor diets, medications, and supplement intakes, it can be very easy to develop hypervitaminosis or hypovitaminosis which will most likely lead to serious problems if not corrected.
What is Vitaminosis?
Vitaminosis describes a condition caused by a lack or over-abundance of vitamins retained by the body. There are two types of vitaminosis – the first being “hypervitaminosis” which is high storage levels of certain vitamins in the body which can cause toxic side effects, or poisoning, in the body. If untreated serious conditions may develop. Another type of vitaminosis is “hypovitaminosis” or “avitaminosis”, also known as a vitamin deficiency.
Hypervitaminosis is not as common as hypovitaminosis, but is becoming a more popular diagnosis by many doctors due to a rise in popularity of health supplements and from a lack in vitamin education. One of the leading causes of hypervitaminosis is accidental ingestion of vitamin supplements by young children. Another common cause of hypervitaminosis is over-ingestion of multiple supplements containing the same types of vitamins and nutrients. Studies estimate that 50% of Americans in the U.S. take multivitamins and that over 20% take herbal supplements. However, most studies reveal that these supplements may cause more harm than good because people typically aren’t supplementing the correct vitamins in the correct dosages.
Not all people process vitamins and nutrients the same way either, which may also cause build-up of certain substances which can poison the body. Hypervitaminosis tends to occur more with fat-soluble vitamins rather than water-soluble vitamins. Below are some of the culprits that are typically seen in hypervitaminosis instances:
Hypervitaminosis A – May result in osteoporosis, bone softening, vision problems, and mitochondrial damage (redox environment). Side effects of excessive vitamin A include anxiety/irritability, nausea and anorexia, hair loss, fever, fatigue, and many other symptoms
Hypervitaminosis D – Often contributes to cardiovascular disease, esophageal cancer, and sometimes premature aging
Hypervitaminosis E – May lead to blotchy skin, high triglyceride levels in the blood, lower levels of thyroid hormones, anticoagulation or increased bleeding (lower levels of Vitamin K)
Hypervitaminosis K – Although maximum limits of vitamin K are unknown, it is clear that common symptoms of vitamin K overdose include itchy/red skin, rashes, and hemolysis (in newborns)
Hypovitaminosis is also known as a vitamin deficiency in human beings. There are several different factors that contribute to hypovitaminosis, such as age, ethnicity, diet, organ function, water intake, medications, and other variables. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 90% of Americans have some type of vitamin deficiency. Vitamin deficiencies aren’t typically an instant occurrence; they usually occur over a long period of time and slowly produce side effects as the condition worsens.
Below are some of the most common vitamin deficiencies that are treated in the United States:
Hypovitaminosis A – Deficiencies of vitamin A are said to be the leading cause of blindness in children under five years old around the world. Side effects of vitamin A deficiencies include malabsorption of lipids, lower amounts of bile production, night blindness, and even total blindness
Hypovitaminosis E – It is estimated that 80% of Americans are Vitamin E deficient. Lack of vitamin E may contribute to neuromuscular disorders, neurological disorders, fat malabsorption, vision problems, and impairs to immune responses
Hypovitaminosis C – Over 50% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin C. Hypovitaminosis C may lead to weakness, ache/pains, weight loss, and even scurvy (with a chronic vitamin C deficiency)
Getting the Right Amount of Vitamins
With studies showing that most of us are deficient in at least one type of vitamin, and that many of us have built up toxic amounts of other vitamins, it’s easy to see that you should probably start paying more attention to your vitamin intake. This is especially true for those that have a disease, condition, or unwanted side effects like fatigue or skin problems. Below are some of the best ways to make sure that you’re getting the right amount of vitamins for your body to function at optimum levels:
- Get a blood test – Getting a blood test is one of the absolute best ways to find out if you’re building up too many vitamins or if you’re deficient in one or more vitamins or minerals. Most insurance companies now fully cover, or at least cover the majority of 1-2 blood tests per year. If you’re experiencing symptoms that have many possible causes, most likely your doctor will recommend a blood test. They’re always open to giving you one if you ask for it as well.
- Do your research – For more information on hypervitaminosis or hypovitaminosis, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website. You’ll be amazed what you’ll learn in a few minutes on their website.
- Follow FDA Daily Values – The FDA website is another great source for educating yourself on vitamins and minerals. The FDA developed the food pyramid that is designed to show how many servings of each food group one should consume to reach the correct amounts of fats, oils, proteins, and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins and minerals. The FDA also requires companies to list their ingredients and vitamin contents on packages of food products
- Change your diet – After educating yourself about vitamin toxicity and vitamin deficiencies, read about vitamin contents in different types of foods. Then, alter your diet accordingly to reach the desired amounts of vitamins your body needs. If your doctor discovers you’re vitamin deficient, find foods rich in that vitamin and try to eat more of them.
- Eat organic – Although organic foods can often be much more expensive than non-organic, they’re typically loaded with more vitamins and nutrients, and may potentially save you money in the long-run considering the amount of money you may spend on doctors and treatments if you develop a condition caused my hyper/hypovitaminosis. Non-organic store-bought fruits and vegetables often contain extra moisture and additives which may dilute vitamins. Many non-organic products are often genetically modified to have a better appearance, shelf life, and to grow faster, but these foods often do not contain high levels of nutrients. Organic foods are often grown in fertile soil as well, by local farms, which contain more nutrients in the soil.
- Keep a food journal – Keeping a food journal is a great way to track your vitamin intake. There are many apps these days like “MyPlate” and “MyFoodDiary” that allow you to quickly enter in each type of food & the serving size, or pick meals from popular restaurants, and it calculates/tracks nutrient information for you. Studies show that people that use food journals for long periods of time each much better than those that do not keep track of their food intake. Food journals are also a great way to help you plan meals that are vitamin rich, and allow you to quickly generate shopping lists.
- Drink adequate amounts of water – Dehydration may lead to build-up of certain vitamins as well as lack of vitamin absorption. Too much water intake may contribute to vitamin deficiencies. If you have a job where you do hard manual labor in hot environments, it’s important to drink large amounts of water to stay hydrated, but you may want to consider taking a vitamin supplement to replenish lost vitamins.
- Talk to your doctor about your medications – In recent years, doctors and scientists have discovered that there are many drugs, that are commonly prescribed, that deplete vitamins. Some of these drugs act as diuretics and some have unique mechanisms of action that metabolize or block absorption of vitamins and nutrients. Some medications are also capable of causing hypervitaminosis in patients taking them. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any of your medications have an effect on your vitamin levels and they’ll be happy to tell your or research the medication for you.
- Stop smoking – It seems like you hear this in every single health recommendation –and there’s a reason. Cigarette smoke can wreak havoc on your vitamin levels. Cigarette smoke contains free radicals (molecules with an odd number of electrons) which are unstable and oxidize cells in the body. Antioxidants are molecules that are able to give a spare electron without changing their composition which stabilize and neutralize free radicals. Vitamin C and E are two of the best antioxidants available; however, large amounts of smoke deplete these antioxidants. Vitamin C also aids in collagen production, so without adequate amounts of vitamin C, you may experience premature aging or skin problems.
- Choose supplements wisely – For those that have no symptoms of vitamin toxicity or depletion and that eat a healthy diet, a multivitamin or supplement should not be necessary. If you suspect that your vitamin levels are out of whack from a poor diet, depletion, etc., it would be wise to conduct a blood test before taking any kind of supplement, but most doctors say that taking a standard multivitamin may be healthy and used as a preventative. If you are currently taking any vitamin supplements, be sure to read the labels and factor in vitamins levels with your diet so that you’re not getting too many fat soluble vitamins.
As you can see, there are many factors that affect vitamin levels in your body. With the large number of essential vitamins and nutrients and the large number of variables that affect these vitamin levels, vitamin toxicity or vitamin depletion may be more common than you would think. Hypervitaminosis and hypovitaminosis may be the underlying cause of thousands of conditions, so by educating yourself, drinking adequate water, discussing your levels with your physician, and eating right, you may save money and ultimately live a longer, healthier life.