Vitamin Deficiency: Recognizing Symptoms and Improving Diet
Written by Melissa Bean Sterzick
Of the many ways to promote good health, eating a diet providing adequate
vitamins and minerals is one of the most important. Hiva Bastanmehr, MD,
board-certified in internal medicine and a specialist in men's health,
recommends taking time to prepare and eat meals as a part of self-care—similar
to exercise and meditation.
What diet do you recommend for adequate vitamin and mineral intake?
Dr. Hiva Bastanmehr: It’s always good to remember if you have variety
in your diet and include the different food groups—such as fruits
and vegetables—you don’t have to worry about vitamin deficiencies.
I prefer diet as the source of vitamins. A lot of vitamins, especially
those that are water-soluble, are in the fruit and vegetable group. If
you are not incorporating this group in your diet, it could be a potential
source of vitamin deficiency.
How can individuals maintain good levels of vitamins and minerals?
HB: It takes planning to consume a diet of whole foods. Grocery stores
set you up. When at the market, remember, if you shop on the outside perimeter
of the store and avoid the aisles, you are going to find your fresh and
unprocessed foods. The aisles are filled with the less-healthy processed foods.
When you’re snacking, choose an apple, tangerine or carrot sticks
instead of bars or pastries. When you’re eating out, choose a side
salad or vegetable instead of chips or fries. Put different colors on
your plate and emphasize vegetables over meats and carbohydrates.
Ideally, eat four to six servings of fruits and vegetables every day. That’s
not hard to do if you have one or two servings with each meal and make
fruits and vegetables your snacks.
I think with today’s lifestyle, a lot of people substitute meals.
Because everybody’s always in a hurry, they’re not as mindful
of what they are eating. They may choose a bar or a shake instead of a
meal—or just miss meals altogether.
Instead, have an awareness of what you’re eating; savor the experience
of providing whole nutrition to your body. Using food as a fuel makes
a huge difference. It’s better than taking a pill and hoping it
will give you what you need.
What are some symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiency?
HB: In general, most people start feeling fatigue. Vitamin and mineral
deficiency symptoms do cross over. A lot of times there are skin changes
and hair changes, sleep or mood issues and irritability. Your doctor will
take a step-by-step approach to look at your symptoms and determine what
to look for.
What vitamins and minerals are most essential?
HB: We absolutely need vitamin D to absorb calcium, and it is the calcium
we need as we age to increase bone and muscle strength. Calcium deficiency
can be very serious. Vitamin C also really helps our immune system. If
you are vitamin C-deficient, you are prone to infection. Vitamin A is
equally important as we get older—especially for night vision, and
it helps your skin and protects you against infection. Magnesium helps
the stomach absorb other nutrients. And vitamin B is so helpful for energy.
Do you recommend supplements for treating vitamin and mineral deficiencies?
HB: If you are deficient, then supplements are necessary. If you’re
not deficient, then taking a vitamin supplement is not going to help you.
Most of the vitamins are water-soluble, so if you are not deficient, it
puts a load on your kidneys and you’re not benefiting from the extra
vitamins. I believe it’s best to get your vitamins from food. A
lot of times what’s manufactured is not as easily absorbed. •
Common deficiencies include vitamins D, C, B and A, and the minerals calcium
Vitamin D - derived from sunlight and fortified foods (such as fatty fish, some
dairy products, orange juice, soy milk and cereal)
Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits, broccoli and peppers
Vitamin B – found in whole grains, meat, dairy, nuts, legumes and leafy greens
Vitamin A - found in orange-colored fruits and vegetables such as oranges, carrots,
cantaloupes, sweet potatoes and mangoes
Calcium – found in dairy and leafy greens
Magnesium - found in avocados, nuts and legumes
Dr. Hiva Bastanmehr practices at Torrance Memorial Physician Network–Palos
Verdes at 602 Deep Valley Drive in Rolling Hills Estates. She can be reached
at (310) 517-4692.