One of the most common questions I get from my patients who undergo micronutrient testing with me is, “are vitamin capsules better than food?” I’ll get into this topic towards the end of the week, but for now, it’s ideal to get a majority of your nutrients from food and that includes vitamins.
So in what foods are our 13 essential vitamins found? In the following breakdown, I think you’ll see a theme.
Vitamin A (aka Retinol) is a fat-soluble vitamin and is important for sight. If you’re deficient, you may experience night-blindness and keratomalacia, which is an eye disorder that causes your corneas to become dry. Since it’s fat soluble, it can remain in your body for extended periods of time, meaning that is it possible for you to consume too much of it overtime at which point it becomes toxic. Vitamin A toxicity can result in dizziness, nausea, liver damage, rash, joint pain, even coma and death. Good sources of this vitamin can be found in liver, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, spinach, pumpkin, apricot, milk, and collard greens.
Vitamin B (aka Thiamine) is water-soluble and is important for nerves and the brain to be able to function optimally. Severe Vitamin B deficiency can result in Wernicke-Koraskoff syndrome and beriberi. While WKS is typically the result of chronic alcohol abuse, Vitamin B is affected as the result of the abuse and therefore depletes the body of its use in other areas. Like we talked about in the Brain Health series, the body has a minute number of vitamins and nutrients to use in literally every single body process, so having depleted levels will result in a suboptimal way depending on where your body chooses to use the amount it has. Good sources of Vitamin B are kale, cauliflower, oranges, eggs, yeast, pork, sunflower seeds, brown rice, and grain rye.
Vitamin B2 (aka Riboflavin) is water-soluble and is involved mostly with energy production and aids our vision and skin health. Deficiency may cause ariboflavinosis which is a condition that’s marked by lesions in the corner of the mouth and lips as well as around the eyes and nose. Foods that contain a good source of this vitamin are asparagus, bananas, persimmons, okra, cottage cheese, yogurt, fish, and green beans.
Vitamin B3 (aka Niacin) is water- soluble and is integral in a multitude of metabolic processes in the body including converting serotonin to melatonin which we discussed in the Insomnia series. Markers for a deficiency include diarrhea, dermatitis, and difficulty focusing. Fortunately, this vitamin is found in a multitude of foods: liver, heart, chicken, tuna, salmon, avocados, dates, leafy greens, carrots, whole grains, mushroom, and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin B5 (aka Pantothenic acid) is water-soluble and is required for our bodies to breakdown carbs, proteins, fats, and alcohol in addition to creating red blood cells. Pantothenic acid deficiency is rare; however symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, constipation, and vomiting. Given this symptom presentation, it’s a great example as to why we should test for deficiencies rather than guess because so many of these symptoms can be attributed to a different deficiency rather than simply B5. Good sources are meats, whole grains, broccoli, avocados, and royal jelly.
Vitamin B6 (aka Pyridoxine) is water-soluble and is very important for blood and nervous system health. A lack of B6 can cause damage to parts of the nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord along with anemia. Great sources of this vitamin are bananas, vegetables, nuts, and various meats.
Vitamin B7 (aka Biotin) is one that you may have heard about in the context of beauty enhancement products such as clear skin and full hair. This is because Biotin is needed for a multitude of metabolic processes as well as healthy cholesterol levels. Over and under consumption, just as in any vitamin, can have negative consequences such as poor skin pallor and texture, hair loss, muscle pain, fatigue, and depression. Good sources of this vitamin are cauliflower, chicken, egg yoks, peanuts, and mushrooms.
Vitamin B9 (aka Folic acid) is critical in the formation of red cells which carry oxygen throughout the body. B9 is also important for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant because it aids in the development of the fetal nervous system. Just as all of the other B Vitamins, this too is water-soluble and can be found in leafy vegetables, liver, sunflower seeds, citrus fruits and liver.
Vitamin B12 (aka Cyanocobalamin) aids in nerve ells preservation, mental aptitude, and red blood cell formation. Because B12 is most generally found in meats, milk, cheese, eggs, deficiencies are common in vegans and the elderly. Symptoms of deficiency include depression, memory loss, lack of appetite, and fatigue.
For today, we’ll stop at the end of the B Vitamins as I recognize that it’s a lot of information to absorb at once. I hope that you’ve seen how many symptoms can be attributed to multiple deficiencies which is why it is important to not self-diagnose. If you’re experiencing fatigue, for example, that can be a result of a multitude of suboptimal levels from a multitude of causes. The micro-nutrient testing that I use for my patients offers a panel that determines the value of over 30 micro-nutrients, so we are able to isolate deficiencies or toxicity rather than guessing based on symptom presentation.
Motto to live by when it comes to diagnosing: find the cause in order to find the solution. Your heart is the greatest healer of your life. And your soul is the heart of your life. Let’s start living, folks. Today starts now. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.