Have you felt tired or run down lately? You’re not alone. Millions of Americans suffer from vitamin deficiencies, and the symptoms can sap your energy, mood, and health in surprising ways. You probably assume that in a developed country with a surplus of food, vitamin deficiencies would be rare. Think again. Some of the most common deficiencies in the US include Vitamin D, B9 or folate, B12, and iron. The causes range from poor diet and lifestyle habits to health conditions that make it harder for your body to absorb certain nutrients. The good news is that most deficiencies are easy to correct once detected, but too often they go undiagnosed and untreated. It’s time to learn the truth about what your body may be missing and make sure you’re nourishing yourself with all the essential building blocks for health and vitality.
Vitamin D Deficiency – The Silent Epidemic
If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t get enough vitamin D. This essential vitamin helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are crucial for bone health and growth. A lack of vitamin D can lead to rickets, osteoporosis, and even increased cancer risk.
Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in the U.S., affecting nearly half the population. Since few foods contain vitamin D naturally, the main source is sun exposure. However, most people spend little time outside, and when they do go out, they often wear sunscreen which blocks vitamin D synthesis. People with dark skin are also more prone to deficiency since their skin pigmentation reduces vitamin D production.
To get your daily dose of the “sunshine vitamin,” spend 10-15 minutes a few times a week outside during the middle of the day without sunscreen. You can also take supplements, usually 600 to 800 IU per day. Many milk products, orange juices, and cereals are fortified with vitamin D.
The only way to know for sure if you need more vitamin D is to get a blood test to check your levels. Don’t become another statistic in this silent epidemic. Talk to your doctor about the best ways to optimize your vitamin D intake and enjoy better health and well-being.
Folate Deficiency – A Growing Public Health Concern
Folate deficiency is shockingly common in the US and it’s seriously harmful to your health. As many as 75% of Americans don’t get enough folate, a B vitamin critical for cell growth and metabolism.
Why you need folate
Folate helps your body make new cells, especially red blood cells. Without it, you can become anemic and fatigued. Folate is also vital for pregnant women, helping prevent birth defects like spina bifida.
The recommended daily amount of folate is 400 mcg. Unfortunately, most people only get about half that from their diet. Here are some of the best food sources:
-Leafy greens like spinach and kale
Supplements and fortified foods can also help, like:
- Folic acid pills – Inexpensive and readily available.
- Cereals, breads, and pastas enriched with folic acid – Many are fortified, so check the label.
- Nutritional yeast – Tastes cheesy and contains folate plus B12. Just sprinkle it on foods or blend into dressings and dips.
The good news is folate deficiency is usually easy to correct once you realize you have it. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of folate-rich foods and taking a basic supplement can get your levels back to normal pretty quickly. Your body and baby will thank you!
With some simple changes, you can ensure you get enough of this vital nutrient. A healthy supply of folate is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your family.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency – Not Just for Vegans
Vitamin B12 deficiency is surprisingly common in the U.S., even among meat eaters. B12 is essential for DNA synthesis, red blood cell formation, and proper neurological function. Without enough B12, you can experience symptoms like fatigue, weakness, constipation, and depression.
A major cause of B12 deficiency is poor absorption in the gut. As you age, stomach acid levels decrease, making it harder to absorb the B12 in foods. Certain medications like acid-reducers and metformin can also hamper B12 absorption.
The recommended dietary allowance for B12 is 2.4 mcg per day for most adults. While meat, fish, eggs, and dairy contain B12, the amount varies and may not meet your needs. For example, a 6-ounce hamburger patty has about 1.8 mcg of B12, but your body may only absorb a fraction of that.
The only way to definitively diagnose a B12 deficiency is with a blood test to check your B12 and folate levels. Normal B12 range is 200 to 900 pg/mL, but some people show symptoms even within this range. The most accurate test is measuring holotranscobalamin, or the metabolically active form of B12.
If deficient, the typical treatment is B12 injections, supplements, or high-dose oral supplements. B12 injections or sublingual supplements that dissolve under the tongue tend to have the best absorption. Oral supplements should be at least 500 mcg to ensure you get adequate B12.
A B12 deficiency can have serious consequences, so if you have symptoms or risk factors, talk to your doctor about getting your B12 levels checked. With proper diagnosis and treatment, the effects of a deficiency can often be reversed. Don’t assume that just because you eat meat that you’re getting all the B12 you need. For some, supplements may be essential for health and well-being.
What did we learn?
The truth is, most Americans don’t get the necessary vitamins and minerals they need each day from diet alone. But the good news is, the solution is pretty straightforward. Adding a basic multivitamin to your daily routine can help fill in the gaps and ensure you’re giving your body the fuel it needs. It may not be the most exciting habit, but your body and mind will thank you for it. So do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle of vitamins the next time you’re at the store. Your health and wellbeing depend on it, and you deserve to feel your best every single day. Why not start now? You’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.