What is it?
All of the vitamins and nutrients that we require for our daily and long term functioning can be found in our food supply. While many parts of the world are unfortunately without these same resources, our food supply provides what we need either naturally or after being fortified. If adequate amounts of the necessary foods are not consumed or absorbed by our bodies during digestion, then a deficiency can occur.
How do I know if I have one?
There are certain signs and symptoms that one might experience for any particular deficiency. As an example, vitamin B12 deficiency might cause fatigue, confusion, loss of balance, and tingling in the hands or feet. Different vitamin deficiencies could cause a variety of other symptoms, but they are actually not that common.
How can I get checked for it?
I routinely check for vitamin B12, folate and vitamin D on annual labs. Most others would be unusual to be low because they are found in so many different foods, but deficiencies would be indicated by other blood tests or physical exam findings. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and calcium as well as protein levels and how well hydrated you are, are things that are checked in blood and urine samples and reviewed with patients at office visits.
How is it treated?
Most deficiencies can be easily treated either by oral supplements, injections, or changes in the diet. Taking massive doses of vitamins has not really been shown to be beneficial and I try to suggest dietary changes for long term management. I try to offer simple strategies to improve the diet because eating the right foods will help build the healthy body that you want to see in the mirror every day.