Our bodies are incredible machines; they allow us to do so much, to experience everything we could possibly want, and we often take them for granted, sometimes only noticing them particularly when something goes wrong. Maybe it’s time to take a different view of our amazing bodies, whatever size, shape or condition they are in, and start learning how to use them to their full astounding potential.
by Lisamarie Lamb
Vitamins are part of what fuels us, and our bodies need them to maintain momentum. We have difficulty producing all of the nutrients we need for day-to-day life, which means we have to top them up, and the best, most natural way to do that is to eat them.
If we don’t get the vitamins we need, perhaps due to illness, stress, some prescription drugs, or a poor diet, we can become extremely ill, and our physical, mental, and emotional states can all be affected.
Vitamin A, or betacarotene, is found in carrots, eggs, fish, liver, leafy greens, milk, and plenty of orange or yellow coloured fruits. Vitamin A boosts the immune system and metabolism, and gives you healthy skin. It is also proven to aid vision.
Without enough vitamin A, your vision will be affected, especially at night. Prolonged lack of vitamin A can lead to blindness. Another issue is a compromised immune system, as well as dry skin. Bone growth can be affected too.
Also known as thiamine, vitamin B1 is essential for keeping the heart healthy, and for healthy nerve function. It is also a great natural energy booster. Eating pork, eggs, brown rice and whole grains, potatoes, asparagus, cauliflower and liver will give you good levels of thiamine.
A lack of vitamin B1 will leave you fatigued and irritable. It often triggers stomach pain, and can lead to depression or a condition called beriberi. Beriberi causes the sufferer to have water on the lungs, which makes it hard to breathe.
Vitamin B2 (or riboflavin) is essential to maintain a healthy weight, as it metabolises fats and carbohydrates quickly. It is also required for red blood cell production – the cells that transport oxygen around the body – and it gives you energy. You will find plenty of vitamin B2 in legumes, dairy, leafy greens, fish, grains, kidneys, mushrooms and almonds.
Without it, you are likely to have a sore throat, and find cracked, sometimes bleeding sores around the mouth. Vitamin B2 deficiency leads to dermatitis, split finger and toenails, and wrinkles in the skin.
Also called niacin, vitamin B3 promotes healthy skin and releases the energy that’s hidden away in carbohydrates. Many foods contain vitamin B3 including carrots, broccoli, dairy, eggs, most meat, tomatoes, nuts and grains, so it’s not too difficult to get enough of this useful vitamin.
A lack of vitamin B3 can be extremely serious. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, a compromised immune system, headaches and lesions around the mouth. At worst, it can lead to a condition called pellagra that affects the skin (leading to terrible dermatitis and alopecia), the intestines (leading to chronic diarrhoea), and eventually the brain (leading to aggression, memory loss, ataxia, and eventually dementia and death).
Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, does great work in metabolising proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as enabling useful enzymes to be synthesised. It is found in large quantities in avocado and broccoli, as well as fish, rice, legumes, whole grains, meats, mushrooms and yeast.
Without enough pantothenic acid in our diets, we feel low in energy and apathetic. Physically, a lack of vitamin B5 causes cramps, numbness, and paraesthesia (pins and needles). It also means we can’t absorb insulin properly, leading to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
Also known as pyridoxine, vitamin B6 enables the body to release the right amount of sugar for energy. It keeps the metabolism working as it should and generates red blood cells. Eating bananas, fish, poultry, offal, beef, and whole grains will give you your recommended intake, although frozen versions lose much of their goodness.
Vitamin B6 deficiency leads to dermatitis, ulcers, conjunctivitis, confusion, and impaired glucose intolerance.
Vitamin B7 is essential for healthy cell growth. Also called biotin, it helps to keep blood sugar levels steady, and gives the body more energy. In addition, it strengthens hair and nails. Nuts and legumes are a great source of vitamin B7, as are Swiss chard and raw egg yolk.
If you are lacking in vitamin B7, you’ll find yourself suffering from alopecia, conjunctivitis, dermatitis, and neuromuscular dysfunction.
Most pregnant women will have heard of this vitamin by its other name: folic acid. It is essential for a healthy foetus. Apart from this important job, it also aids red blood cell production and repairs and produces DNA. Eating beans, cereals, leafy green, rice, pork, dairy products and oranges will help.
A vitamin B9 deficiency is serious, and can lead to anaemia, diarrhoea, confusion and depression. In pregnancy, lack of folic acid can cause foetal brain defects.
Vitamin B12 regulates DNA production and is part of what helps to form red blood cells. It gets the metabolism working too, which means food is processed more efficiently. Eating liver, ham, dairy products, and some seafood will give you a good dose of vitamin B12.
A lack of vitamin B12 will lead to fatigue, exhaustion, a lack of energy, paraesthesia, weak muscles, a sore red tongue, problems processing and remembering information, and depression.
Possibly the most well known of vitamins is vitamin C, or ascorbic acid. It is an antihistamine and anti-oxidant (it prevents free radical chemicals from attacking healthy cells), keeps your immune system working, and is essential for wound healing. It is famously found in citrus fruits, but is also in strawberries, broccoli, leafy greens, chillies, peppers, kale and much more.
Vitamin C deficiency leads to scurvy, which, in its mildest form, gives the sufferer a feeling of lethargy and malaise. It can also present as spongy gums and bleeding spots. At its most dangerous scurvy causes immobilisation, loss of teeth, pus-filled wounds, jaundice, fever, and eventually death.
Known as the sunshine vitamin – as being outside in daylight is one way to top up waning supplies; vitamin D boosts the immune system, and strengthens bones. Apart from sunshine, it can be found in salmon, cod liver oil, sardines, mackerel, mushrooms and egg yolks.
Not getting enough vitamin D will lead to muscle pain and weakness, as well as bone problems, which could end up being osteoporosis.
Also known as tocopherol, this vitamin is an essential anti-oxidant and it is found in spinach, whole grains and nuts.
If you are lacking in vitamin E, you will most likely suffer from nerve damage, an impaired immune system and anaemia.
Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting. It is found in leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and a huge range of other vegetables.
Without vitamin K, anaemia, bleeding gums, nosebleeds, and heavy periods can occur. Vitamin K deficiency is also related to osteoporosis and coronary heart disease.