Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin with a well established role as an antioxidant. It also helps to strengthen the immune system and protect the body from invading infective organisms. Vitamin E is involved in wide range of physiological processes in the body from controlling inflammation and maintaining healthy immune function to regulation of genetic expression. To carry out various processes efficiently, our body needs vitamin E. Hence, its deficiency can lead to several problems related with nervous system, gastrointestinal system, leg cramps, hair and skin dryness, fertility problems, besides slow healing of wound etc.
Fortunately vitamin E deficiency is rare as the body requirement for this fat soluble potent antioxidant vitamin is very small. It is easily met from various foods that we eat daily. The range of food that contain vitamin E are nuts and seeds, whole grains, kiwi, mangoes, green leafy vegetables, olive and sunflower oil, etc.
People living in developing countries are at greater risk because of limited intake of food sources, and high prevalence of oxidative stressors such as malaria, HIV infection, tuberculosis, as they all accelerate its depletion.
Signs And Symptoms Of Vitamin E Deficiency
Deficiency of vitamin E can cause health problems in child as well as adult. The normal requirement for adults is 15 milligrams in a day. Pregnant and breast feeding women may need few more milligrams. Children need smaller amount between 6 mg to 11 mg in a day. Person may suffer from following symptoms:
- Digestive problems and inadequate absorption of food. This will lead to disease of liver and pancreas.
- Muscle weakness is commonly observed in children suffering from vitamin E deficiency. The child is unable to co-ordinate his movement. This may be accompanied with overall growth retardation.
- Leg cramps particularly in calf muscles is common in vitamin E deficiency.
- Dry hair and loss of hair at an early age.
- Dry skin
- Retinal thinning which will lead to blurred vision and poor vision. Drooping of eyelids can be a symptom of severe vitamin E deficiency.
- Infertility problem in adults can be due to severe vitamin E deficiency. It can lead to low sperm count in men. Females can experience problems in ovulation.
- Anemia can occur in patients suffering from vitamin E deficiency.
- Tingling and burning in extremities due to peripheral neuropathy caused by vitamin E deficiency.
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant. A long term vitamin E deficiency can lead to increased risk of breast and mouth cancer.
- Frequent incidence of infections due to weak immunity.
Causes Of Vitamin E Deficiency
Vitamin E deficiency is rare on its own. It may be accompanied with other fat soluble vitamin deficiencies. However, certain health problems can increase the risk of vitamin E deficiency. It is observed more in developing countries due to insufficient food source as well as oxidative damage caused by infectious diseases such as malaria, chickenpox, HIV, tuberculosis, etc.
People who suffer from diseases that cause fat absorption problems in intestine may also develop vitamin E deficiency. For example people suffering from chronic pancreatitis, cholestasis, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease are likely to suffer from vitamin E deficiency.
Natural Treatment For Vitamin E Deficiency
A person suffering from vitamin E deficiency must only try to correct it after consulting his physician. There is no harm in eating foods that are rich source of vitamin E. But for taking supplements of vitamin E, person must consult his doctor as supplements can also lead to complications if it is taken in overdose. Person must try to increase vitamin E by eating foods that are rich in this vitamin.
Following foods are good source that a person can take.
- All types of nuts such as almonds, sunflower, peanuts, pistachio etc.
- Green leafy vegetable.
- Olive oil, sunflower oil.
- Whole grain and cereals.
- Sweet potato