While the benefits of Vitamin E aren’t as well-known as Vitamins C or D, this important nutrient supports a variety of systems and functions throughout the body, and deficiency can have long-lasting implications on your overall health.
Read on to discover some of the most common symptoms of Vitamin E deficiency, as well as how to maintain a healthy intake through diet—or supplementation, when necessary.
Vitamin E deficiency symptoms to be aware of
Vitamin E is an essential nutrient—the body needs it to function. From supporting the health of your muscles to protecting your vision, Vitamin E plays a major role in many systems throughout the body. The following symptoms are characteristic of Vitamin E deficiency:
- Muscle weakness. Your body’s central nervous system relies on Vitamin E’s powerful antioxidant properties to combat oxidative stress that can lead to muscle weakness. While some oxidation is necessary for muscle growth and maintenance, unchecked oxidative stress can break down muscle over time. Vitamin E keeps oxidative stress in check and promotes the health of the body’s entire muscular system.
- Numbness and tingling. Nerve damage is often associated with inadequate Vitamin E intake. Deficiencies can significantly harm the nerve fibers that prevent them from transmitting signals directly, resulting in an unpleasant tingling sensation called peripheral neuropathy.
- Discoordination. Vitamin E deficiency damages Purkinje neurons, specialized neurons that control motor movement. Over time, the neurons can break down, interfering with their ability to transmit signals and causing difficulties in terms of coordination and walking.
- Immune system deficiency. Many studies have shown that Vitamin E deficiency inhibits the immune cells. Since Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant, it combats free radicals that cause stress to cells throughout the body, leading to a weakened immune system. Older adults who are Vitamin E-deficient are particularly at risk for a compromised immune system, making adequate daily intake that much more important for older age groups.
- Vision problems. Vitamin E deficiency can lead to significant vision loss over time. When your body is lacking in the nutrient, the light receptors in the retina, as well as other cells within the eye, are weakened. It’s a problem that gets progressively worse if left unchecked.
What causes Vitamin E deficiency?
While Vitamin E deficiency is relatively rare, it can lead to a whole host of medical complications like those listed above. Usually, the cause of Vitamin E deficiency doesn’t have to do with diet or lifestyle choices, but rather genetics and major medical conditions.
Your genetic makeup may be the cause behind Vitamin E deficiency. If you have Vitamin E deficiency, chances are someone in your family does, too. Vitamin E deficiency is often inherited and may be the result of one of two diseases—congenital abetalipoproteinemia or familial isolated Vitamin E deficiency. Both conditions are chronic and result in very low Vitamin E levels.
Several medical conditions, particularly ones that severely reduce the absorption of fat, can lead to Vitamin E deficiency. Since Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, the body needs a steady source of fat to absorb it correctly. These medical conditions include:
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Celiac disease
- Cholestatic liver disease
- Cystic fibrosis
How to add Vitamin E to your diet
Generally, a healthy adult should aim to receive around 15mg of Vitamin E per day from food sources alone. The reality is that most adults simply don’t reach that number on a daily basis. By making some adjustments to your diet, it’s entirely possible to consistently achieve your recommended daily intake. Try incorporating the following Vitamin E-rich foods into your diet to get the full benefit of this important nutrient:
- Pressed oils. Love to cook? Swap your vegetable oil for cooking with pressed oils like hazelnut, sunflower, safflower or almond. Two tablespoons contain nearly half the Vitamin E you need each day.
- Leafy green vegetables. Turnip greens, beet greens and Swiss chard contain moderate levels of Vitamin E. It’s a calorie-free way to boost your daily intake.
- Nuts. Almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts are rich in Vitamin E. Just one-half ounce nearly fulfills your daily Vitamin E needs.
- Avocado. Is it a fruit or a vegetable? No matter which side you’re on, avocado is a great source of Vitamin E. An avocado a day provides about one-fourth of your recommended daily intake.
- Mango. Vitamin E has a sweet side, too. Mangoes are rich in Vitamin E, with half a fruit containing nearly 10% of the recommended daily intake for adults.
Always speak with your doctor first
It’s best to speak with your doctor as soon as possible if you’re concerned about your Vitamin E levels. Only a medical professional can determine the cause of your potential deficiency as well as what steps to take to treat it. Vitamin E supplementation is very effective, but only when you choose an all-natural supplement that promotes quick and easy absorption throughout the body.