Of the 13 essential vitamins your body needs for survival, Vitamin E is one of the lesser-appreciated nutrients. Most people don’t know that Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that supports a variety of essential bodily processes, from protecting the health of your vision to promoting immune function.
Most people don’t get enough Vitamin E on a daily basis, but they still get enough to avoid becoming deficient. While most people live their life without ever experiencing Vitamin E deficiency, it does occur, and it can seriously damage the body.
Read on to learn what you need to know about Vitamin E deficiency, including the symptoms to look for.
Symptoms of Vitamin E deficiency
Vitamin E is an essential nutrient that supports everyday bodily processes. From protecting your vision to regulating immune system function, Vitamin E plays a variety of critical roles in the body. If you’re concerned about your Vitamin E levels, here are some of the symptoms to look for:
- Vision concerns. If you’re noticing problems with your vision, Vitamin E deficiency could be causing them. Deficiency leads to significant vision loss over time, weakening the light receptors in the retina as well as other cells in the eye. If left unaddressed, vision problems due to Vitamin E deficiency will get progressively worse over time.
- Muscle weakness. Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties protect the health of your muscles. Oxidative stress caused by exercise or any form of muscle exertion can break down muscle tissue over time. By maintaining appropriate Vitamin E levels, you’ll keep oxidative stress in check and protect the health of your muscles.
- Nerve damage. Noticing numbness or tingling? It’s a problem you shouldn’t ignore, and it could be linked to Vitamin E deficiency. Too little Vitamin E harms nerve fibers, preventing them from transmitting proper signals that can lead to peripheral neuropathy, a chronic tingling sensation.
- Discoordination. Over time, Vitamin E deficiency can damage Purkinje neurons which aid in motor movement. As the neurons break down, it can cause problems with coordination and mobility.
- Compromised immune function. Vitamin E deficiency negatively affects immune cells. Older adults who are Vitamin E-deficient are at particular risk for a compromised immune system.
Causes of Vitamin E deficiency
Even though most adults don’t get their recommended daily intake of Vitamin E—15mg per day for healthy adults—from dietary sources alone, deficiency is very rare. In most cases, deficiency isn’t caused by lifestyle choices. It’s most often caused by genetics and major medical conditions, particularly those that severely reduce the absorption of fat in the body. Since Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, the body needs a steady source of fat to absorb the nutrient appropriately. Some of the medical conditions that directly affect Vitamin E absorption include:
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Celiac disease
- Cholestatic liver disease
Generally, if you have Vitamin E deficiency, someone else in your family probably does, too. Chronic conditions like congenital abetalipoproteinemia or familial isolated Vitamin E deficiency are two common genetic causes of low Vitamin E levels.
Boosting your Vitamin E intake
Want to make sure you’re meeting your recommended daily intake of Vitamin E? The best sources of Vitamin E are whole foods—your body readily absorbs the nutrient from them. Some Vitamin E-rich whole foods that you should incorporate into your diet include:
- Vegetables. If you’re looking for a low-calorie way to increase your Vitamin E intake, eat more leafy green vegetables. Swap out your traditional lettuce salad for one featuring Swiss chard, turnip greens or beet greens. Also, broccoli is another rich source of the nutrient.
- Nuts. There are several nuts that are rich in Vitamin E, including roasted peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds.
- Pressed oils. Instead of cooking with traditional vegetable oil, use pressed oils like safflower, sunflower, hazelnut, almond or wheat germ oil—they all contain high amounts of Vitamin E, in some cases providing your entire daily value of the nutrient from a single serving.
Talk to your doctor today
If you’re concerned about your Vitamin E levels, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider. Your doctor may order a blood panel to determine if you’re deficient in Vitamin E—or any other essential nutrient.
If your physician discovers your Vitamin E-deficient, the most common solution is supplementing. Always choose an all-natural supplement—it’s easiest for your body to absorb, allowing you to get the full benefits of the vitamin, so you can safely and effectively combat deficiency.