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Different Types of Vitamins and Their Functions

Vitamins are essential micronutrients that help our physical system to perform its usual tasks that are necessary for us to exist. Our body needs them for the cell’s growth, development, and normal function. In this article, we are going to talk about different vitamins, their classifications, their specific roles in our system, and what could happen in case of their deficiency. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Type of vitamins: There are mainly two types of vitamins –

Water-soluble and Fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamin C and B complex vitamins, and the fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K. One thing to remember here is that fat-soluble vitamins have a greater risk of toxicity because they’re stored in the body for a much longer period. In case of overdose, our body will typically pee out the excess water-soluble vitamins, but if we take too much of a fat-soluble vitamin, then we can end up with toxicity. Certain conditions, like cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease, can impair an individual’s ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

Vitamin A: It’s a fat-soluble vitamin, and super important for vision health. Vitamin A is also vital for skeletal and soft tissue development. Basically, whatever fruit and vegetables you can find in bright orange or yellow colors, such as carrots, apricots, and cantaloupes – it’s usually high in vitamin A. You can also find vitamin A in fatty fish, eggs, liver and dairy products. If someone has a deficiency in vitamin A, he or she will have vision issues as well as Xerophthalmia which is like a dry and thickened conjunctiva of the cornea.

Vitamin B complex: B complex vitamins are important for metabolism, energy and especially nerve functioning in the body. Vitamin B can be sourced from foods like meat, milk, enriched grains, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. If someone has a deficiency of thiamine, which is B1, then they could be affected by a disease called beriberi, and this condition is very common in individuals who have alcohol use disorder. In the case of B2 or riboflavin deficiency, one can end up with stomatitis, which is cracking at the corners of the mouth, and red tongue that pains. Now, if a person has a deficiency in folate, this can result in neural tube defects in a baby.

So if a pregnant mom does not get sufficient folic acid then that can cause neural tube defects in the baby. And if someone has a deficiency in vitamin B12 (cobalamin), that can cause pernicious anemia. People who are vegans often have a deficiency in B12, and also if people lack “intrinsic factor” in their gut, then it prevents the absorption of B12 in the body. So if they are lacking in that intrinsic factor, it doesn’t matter if we give them tons of B12 supplements orally, cause they’re not going to be able to absorb those in their stomach. Therefore they need to take B12 supplement either intranasally or parenteral, like through an injection.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is water-soluble, and it’s really important in the body for tissue building, metabolism and also for iron absorption. If a person is getting an iron supplement, then he or she needs to consume foods that are high in vitamin C to allow for better absorption of that iron. You’ll get vitamin C from citrus fruits or juices, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, and peppers. If someone has a deficiency in vitamin C, this is called scurvy, and signs and symptoms of scurvy include bleeding, joint pain, and swollen gums. It’s important to know that individuals will require an increased intake of vitamin C during times of stress or illness and smokers also need an additional amount of vitamin C.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D again is a fat-soluble vitamin – it helps with the absorption of calcium which is a crucial function. It also helps with the absorption of phosphorus and it’s essential for bone mineralization. If one needs a calcium supplement, it’s important to make sure they’re getting sufficient vitamin D or else they’re not going to absorb that calcium effectively. One of the key sources of vitamin D is sunlight. It doesn’t take a lot of time to get sufficient vitamin D from the sun; however, you want to make sure you’re in sunscreen when you’re out in the Sun. You can also find vitamin D in fortified milk, as well as fatty fish and eggs. A deficiency in vitamin D can result in rickets or bone loss.

Vitamin E: Another fat-soluble type of vitamin is E vitamin, and its main function in the body is that it acts as an antioxidant which helps protect the cells in our body from oxidation damage. Fat containing foods such as vegetable oil or nuts have an abundance of E vitamin. You can also find it in dark green vegetables and whole grains. Although vitamin E deficiency is very rare, muscle pain or weakness and poor balance are the usual symptoms. But again, it’s not very common that people have a deficiency in vitamin E.

Vitamin K: Vitamin K, a fat-soluble type, plays very significant roles in blood clotting and bone maintenance. Dark green vegetables, carrots, and eggs are the common sources of vitamin K. If we have a deficiency in vitamin K, we can experience increased bleeding time. That means If we’re not having enough vitamin K, then we’re not going to clot effectively and we’re going to bleed more. It’s important to note that vitamin K is the antidote for warfarin because warfarin is an anticoagulant that thins the blood and the mode of action of warfarin is to inhibit vitamin K. So if you’re taking warfarin for any reason, make sure to avoid foods rich in vitamin K. But talk to your physician to know what food you should avoid or up to what limit you can consume the same.