Wouldn’t you like to be able to recognize if you are deficient in certain nutrients without going through expensive blood tests?
Whether you are a medical clinician or a lay person, most nutrient deficiencies can be recognized by subtle outward signs if you know what to look for.
For the next few weeks I’d like to review these signs with you. The more you practice looking for them, the more proficient you can become in recognizing them.
For the most part these signs are described in many nutritional texts. Two of the best I have found are Roman J. Kutsky’s “Handbook of Vitamins, Minerals and Hormones,” and “Nutritional Data,” by Heinz Research Fellowship of Mellon Institute.
As a matter of experience for more than 40 years I have found this study to be most helpful with my patients in my clinical practice. Through the years I have found and saved pictures of these nutrition-deficit signs, which I will share with you on my website at drftrapani.com.
Some of these signs are rather simple to ascertain and there are several nutrients that are rather easily recognizable, so let’s go through them.
This week we’ll start with vitamin A.
Vitamin A is considered to be the nutrient that nourishes all epithelial tissue — tissue that covers or surrounds organs and other parts of the body. Vitamin A as such, is only found in animals and animal products. Provitamin A, also called beta carotene, is found in the plant kingdom and can be changed into vitamin A in the body.
However, although vitamin A can be made from the carotenoids, the carotenoids cannot be made from vitamin A. Both are vitally important nutrients.
The skin, the largest organ of the body is epithelial tissue. The lining of your digestive tract from the mouth to the anus is epithelial tissue. In the same manner, the lining of your lungs and your entire respiratory system is epithelial tissue. Each of your organs is covered with peritoneum, which also is epithelial tissue. This gives you a clue to the importance of vitamin A.
Hence the first place we’ll look for a vitamin A deficiency is the most obvious of these tissues, one that we can easily see — the skin. Medically, the condition is known as “keratosis pilaris.” It is described as a roughening of the skin, much like gooseflesh. When you look closely, keratosis is seen as a rising of the skin where hair shaft come out from the surface. In some cases, you can actually see a coiled hair within the raised bump.
Also in some individuals there can be some pus within the bump. The most common area for keratosis is on the back of the upper arms. It also can be found on the skin over the spine and rarely on the skin over the sternum or breastbone.
Medically, the condition is treated with various topical medications, but it can be easily alleviated by taking encapsulated fish liver oil vitamin A. It is important, however, to understand that the results will take up to three months to become apparent. This is because it takes at least that long for the body to make the changes in the skin itself.
I have usually instructed my patients to then take a good hot soaking bath and to use a loofah sponge on the rough areas. This may have to be repeated several times in order to remove all of the roughness.
It is equally important to know that if a vitamin A deficiency is obvious on the skin, it is also more than likely present in the other epithelial tissues mentioned above. Hence, the absorptive surfaces of your intestinal tract may not be functioning properly, which in itself may be a reason why you might not be absorbing your nutrients properly.
A second area to look for a vitamin A deficiency is in the eyes. In particular, in the whites of the eyes right at the “blink-line” on either side of the iris. That is where both the upper and lower lids touch.
With a long-term vitamin A deficiency, a thickening will be seen in the white of the eyes at the blink-line. In advanced cases the results are a condition known as Bitot’s spots, which again are a manifestation of an epithelial tissue problem caused by a vitamin A deficiency. Invariably, the thickened “sclera” will become yellowish as it grows thicker and worsens.
This thickened sclera as well as Bitot’s spots occurs only in long-term vitamin A deficiencies. Where keratosis can develop in a relatively short time, such as 6-8 months, the eye-signs can take several years to develop.
The question that many patients ask is whether this problem be corrected. My answer is yes, if one takes a natural supplement like fish liver oil. However, it will take several years to see changes in the eye signs.
Once again, to see see illustrations of these signs I refer you to my website. Go to the top of the first page and click on “Let’s Talk Health” Then scroll down to the article titled article titled “Would you like to know if you are deficient in certain nutrients?”
In my next column we will study the signs of a vitamin B deficiency.
Retired chiropractic doctor Francis Trapani’s background includes 41 years of practice plus doing investigative reporting and fitness programs for broadcast media in Hawaii. He has written three books and is working on a yoga self-help manual “The Doctor Prescribes Yoga.” For more information, go to drftrapani.com.