What Are Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic nutrients that come from food, and that are needed in very small amounts to maintain optimal health. In comparison to the major nutrients (fats, protein, and carbohydrates), we only need to get very small amounts from our diets. The functions of vitamins vary significantly in both type and number: some vitamins serve only one function, while others have many unrelated functions.
In general, vitamins are split into fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. The water-soluble vitamins include the B vitamins and vitamin C. Within a relatively short time of not taking vitamins in your diet, vitamin deficiencies and disease follow. Because vitamins are so crucial to the normal functioning of your body, vitamin deficiencies can result in a variety of problems.
Deficiencies occur for several reasons
As a rule, you are more likely to develop deficiencies if you are malnourished, are a chronic alcoholic, or suffer from malabsorption or digestive disorders. For example, if you have coeliac or Crohn’s disease, if you are elderly, and after gastric bypass surgery. However, strenuous physical exercise is often overlooked.
General reasons for deficiencies are:
- The need for the vitamin is increased, as in physical or emotional stress. This includes strenuous physical exercise
- There is an inadequate supply of the vitamin.
- Someone is unable to absorb the vitamin.
- Someone can absorb the vitamin, but cannot use it for some reason.
- A person eats food that prevents the vitamin from acting or being absorbed.
- Some vitamins rely on other vitamins to work properly. A deficiency in one vitamin or mineral can prevent the proper function of another.