As a powerful fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin E plays many important roles in keeping your body healthy and functioning. As well as strengthening the immune system, vitamin E is a key player in helping us to maintain healthy eyes and skin (check out your moisturisers or skin serums - vitamin E is likely an ingredient in at least one of them).
Since vitamin E can be found in a variety of popular foods (think peanut butter and avocados), vitamin E deficiency is usually a rare occurrence in the United States . In saying that, it can happen, particulary in those with certain digestive disorders or in those who can’t digest fat properly. And when it does occur, some of the vitamin E deficiency signs tend to include:
- Decreased immune function
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Dry skin
See also: Vitamin E: Benefits and Sources
What are signs of vitamin E deficiency?
As a fat-soluble antioxidant, vitamin E is found naturally in our bodies and also in a number of delicious, primarily plant-based, foods. Because of this, not getting the right amount of vitamin E is usually rare and when it does occur, is commonly a result of an underlying condition such as pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, or celiac disease.
Taking into consideration the integral role vitamin E plays in strengthening our immune system and keeping our skin and eyes in tip-top shape when vitamin E levels are low, it usually affects the eyes, immune system our nerves, and body function and movements.
Retinopathy occurs when disease has damaged the retina - the light-sensitive tissue inside the eye. Every case of retinopathy differs and while it may cause serious damage for some, it can sometimes get better on its own for others.
Decreased immune function
Vitamin E is critical for the functioning of nearly all cells and is one of the most effective nutrients when it comes to regulating immune function . This is why when vitamin levels are low, it can result in decreased immune function; this might look like feeling tired all the time or having frequent infections.
Peripheral neuropathy refers to the damage of the peripheral nerves (the nerves that branch out from the central nervous system) which can cause a weakness and pain in the hands or feet - although it can also affect other parts of the body. B vitamins, niacin and vitamin E are crucial to nerve health so vitamin E deficiency can be one of many causes of peripheral neuropathy .
Ataxia is the term used to describe a group of disorders that can affect a persons ability to control their body movements such as walking, balancing, and speaking. Not getting enough vitamin E, vitamin B-12 or thiamine can lead to ataxia .
Vitamin E occurs in many different forms, with alpha-tocopherol being one of the crucial forms in the realm of skin care and keeping our skin healthy (which likely explains the influx of alpha tocopherol serums in recent years). If we aren’t getting enough, vitamin E deficiency may cause noticeably dry skin.
What are the causes of deficiency of vitamin E?
Although vitamin E deficiency is considered rare, scientists have estimated that around one-fifth of the world’s population is getting the correct amounts of vitamin E. Still, it is seldom seen in those who follow a well-balanced diet and is almost always linked to a specific disease that affects your bodies ability to absorb nutrients, causes fat malabsorption, or other conditions, these include:
- Crohn’s disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Rare genetic diseases
While vitamin E is found naturally in a number of foods if you suspect that you are not getting enough or are experiencing symptoms of vitamin E deficiency, it’s important to check your levels with a test and speak to a professional before considering vitamin E supplements or vitamin E supplementation.
How do you treat vitamin E deficiency?
Treatment for vitamin E deficiency completely depends on the underlying cause of the deficiency so if you are concerned about your levels, it’s best to reach out to your healthcare provider. If you simply want to improve your overall health, you can find out more about your levels through an at-home Micronutrient Test.
With the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin E being 4mg a day for men and 3mg a day for women, you should be able to get all the vitamin E from your diet. Thankfully, it’s found in a variety of foods, including:
- Wheat germ oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Peanut butter
- Red bell peppers
Is vitamin E deficiency common?
Once you are eating a healthy and balanced diet, it’s rare to experience a vitamin E deficiency. However, if you exclude a particular food group from your diet or have problems absorbing nutrients from your diet, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your nutrient levels and intake.
If you are interested in knowing more about your vitamin E levels, you can do so with your local doctor or with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetChecked’s at-home Micronutrient Test can identify potential deficiencies of key vitamins and minerals: including vitamin E. Online results will be available within 2-5 days and our dedicated clinical team will be available every step of the way to answer any questions you may have.
You should consider taking the test if:
- You want to identify areas for improvement of your overall health
- You follow a vegetarian or vegan diet
- You have recently excluded a particular food group from your diet
- You are over 50 years of age
- You are experiencing symptoms of a deficiency*
- You have a condition that may impact the absorption of nutrients such as celiac or Crohn’s disease
- You have problems absorbing nutrients from your diet