Water-soluble vitamins are those vitamins which dissolve in the body’s watery fluids. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and any excess is passed out of the body through urine. As a result, it’s easy for a deficiency of these types of vitamins to occur.
Water-Soluble Vitamins and Symptoms of Deficiency
Thiamin (B1): The body needs thiamin to help convert carbohydrates into energy and to keep brain, nerves and heart cells healthy. Although rare, a severe thiamin deficiency can lead to a disease called beriberi which causes muscle wasting and paralysis.
Riboflavin (B2): Riboflavin also plays a role in converting food to energy and is needed for the formation of red blood cells. Riboflavin helps promote healthy skin and normal vision as well. A deficiency in riboflavin can cause dry, scaly skin, and can make the eyes sensitive to light.
Niacin (B3): Niacin is another B vitamin that helps convert food to energy. In addition, niacin helps maintain healthy skin, nerves, and digestive system. A niacin deficiency is rare, but if it does occur the symptoms include: diarrhea, mouth sores, skin changes, nervous disorder, dermatitis, mental confusion, and can even cause death.
Pyridoxine (B6): The body needs pyridoxine to form red blood cells, antibodies, and insulin. Pyridoxine also helps to maintain normal brain functioning. Symptoms of a pyridoxine deficiency are: changes in skin, mental confusion, nervous disorder, anemia, and can also cause convulsions in infants.
Cobalamin (B12): Vitamin B12 helps the body form red blood cells, is needed for normal nervous system functioning, and is required for DNA synthesis. A B12 deficiency may cause nervous disorders and pernicious anemia. Vitamin B12 needs “intrinsic factor” to be absorbed. Since intrinsic factor is made by the stomach lining, those with gastrointestinal problems may need to have injections so B12 gets directly into the bloodstream.
Folic Acid (Folacin, Folate): Folic acid plays a role in cell division and forming red blood cells. Folic acid is also needed to make DNA and has been found to reduce neural-tube birth defects in newborns. A folic acid deficiency may result in anemia and abnormalities in the digestive system.
Biotin: Also needed for conversion of food to energy, biotin plays a role in turning both fats and carbohydrates into energy. Biotin may also help prevent buildup of fat deposits.
Pantothenic Acid: Another B-vitamin that helps convert food to energy, pantothenic acid also helps stabilize blood sugar levels, helps the body defend against infection, and protects hemoglobin as well as nerve, brain, and muscle tissue.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): Vitamin C is needed for the development and maintenance of fat, muscle, and bone. It also helps in wound healing, and plays a role in the syntheses of hormones. Vitamin C also increases the absorption of iron. Deficiencies of vitamin C are rare, but if it does occur, symptoms include: lowered resistance to infection, sore gums, and in severe cases, scurvy.
Food Sources of B-Vitamins and Vitamin C
In general, eating a healthy diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats will provide the body with enough water-soluble vitamins to prevent a deficiency from occurring. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, broccoli, kiwi, mangos, and yellow peppers. Good food sources of the B-vitamins are pork, beef, legumes, whole-grain products, oatmeal, dairy products, green leafy vegetables, eggs, and nuts.