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Vitamin Insufficiency & Shortness of Breath

author image Sylvie Tremblay, MSc
Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.
Vitamin Insufficiency & Shortness of Breath
A man is leaning over, out of breath. Photo Credit SanyaSM/iStock/Getty Images

Vitamins regulate multiple aspects of your health, and an insufficiency in any of the several essential vitamins has adverse health effects. One possible sign of a vitamin insufficiency is shortness of breath, which can develop due to a number of vitamin deficiency related-disorders. Specifically, insufficient intake of two key vitamins can cause shortness of breath.

Vitamin C

Chronic vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, a disorder linked to weakened bone tissue, hair loss, joint swelling, abnormal gum bleeding and tooth loss. In addition, individuals suffering from scurvy also develop poor circulation, and may develop shortness or breath, fatigue and dizziness due to a lack of proper blood flow. Left untreated, scurvy can be fatal. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University indicates that men require 90 mg of vitamin C daily, while women require 75 mg each day to avoid a vitamin C deficiency.

Vitamin B-12

Another type of vitamin insufficiency that can lead to shortness of breath is a vitamin B-12, or cobalamin, deficiency. Vitamin B-12 contributes to a number of physiological processes, including the production of energy from nutrients in your food, the production of certain amino acids and the generation of hemoglobin -- the oxygen-transport protein in your bloodstream, explains the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Deficiencies in vitamin B-12 can diminish oxygen flow to your tissues, causing anemia that leads to shortness of breath, as well as fatigue and weakness. To prevent shortness of breath due to vitamin B-12 deficiency, consume at least 2.4 mcg of the vitamin daily from dietary sources of vitamin supplements, recommends the University of Maryland Medical Center. As you age, you may require addition vitamin B-12 intake via fortified foods or supplements.

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Getting enough folate in your diet also helps combat shortness of breath because, like a vitamin B-12 deficiency, folate deficiency can also cause anemia. Folate plays a key role in red blood cell production, because it helps your body process the DNA and proteins needed for new cell growth, and low folate levels can megaloblastic anemia -- a disease characterized by excessively large and dysfunctional red blood cells. If you develop folate deficiency anemia, you'll feel fatigued and lose your breath easily, and might develop a pale complexion. Including 400 micrograms of folate in your diet helps fight a deficiency.

Foods to Prevent Vitamin Insufficiencies

You can prevent a vitamin C insufficiency by consuming several servings of produce each day. Many fruits and vegetables contain ascorbic acid, so a diet based on these foods helps prevent vitamin C deficiency. Pineapple, red pepper, strawberries, oranges and other citrus fruits provide particularly rich sources of vitamin C. A range of animal-based foods contain vitamin B-12, including meats, fish, dairy products and eggs. For vegetarian-friendly B-12, turn to nutritional yeast, fortified cereals or fortified milk alternatives. Boost your folate intake with nuts, vegetables and legumes -- lentils provide especially large amounts of folate.

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