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How to Identify and Treat a Vitamin E Deficiency

Why is vitamin E important?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant qualities that helps keep your immune system strong. It occurs naturally in a wide range of foods and is even added to certain food products to help you increase your intake.

Because of this, developing a vitamin E deficiency is rare unless you have an underlying health condition. High doses of vitamin E can increase a risk of bleeding.

See your doctor if you begin experiencing any of the following symptoms of deficiency:

  • difficulty with walking or coordination
  • muscle pain or weakness
  • visual disturbances
  • general unwellness
WHAT YOU CAN DO
How to correct deficiency

You should only attempt to correct a suspected vitamin E deficiency after consulting your doctor. Supplements may cause complications, so it’s best to eat a healthy diet that includes many foods rich in vitamin E.

Diet

You can find vitamin E in a wide range of foods. These include:

  • nuts and seeds, such as almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and peanut butter
  • whole grains
  • vegetable-based oils, especially olive and sunflower
  • leafy vegetables
  • eggs
  • fortified cereals
  • kiwi
  • mango

Supplementation

Although taking supplements is a popular way to add vitamins and minerals to your diet, you should be cautious about taking vitamin E in supplement form.

Supplements aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so it can be difficult to determine the quality of the ingredients.

Even if you do purchase a supplement from a reputable brand, there’s a chance that it can interfere with other medications that you’re taking.

Some of the medications that may be affected include:

  • anticoagulants
  • antiplatelets
  • simvastatin
  • niacin
  • chemotherapy drugs
  • radiotherapy drugs

Because they aren’t regulated, it may be unclear what vitamin E you’re getting. For examples, some supplements only contain one type of vitamin E. Your body needs other types found in various food sources. It’s always best to get your nutrients from whole foods, rather than supplements.

Concentrated supplements — not multivitamins — may contain more vitamin E than you need. This may cause side effects and lead to further complications.

 
RECOMMENDED LEVELS
How much vitamin E do you need?

Adults and children 14 years and older need 15 milligrams (mg) of vitamin E per day.

Children under this age need a smaller dose on a daily basis:

  • ages 1 to 3: 6 mg/day
  • ages 4 to 8: 7 mg/day
  • ages 9 to 13: 11 mg/day

Women who are breastfeeding should get 19 mg per day.

Combining just a few foods per day will help you meet your vitamin E intake. For example:

  • One ounce of sunflower seeds contains 7.4 mg of vitamin E.
  • Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain 2.9 mg of vitamin E.
  • A half cup of spinach contains 1.9 mg of vitamin E.
 
 
CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS
What causes vitamin E deficiency and who’s at risk?

Vitamin E deficiency can be the result of an underlying condition. Many conditions prevent your body from being able to adequately absorb fats, including fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin E.

This includes:

  • chronic pancreatitis
  • cholestasis
  • cystic fibrosis
  • primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • short bowel syndrome

In some cases, vitamin E deficiency results from a rare genetic condition known as ataxia. This condition is neurologically based and affects muscle control and coordination. It’s most likely to develop in children between the ages of 5 and 15.

 
SEE YOUR DOCTOR
When to see your doctor

See your doctor if you notice symptoms related to a vitamin E deficiency and have a condition that affects your body’s ability to absorb fat.

Your doctor will determine the best course of action for your vitamin E deficiency. Although dietary changes are a first-line treatment, your doctor may decide that a high-dose supplement or a water-soluble vitamin E supplement is more appropriate.

You should only take vitamin E supplementation under your doctor’s supervision.

 
OUTLOOK
What’s the outlook?

Once a diagnosis has been made, you can work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan suited to your needs. This can help restore your vitamin E levels and should ease any symptoms you may be experiencing.

But if left untreated, your symptoms may worsen over time. This can lead to additional complications and may impact your overall quality of life.

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