If you’re anything like me, there is no aisle more overwhelming than the supplement aisle at the grocery store. Each bottle looks the same to me, with each label as baffling as squares on a periodic table, and I find myself wondering, “How do I know which letter of the alphabet my body needs?” and “What if I take too much?” Finally, I scurry away empty handed and hope that I’m getting the vitamins I need in the food I eat. Here’s why that’s a bad idea.
U.S. Adults Aren’t Getting Enough Nutrients
The fact is that my diet, like most Americans’, is nutrient deficient. In a study conducted by the University of Illinois, it was discovered that most U.S. adults aren’t getting their daily recommended doses of the essential nutrients, with only 11.3% of Americans getting enough fiber and less than 5% consuming the recommended levels of potassium. What are we getting enough of? Well, it should come as no surprise that as a whole, we’re getting way more than a healthy daily allotment of saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium.
So how do we do better? Education is key, and that starts with gaining an individual understanding of the essential nutrients your body needs and then incorporating foods and supplements that provide those nutrients into your diet.
One of these nutrients is vitamin E.
Vitamin E Deficiency
Vitamin E deficiency may manifest in muscle cramps, loss of muscle coordination, twitching, and impaired vision or speech, but long-term, it can lead to more serious complications, such as:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- macular degeneration
- heart disease
Unlike the water-soluble vitamin C, which is flushed out of the system via sweat and urine, Vitamin E is fat-soluble (dissolved and stored in fat), which puts those with issues absorbing fats at the highest risk for vitamin E deficiency. Malabsorption of fats can be a side effect of the following, and those falling into these categories should be especially vigilant:
- inflammatory bowel disease
- cystic fibrosis
- Crohn’s disease
- liver disease
- pancreatic issues
- gastric bypass patients
Vitamin E Benefits
Perhaps vitamin E’s most lauded benefit is its antioxidant properties, which assist in:
- balancing cholesterol
- fighting free radicals and resulting diseases
- nourishing and healing the skin
- improving scalp circulation and strengthening hair
- balancing hormones and reducing PMS symptoms
- improving vision and muscle strength
- lowering the risk of certain cancers and treating the side effects of radiation
- healthy fetal development
So how much vitamin E do you need?
When you consider the slew of benefits, it may be tempting to think that it’s impossible to have too much vitamin E, but you can. The daily recommended dosage for the average adult is at least 15 milligrams (or 22.5 IU) and no more than 300 IU if you aren’t vitamin E deficient. Too much of the fat-soluble vitamin can exacerbate bleeding disorders, increase the risk of stroke, and complicate recovery from certain types of cancers.
Some people may experience negative reactions to vitamin E when used topically, so discontinue use if you develop a rash (dermatitis), but when rubbed directly onto scars or stretch marks, vitamin E oil (squeezed from capsules or added to other carrier oils) has been shown in some studies to gradually improve the appearance of blemishes by strengthening the skin’s elasticity and repairing damaged cells.
Vitamin E-rich Foods
If you want to improve your dietary intake of vitamin E, remember to include the following yummy foods in your meal and snack planning:
- Sunflower seeds
- Wheat germ (also available in an oil)
- Butternut squash
As you incorporate supplements into your health regimen as well, always consult a physician on the proper dosage for your age and situation.