Did you know a vitamin deficiency can cause itchy skin?
Itchiness is a word used to describe an irritating sensation on your skin that you can’t help but scratch, but once you do, the need to scratch just becomes more fierce. It’s a vicious cycle that many people who suffer from itchy skin will know well. Not only does it affect how you feel during the waking hours, but it can massively impact your sleep as well, leading to low mood, fatigue and bad habits.
There are many causes of itchy skin, including allergies, food sensitivities, hormone imbalance and cosmetics, but have you ever considered that a nutrient deficiency might be the cause of your tingling skin? Here I will explain some of the critical nutrient deficiencies linked to itchy skin, also known as pruritus.
The skin shine vitamin
Dry, itchy skin is often a sign of a vitamin D deficiency. As vitamin D is created through skin exposure to the sun and cholesterol in the skin, in the winter months, when sunlight exposure is less, people often experience dry, itchy skin attributing it to the cold weather. However, a vitamin D deficiency might be a more likely cause.
In severe cases of vitamin D deficiency with other contributing factors, you can develop autoimmune conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, which is why it is beneficial to spot the signs early. As well as skin exposure to sunlight, you can consume vitamin D in foods such as oily fish, eggs and organ meat. Topical vitamin D oils can also be used in areas of severe redness and itching if this is an underlying cause.
If you feel you may be at risk of a vitamin D deficiency, you can check for vitamin D deficiency through your health practitioner or a simple test you can order online or through a private clinic.
If you eat a nutrient-enriched diet and are still experiencing symptoms, it might be due to a problem in your gut.
Essential skin fats
A lack or imbalance of essential fatty acids may also be the cause of itchy skin. Both omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids play a vital role in skin function. They also give rise to potent signalling molecules, called eicosanoids, which influence skin inflammatory response. In a deficiency, these responses become dysfunctional leading to itchy, red and inflamed skin. Other symptoms include small red bumps on the back of your arms and peeling fingernails.
As essential fatty acids are not made in the body, you must consume them in your diet, otherwise, you become deficient. Omega-3 fatty acids are in oily fish, egg yolks, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, and you should consume omega-3 rich foods daily.
Iron depleted skin scratching
Iron deficiency is more associated with fatigue, poor circulation, restless leg syndrome and hair loss, but it can also cause itchy skin. The good news is that the itchiness should subside if this is the underlying problem by increasing your iron intake!
Iron is in both animal and plant-based foods. However, animal sources such as red meat, organ meats and oysters, provide the most bioavailable type of iron, meaning that your body can use it more readily. For plant-based iron sources such as spinach, kale and lentils consuming these with vitamin C enriched foods such as peppers, broccoli, and citrus fruit increase its absorption, meaning you reap more skin appeasing benefits.
Other skin harmonising nutrients
Both vitamin B12 and vitamin A deficiencies may also cause itchy skin, so if you are experiencing chronically itchy skin, getting your level of these vitamins tested can be helpful. This testing will help determine whether these deficiencies are at the root of your skin sensitivities and itchiness.
Both vitamin B12 and vitamin A deficiency are accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, poor balance, issues with vision, and poor circulation, so watch for these as well. And if in doubt, reach out to your doctor or nutritional therapist to investigate this further.
Assess your gut health
Nutritional deficiencies can cause many skin symptoms, including itchy skin, but if you eat a nutrient-enriched diet and are still experiencing symptoms, it might be due to a problem in your gut. If you develop itchy skin, always explore potential underlying issues, and make sure your diet includes various skin-nourishing foods to keep the itching at bay so you can live free of irritating skin sensations and enjoy being in your skin again!
- Yonova D. Pruritus in certain internal diseases. Hippokratia. 2007;11(2):67-71.
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