Last year I wrote a mini book about deficiency diseases. I published it on a well known platform at the grand price of $1.99. it did quite well, I was rather pleased for a first attempt. Well since then I have spent a year trying to get the IRS to issue me with an ITIN number so I can be registered for tax…got to pay my dues to Uncle Sam apparently. Anyway, I don’t have one, it’s unlikely that in this life I will be getting one, so I can’t by law be paid by the American company that published my efforts.
To those that spent $1.99 of their cash I thank you, sadly I have not received a penny of it and I’m unlikely to do so in the future.
Out of respect to those that have paid for this information I have taken out five chapters, they deserve to have something for their money. The rest of it is available here for free. I hope you find it helpful. Feel free to print and copy as you see fit.
Lizzie X Bennett 2013
Vitamin A deficiency
We live in very uncertain times. As a result more and more people are thinking about their future and preparing accordingly. There are many, many things that could go wrong in the world and people prepare for many different scenarios. From a solar flare knocking out the power grid to a total economic collapse. From world war 3 to Yellowstone erupting.
Regardless of what you are preparing for, and regardless of what stage you are at on the preparedness journey, something that will never change is that people get sick.
Although many people have a medical kit that an accident and emergency department would be proud to own, that alone will not be enough.
You need to have a basic working knowledge of the medical problems that can occur from nothing more complicated than everyday life, especially when that life is lived under conditions that are so very different from those we are used to.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are not the most riveting subject but a working knowledge of the most common, and some of the most dangerous deficiency diseases is an absolute must for those trying to survive in a world without medical assistance.
Eating a restricted diet can induce all of them. The kind of diet many of us will be eating after a societal collapse.
Pellagra: Curse of the unprepared
In 1915 pellagra reached epidemic proportions in the southern US states and this prompted the government to employ a doctor, Joseph Goldburger to resolve the issue. Goldberger found resistance at every level. Southern doctors were suspicious of a Jewish Northern doctor and even when he made the connection between pellagra and diet he was ignored.
He went as far as actually ingesting pellagra to prove it wasn’t caused by a germ or virus but still he made no headway with the establishment. It was only after conducting experiments on prisoners, (who would be pardoned if they lived) that people started to take notice. He altered their diet and actually induced pellagra in the group, several of whom died.
Sadly Goldburger died before the food causing the problem was found, even though he knew it was linked to the amount of maize consumed in the southern states.
The traditional way of preparing maize involves nixtamalization; the corn was treated with lime. (lime, not limes) This makes niacin, B3 nutritionally available to the body. When the cultivation of maize spread the value of treating it with lime was not understood and the practice was abandoned thus leaving the consumers of the corn no access to the niacin available in it.
As corn became more plentiful it’s price dropped and people began to eat more and more of it. The population of the southern states was high consumers and they paid the price with over 100,000 people affected and over 1300 deaths in the first few months of 1913 alone. In all over 3 million Americans were affected and over 100,000 deaths were caused by the disease between 1904 and 1939.
Research continued after Goldberger’s death and it found that twice the numbers of females as males are affected and this is probably due to estrogen inhibiting the amino acid tryptophan, which enables niacin absorption.
Eating foods with bio-available niacin relieves the symptoms of pellagra very quickly, and this is easy to do with such a wide variety of foods available to us today. Should that food supply be diminished this may not be the case.
Anything that stops the supply of simple basic foodstuffs that contain niacin will cause a resurgence of this awful disease.
This is evident in areas such as Zimbabwe, Nepal, Angola and Sudan where strife and adverse weather has diminished the food supply and left the populations relying on untreated corn as a staple food. There has been a rise in pellagra in these places since 2002 with the World Health Organization showing a niacin deficiency of almost 30% in females and 6% in children. The incidence of clinical pellagra rather than just niacin deficiency is also rising in many of these areas.
Niacin can be found in foods that provide protein, something that may well be lacking in the diets of the majority of people in a post-collapse world. Most preppers store nuts, dried fruits and legumes all of which contain niacin but the population at large do not and this will invariably lead to problems. The best sources of niacin are beef, game, lamb, poultry and seafood. Some fruits and veggies are a valuable source, namely mushrooms and mangoes but even those only offers a small percentage of the recommended daily amount.
The symptoms are diverse: High sensitivity to sunlight, cardiomyopathy, aggressive behavior, stomach pain, dermatitis, weakness, mental confusion, diarrhea and later dementia, coma and death. Left untreated the disease gets worse and worse causing death on average in about 4 years. Prior to that the victims will be extremely debilitated and can die of infections when the dermatitis becomes infected if medical help is not available
It would be extremely wise to stock up on B3 supplements and B3 rich foods prior to any collapse. Pellagra is a slow and painful death, a death that sadly millions of people may face in the future.
There is usually a skin defect over the gap in the spine and this leads to life threatening infection in a very short space of time.
Constant, qualified medical supervision would be needed to keep a child with spina bifida alive. This is not going to be available and the child would most likely die a painful death.
A child that did survive would be very disabled and usually wheelchair bound, a situation that would be difficult to cope with in a disaster situation.
Scurvy…coming to a town near you post collapse
I am sure most of you know why us Brits are called Limeys, for those that don’t, allow me to enlighten you.
Way back in the early 1800s James Lind, a doctor, discovered that citrus fruit prevented sailors on long voyages dying of scurvy. Some time later, the British Navy started carrying thousands of lemons and limes for the sailors to consume during the voyage, hence the nickname Limey.
All I can say is I am glad whoever coined the phrase preferred green to yellow, I could have spent my life being called a lemon and that just doesn’t do it for me.
Moving on, scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C, a vitamin that is not readily stored in the body and needs to be topped up on a daily basis. Lack of it causes a whole shed load of problems, from bleeding gums and tooth loss, spots, sores, ulcers, fatigue, muscle loss, heart problems and death.
Scurvy is almost unheard of these days, there was one case in the UK in 2008, in a child who was a fussy eater and lived on bread and jam. (Jelly)
Vitamin C is required to build collagen in the body. Collagen is a type of protein and it needs to be replaced regularly, without vitamin C this is impossible. Scurvy has never been eradicated; it is not that kind of disease. It is a condition that’s caused by a diet consistently short of this essential vitamin. It does not occur over night, but a period of three weeks without adequate vitamin C will start to see the symptoms appearing.
Small red dots appear often on the shins where the hairs grow from the skin, they continue to appear until patches of dots are formed. The hairs on the shins break easily and have a twisted appearance. Sometimes the patches of red dots join up forming large dark areas that ulcerate readily. Muscle pains in the legs start and fatigue sets in. The patient will experience severe shortness of breath particularly after exercise, blurring of vision and a damp sticky feeling around the eyes. The muscle pains get worse and the pain may become more generalized before it reaches the heart. If it does reach the heart, the muscles of the heart enlarge and bleed which leads to death.
There is no treatment for scurvy other than taking vitamin C, either from fruit and vegetables or in a supplement. Adults and children are equally susceptible and nursing infants more so due to the fact that they take nothing but milk from their mother. If the mother is lacking in the vitamin, her body will use up available supplies leaving none for the infant. Baby formula usually has vitamins added to make it as similar to breast milk as possible; it is advisable to check the ingredients list on formula you are storing to make sure.
Even a poor stored food diet that has no access to canned fruits etc. will contain some vitamin C, but not enough to prevent scurvy on an on-going basis. Many dried fruits, particularly berries, contain more than enough vitamin C to keep a person healthy and storing them is highly recommended. In addition supplemental vitamin C should be stored in quantity. Like all preparations it loses efficiency over time, but doubling up the dose of older tablets would not cause any harm as the excess is excreted without issues.
Knowing where to find berries in the wild or planting a few bushes can ensure your and your families health on an on-going basis, allowing you to hold onto your stored dried fruits until you have absolutely no choice but to use them.
Scurvy should present few problems to those who have prepared, even at a low level, for a crisis situation. Should that crisis continue for a period of years however, and access to fresh fruit and vegetables has not been secured, then it is more likely than not that there will be a resurgence of cases of this debilitating, and if untreated, fatal condition.
Rickets is caused by a deficiency of vitamin D, or of calcium or both. It causes muscles and bones to become soft and if this occurs in a young child it can cause permanent deformities, such as bowed or bent legs.
Although for many years it was relatively rare in the west it is once again on the increase, predominantly in women from the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. These women wear clothing that is all encompassing. There is generally less sunlight in the United States and the UK than there is in their homeland and so the sunlight they are exposed to in the privacy of their own homes/gardens is both weaker in strength and of less duration than they are used to. This leads to a vitamin D deficiency and in some cases is giving rise to Rickets.
The children of these women are predominantly breast-fed and this can have the knock on effect of the babies developing Rickets due to their mother’s vitamin deficiency.
Without Vitamin D calcium cannot be properly absorbed into the bones where it ‘meshes’ and gives the bones strength.
Although vitamin D is present in a wide range of foods it’s not bioavailable, the body cannot use it. Sunlight converts it into its active form, which the body can use.
This makes a mockery of highly priced food products that state they have extra vitamin D.
They can fill the whole box with vitamin D but unless you out into the sunshine it won’t do you a bit of good.
Obviously the area you live and the length and severity of winter can have a major impact on the sunlight we receive.
Although vitamin D will be converted to its bioavailable state far quicker during the height of summer than it will in mid-winter even weak winter sunshine will do the job, but it will do it at a slower rate.
Children, particularly if they are for whatever reason on a diet that is limited in vitamin D should be encouraged to wrap up and get outside even I winter. Just having their faces exposed for a few minutes a couple of times a week will give them a boost that’s essential for maintaining bone health.
Vitamin D is provided by the following foods:
· Cod liver oil
· Fortified breakfast cereal
· Soy milk
By making sure some or all of these foods are included in your diet the vitamin D will be ready and waiting for conversion to its bioavailable form when you go outdoors.
Biotin is the scientific name for vitamin B7. Deficiency of this vitamin causes hair loss, rashes, anemia, drowsiness, depression and hallucinations. Although currently quite rare a reduction in the variety of foods people eat could cause an uptick of the condition.
Pregnant women are prone to biotin deficiency with about 50% of them suffering from it. This is due to their body using more vitamin B7 during their pregnancy. The World Heath Organization recommends supplements for pregnant women who do not have access to a varied diet that includes a mixture of different proteins.
Biotin deficiency made the news when fit healthy bodybuilders started to suffer from it. It was ‘fashionable’ at the time for bodybuilders to eat high quantities of raw eggs.
A protein in the egg white binds to vitamin B7 and prevents the body from using it, which leads to a deficiency. Cooking the eggs deactivates the protein.
B7 is also responsible for helping metabolize fats and keeps the body’s metabolic processes running smoothly and effectively.
B7 is present in the following foods:
· Sweet potatoes
· Nuts and grains
he biotin in these foods is depleted by cooking so if you are in a situation where you think your intake may be on the low side eating some of these foods raw will boost your levels of this essential vitamin.
Ariboflavinosis B2 Deficiency
Again, not overly common now, it affects about 10% of the population in its mildest form.
Ariboflavinosis is very common in the malnourished and in alcoholics who cannot absorb it through their damaged liver. It is a deficiency of vitamin B2, also called riboflavin.
It causes the tongue to turn a very distinctive bright pink color and leads to cracked lip, throat swelling, bloodshot eyes and low red blood cell count. It will ultimately lead to coma and death if left untreated.
In normal times when a varied diet is available the possibility of suffering from ariboflavinosis is very low. In times of crisis the risk will increase dramatically.
Vitamin B2 riboflavin is present in the following foods:
· Green leafy vegetables
Like most of the deficiencies mentioned a diet with adequate meat, fish, fresh fruit and veggies is crucial to stave off deficiency diseases. Although we all try our best to stockpile wholesome foods that will see us and our families through hard times it will not be enough to avoid problems without supplementation. Even if it just pots on a windowsill fresh food is essential if we are to maintain good health.
Even though many of the vitamins and minerals are more concentrated in meat, fish and dairy eating enough vegetables will go a long way towards making up the deficits that a more restricted diet imposes on us.
The problem with relying on vegetables for the bulk of our vitamins is the large amounts that will need to be consumed in order to get enough of the required nutrition.
Hypocobalaminemia: B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency is most common in developing countries where people have a diet that does not include enough animal products. The highest at risk group in the first world are vegans as there is no vegetable or fruit that provides B12. Plants simply do not make B12.
A study by the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey found that almost 20% of people were borderline deficient in B12. (USA) 3.5% of these were non-vegans over the age of 50.
B12 is stored in the liver and can last for years, being used as required but when that reserve is gone deficiency quickly sets in. It’s a water-soluble vitamin and any excess is excreted in the urine. If you take B12 supplements the excess in your urine will cause it to be a neon yellow or green color. If your urine does not glow you needed the supplement.
Lack of B12 causes very gradual brain deterioration, which shows as fatigue, memory loss and depression. Over a period of years psychosis and mania may develop.
The deterioration and damage is irreversible and the condition is thought to account for a high number of the brain-damaged children in the developing world.
Children need far more B12 than adults as they are growing so rapidly. Breast fed babies can become seriously deficient even if their mother only has a mild deficiency.
B12 is found in the following foods:
Hypocobalaminemia is a devastating disease and doctors recommend supplements for ANYONE who even might be deficient or heading in that direction due to a vegan diet.
In the event of a collapse millions of currently healthy people in the first nations will have their supply of B12 cut off. From that point they will be relying on the reserves stored in their liver.
Many of us have either lost or never had, the ability to rear our own fowl and livestock. Having access to either meat, dairy or eggs will be absolutely essential after any form of collapse or during any crisis that lasts longer than a year.
Children and infants simply must have regular amounts of B12 in their diet to prevent degenerative brain disease.
How long supplements will last in storage is open to debate but even if they lose a good deal of their efficiency over time they are still useful to have if you are in doubt over your ability to keep meat, eggs and dairy in your diet.
Canned, dehydrated and freeze dried products will still provide B12 and should be stockpiled in bulk if you will not be rearing your own fowl or livestock.
Nyctalopia: Night blindness, vitamin A deficiency
This may seem like an odd one to include here but I do so for a good reason.
In any kind of collapse situation we will need all our senses more than ever before and vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness. It also increases the risk of death from severe infections such as measles and diarrheal diseases.
Liver is one of the best foods for topping up vitamin A but pregnant women should be careful how much they consume as too much can cause fetal blindness syndrome where the child will be born blind.
Nyctalopia, night blindness is one of the first signs that someone may be lacking in vitamin A. If vitamin A intake is not increased at this time then the outer layers of the eyes become dry and thickened. They will become cloudy which will lead to total sight loss.
The sufferer’s skin will become dry and rough and they become more prone to infection as time goes on. Lack of vitamin A damages the lining of both the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract making them less effective barriers against infection.
Your mother telling you that carrots help you see in the dark is true…to an extent. The vitamin A in carrots is slightly different in its make up to the vitamin A in liver and while carrots can maintain eye health they cannot provide enough vitamin A to reduce or reverse eye damage that has already occurred.
Vitamin A can be found in the following foods:
· Liver/liver pate
· Chili powder
· Red pepper
· Cayenne pepper
· Sweet potatoes
· Dark leafy greens
· Butternut squash
· Dried herbs of most kinds
· Dried apricots
· Cantaloupe melons
Vitamin A deficiency will be easier to deal will in a collapse situation, as there is a wider variety of food it can be obtained from.
It’s important that pregnant women get small amounts regularly rather than a diet that is consistently high in vitamin A. Most vitamin supplements aimed at pregnant women do not contain vitamin A for fear that extra amounts of the vitamin, added to dietary vitamin A may affect the health of her unborn child
Zinc is a mineral. It has many functions in the human body. It helps in the synthesis of DNA, promotes wound healing and supports normal growth in children and unborn babies. It assists us to smell and to taste and plays an important part in the normal functioning of the immune system.
Zinc deficiency is asymptomatic when it first occurs. As the deficiency progresses sufferers will start to display a wide range of symptoms including some of the following:
· Enlarged liver
· Iron deficiency anemia
· Macular degeneration and night blindness
· Reduction in ability to taste and smell
· Impaired wound healing
· Extreme tiredness
· Loss of appetite
· Growth retardation
· Delayed sexual maturation
· Nerve damage
· Mental retardation
People who are severely deficient will have probably had all of the above at some level. People suffering from liver disease, those who have extensive burns and people with an inadequate diet are all prone to zinc deficiency.
Zinc cannot be stored in the body for future use though the average person contains a few grams that are bound in the teeth, bones, muscles, hair, skin and liver. Trace amounts can be found in the testes.
The best sources of dietary zinc are to be found in bean…good news for most of us. It’s also in meat, liver, fish, peas, eggs and cereals.
In a prepping family or group those most likely to suffer from zinc deficiency are the very young, the debilitated and the elderly.
The food most of us stockpile can be difficult to chew and some beans, the mainstay of many stockpiles can cause digestive discomfort and may be avoided by some people for that reason.
Once again home canned food can avoid many of these issues. A means of making pureed foods for the toddlers and those with debility should not be overlooked.
Unlikely as it sounds protein deficiency is surprisingly common. Unsurprisingly it is more common in vegetarians and vegans but it can and does affect people eating a regular diet as well.
The symptoms of protein deficiency are many and varied and include:
· Weight loss
· Brittle hair
· Pale skin
· Nail ridges
· Low blood sugar
· Passing out/fainting
· Impaired wound healing
· Disturbed sleep
Now to state the obvious the way out of this is to consume more proteins.
At last, we come to beans, a staple in the prepper pantry. However many you have, buy more.
Beans are full of protein regardless of how you cook them.
They are a very valuable source of dietary fiber and are low in sugar, which prevents blood-sugar spikes and the associated feelings of hunger that follow. They have less harmful fats in them than meat and are a great source of anti-oxidants.
Lentils and other legumes are also a good source of protein and also contain a high proportion of magnesium along with some potassium, zinc and folate, all essential for good health.
Many deficiency diseases will be very difficult to avoid in a long-term collapse. Humans need a wide variety of foods, from all food groups in order to sustain themselves.
Great care should be taken now to plan and procure as wide a variety of foodstuffs as you can in order to avoid these debilitating and in some cases life limiting conditions.
Without exception the addition of fresh foods to our diet is the best way to ensure we are not deficient in vitamins and minerals in the long term.
B12 deficiency cannot be avoided by cultivating plants of any kind and some method of providing meat, eggs and dairy is therefore essential, especially for children. How you do this will depend on your situation but do it you must.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.