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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Preventing Scurvy, Rickets, and other Vitamin Deficiency Diseases



I have never personally known anyone who suffered from scurvy, rickets, beriberi, or pellagra; but at one time these diseases were very common, some were epidemic.  All of these diseases have one thing in common.  They are all caused by vitamin deficiencies.  Scurvy is caused from lack of vitamin C.  You probably heard in history class how sailors of old suffered and died from scurvy until someone figured out that eating citrus fruit prevented the disease.  British ships started carrying barrels of limes for the sailors to eat, and hence the name “limey.”

Rickets is caused by vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D is found in dairy products and eggs.  If you look at a milk carton you will probably see the phrase, “Vitamin D Fortified.”  The wide availability of dairy products and the addition of more vitamin D has virtually eliminated rickets from the modern industrialized world.  Incidentally, unlike most vitamins your body can produce its own vitamin D but this requires exposure to sunlight.  You’ve probably heard the phrase, “vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin.”  That’s what it means.

Beriberi is caused by vitamin B1 deficiency.  Vitamin B1 is found in nuts, seeds, and legumes among other things.  Beriberi became epidemic is Southeast Asia when the population switched from eating natural brown rice to polished white rice.

Pellagra, which is caused by vitamin B3 deficiency, was long associated with poverty areas of the Southern U.S. where cornmeal was the staple.  Vitamin B3 is found in fresh meat, peanuts, green peas, and sunflower seeds.

The widely varied and vitamin fortified diets of today have virtually eliminated these killers of olden times, but they could easily reemerge.  All of these diseases are associated with narrow, repetitive diets.  People who eat the same few things over and over.  Kind of like you might end up doing in an apocalyptic survival scenario.  A broad knowledge of edible wild plants and their vitamin content could help you get the nutrients that you need, but it just makes common sense to also store multi-vitamins along with the food that you store. 

A years supply of high potency multi-vitamins and minerals for one person costs less than $25 and takes up about as much room as a canned soft drink.  I would highly recommend that you include multi-vitamins and minerals in your storage program; two or three years worth for each person.  Hopefully this would be enough time to re-establish agriculture, animal husbandry, barter, and trade; so that you could obtain your vitamins from a healthy and varied diet.

As with any chemical product, heat and light are the enemy; cold and dark will slow decomposition.  Store your vitamins in the refrigerator or freezer and date and rotate just like you do your food.   

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