Because pantothenic acid is found in most cells of the body, the vitamin is not usually lacking; however, deficiencies can exist. Some of the early symptoms are fatigue, depression, irritability and dizziness — all related to a lack of the release of proper amounts of adrenal hormones that rely on pantothenic acid for their production. If the deficiency continues, muscular weakness can develop; moreover stomach distress and constipation will begin.
In a severe state of depletion there will be adrenal exhaustion. For example, a lack of pantothenic acid will hinder production of an adrenal hormone that saves nitrogen from the worn body cells and redistributes it for building amino acids vital to tissue repair. Thus in the phase of adrenal exhaustion the muscles will lose their strength, inducing cramping and lack of coordination. Another hormone, aldosterone, retains sodium in the cell structures: without enough pantothenic acid the sodium is not produced, potassium leaves the cells, and muscular problems, including weakness and partial or complete paralysis, may occur.
A secondary ailment of exhausted adrenal production is low blood pressure, brought on when large amounts of sodium and water are excreted and the blood volume within the body decreases because the hormones are not there to stabilize the condition. A person may also easily develop infections with the body unable to throw them off for a long time.
Other symptoms of a severe deficiency of pantothenic acid are hypoglycemia and insomnia. Burning, itching or painful feet also seem to be caused by a lack of pantothenic acid and/or vitamin B-6: fat deposits plug the smaller arteries of the feet, shutting off the oxygen supply and inducing pain and itching.
Stomach and intestinal disorders are associated with a deficiency of pantothenic acid as well. For instance, pantothenic acid aids in the production of hydrochloric acid. Without enough of the vitamin and with sustained emotional stress an ulcer may form. In addition, gastrointestinal disturbances, ranging from a strange itching and burning sensation, in the area to balky bowels and constipation may occur. Loss of appetite is not uncommon, and digestive enzymes and stomach acid may become markedly reduced, causing many types of intestinal problems.
Since our ability to withstand stress is closely tied in with pantothenic acid, certain types of ailments (such as allergies and asthma) thought to be brought on by emotional duress have responded well to dosages of pantothenic acid. And without adequate amounts of the vitamin to make cortisone from the adrenals, allergies such as hay fever, rose fever, hives, eczema and asthma can worsen because eosinophils (types of white blood cells) will increase abnormally.
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