Your body uses a number of vitamins and minerals to build its enormous network of nerves, some of which are responsible for your body’s movements. When your arms and legs make sharp movements on their own, it’s called a motor tic—and a vitamin deficiency in your nervous system is often to blame. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, doctors diagnose chronic motor tic disorder if your tics occur almost daily for more than a year or if they only vanish for a month or two and then reappear.
Vitamin B1 deficiency can damage your muscles and your nervous system. Your body needs this vitamin, also known as thiamine, to keep electrolytes flowing between nerve and muscle cells. Deficiencies don’t take long to accumulate because your body can’t synthesize vitamin B1 on its own; everything your body gets comes from your diet and without regular consumption, you could be deficient in about two weeks. According to the Mayo Clinic, severe B1 deficiency is called “beriberi,” diagnosed in “wet” and “dry” versions. Dry beriberi can cause a loss of feeling in your hands and feet, along with a loss of muscle function.
Vitamin B6 is a key ingredient in the production of serotonin and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters that carry impulses from your brain. If you’re vitamin B6 deficient, you could suffer nervous system and movement disorders. When children become deficient, their nervous system growth is often compromised. Adults may suffer peripheral nerve damage. According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin B6 deficiency has also been linked to the treatment of tardive dyskinesia, a disorder causing involuntary muscle movement.
When your body doesn’t get enough vitamin B12, your nervous system can suffer to the point where it develops peripheral neuropathy. This is when your brain’s instructions for muscle movement get lost or interrupted on their way to the muscle itself, resulting in muscle weakness, spasms and uncontrolled movement. The latter is one very visible symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Vitamin B12 deficiency is rare, occurring most often in people who don’t eat much meat or dairy products. This makes the elderly and vegans particularly susceptible.
Peripheral neuropathy is also a possible symptom of vitamin E deficiency, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Additional symptoms include poor immune function, eye damage and a lack of muscle coordination. Your body needs vitamin E because it acts as an antioxidant, boosting your immune system, improving blood vessel dilation and neutralizing dangerous free radicals. Like vitamin B12, vitamin E deficiency doesn’t happen often. It’s seen most often in people with fat-absorption disorders since the body needs fat to absorb vitamin E. Most people get enough dietary vitamin E in fortified dry cereal, nuts and leafy green vegetables like spinach.