Vitamin D deficiency is very common and most people are unaware of it. That’s because the symptoms are often subtle and non-specific, meaning that it’s hard to know if they’re caused by low vitamin D levels or something else.
Lucky for us, once diagnosed a vitamin D deficiency is usually easy to fix. You can get vitamin D in three ways: through your skin, from your diet, and from supplements.
Your body forms vitamin D naturally after exposure to sunlight. But, because too much sun can lead to skin cancers and premature aging many people opt for different ways to get in their vitamin D. Diet is one of the best ways you can do it by consuming vitamin D rich foods like fatty fish (salmon, tuna, and mackerel), beef liver, mushrooms, and egg yolks. Many other products on the market are fortified with vitamin D like milk and other dairy products, dairy-free milk alternatives, breakfast cereals, orange juice.
Vitamin D is in many multivitamins. There are also vitamin D supplements, both in pills and a liquid for babies. If you are severely deficient you will most likely have to take a vitamin D supplement.
Check with your health care provider about how much you need to take, how often you need to take it, and how long you need to take it.
According to a 2011 study, 41.6% of adults in the US are deficient. This number goes up to 69.2% in Hispanics and 82.1% in African-Americans.
What are the common risk factors for vitamin D deficiency:
- Having dark skin.
- Being elderly.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Not eating much fish or other vitamin D rich foods.
- Living far from the equator where there is little sun year-round.
- Always using sunscreen when going out.
- Spending a lot of time indoors.
Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
- Getting sick or infected often – One of vitamin D’s most important roles is keeping your immune system strong so you’re able to fight off viruses and bacteria that cause illness. If you often become sick, especially with colds or the flu, low vitamin D levels may be a contributing factor. Several studies have shown a link between vitamin D deficiency and respiratory tract infections like colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Taking vitamin D supplements at a dosage of up to 4,000 IU daily (only when advised by your physician) may reduce your risk of respiratory tract infections according to the same studies.
- Bone and back pain – Vitamin D helps maintain bone health in a number of ways like it improves your body’s absorption of calcium. Bone pain and lower back pain may be signs of inadequate vitamin D levels in the blood. Several studies have found a link between vitamin D deficiency and chronic lower back pain.
- Fatigue and feeling tired – Feeling extremely tired all the time can have many causes, and vitamin D deficiency may be one of them. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked as a potential cause. If you are experiencing on a daily basis even with enough rest/sleep extreme tiredness, fatigue and headaches your levels of vitamin D may be really low (under 20 ng/ml) in which case you can benefit from a vitamin D supplement and improve your symptoms.
- Hair loss – Hair loss is usually attributed to stress, but nutrition and vitamin deficiency play a huge role when it comes to your hair. Hair loss may be a sign of vitamin D deficiency in female-pattern hair loss or the autoimmune condition alopecia areata.
- Depression – In review studies, researchers have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression, particularly in older adults. Some controlled studies have shown that giving vitamin D to people who are deficient helps improve depression, including seasonal depression that occurs during the colder months.
- Slow wound healing – Inadequate vitamin D levels may lead to poor wound healing following surgery, injury or infection. People and kids with eczema who also have low levels of vitamin D are having more severe symptoms, flareups and are more prone to developing skin infections.
- Muscle pain – The causes of muscle pain are often difficult to pinpoint. There is some evidence that vitamin D deficiency may be a potential cause of muscle pain in children and adults. There is a link between chronic pain and low blood levels of vitamin D, which may be due to the interaction between the vitamin and pain-sensing nerve cells.
- Bone loss – Vitamin D plays a crucial role in calcium absorption and bone metabolism. A diagnosis of low bone mineral density may be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. Getting enough of this vitamin is important for preserving bone mass as you get older.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or suspect a vitamin D deficiency it is a good idea to consult your physician and run some tests to make sure you, in fact, need vitamin D supplements. Your physician will determine the right dose you need to take in addition to your diet and natural sun exposure. Fixing your deficiency is simple, easy and can have big benefits for your health.