Most of us know Vitamin D as the sunshine vitamin. What many of us don’t realize, however, is what a big part it plays in maintaining our health. With almost three-quarters of adults and teens in the US suffering from Vitamin D deficiency, that’s cause for concern.
Recently, I found out first hand just why Vitamin D is so important. I went to my doctor complaining of low energy, mood swings, and brittle hair expecting to hear the usual “stress less” pep-talk. Instead, she suggested checking my Vitamin D levels. I was sceptical. Surely all those symptoms couldn’t be explained by my strained relationship with the sun. How wrong I was!
Vitamin D plays a vital role in supporting our overall health and well-being. For example, without Vitamin D, the body struggles to absorb calcium, which can result in bone density problems such as a rickets and osteoporosis. Research has also found a link between Vitamin D deficiency and a whole host of other scary health problems, such as weight gain, depression, heart disease and even various forms of cancer. Yikes!
Now that we know just how important Vitamin D is for our bodies, let’s take a quick look at some of the biggest risk factors.
Vitamin D Risk Factors
- Pregnancy: Vitamin D is essential for a baby’s bone and dental development.
- Dark Skin: The darker your skin tone, the more sun exposure you need to absorb sufficient vitamin D.
- Indoor Lifestyle: If you’re cooped up in an office all day or work irregular hours like me, your body is probably crying out for some sun.
- Obesity: Vitamin D is absorbed by fat, making it less likely to reach the blood stream in overweight individuals.
- Medications: Some medications, like epilepsy tablets, can cause Vitamin D to break down before the body has a chance to absorb it.
- Strict Vegan Diet: We don’t acquire all our Vitamin D from the sun; diet can also play a role. So, restricting your intake of fatty fish, eggs and dairy products can put you at greater risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
- Age: As we age, our bodies are less able to synthesize Vitamin D.
Even if these high risk factors don’t apply to you, it’s vital to be aware of the signs of Vitamin D deficiency. The severity of symptoms can vary between people (some individuals are completely asymptomatic), but here are 5 of the most common signs of vitamin D deficiency to look out for.
5 Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency
- Fatigue: Finding it harder and harder to roll out of bed in the morning? If you’re constantly lethargic regardless of how much sleep you’re getting, you may have low Vitamin D.
- Dry Skin and Brittle Hair: Dry skin and weak hair is one of the most obvious signs of vitamin D deficiency. When my Vitamin D levels dropped, my usually strong locks started shedding and no amount of lotion could soothe my skin.
- Depression: Ever wondered why it’s easier to feel down in winter? Vitamin D even plays a role in regulating our moods. If you’ve got a serious case of the blues, taking a Vitamin D supplement may improve your serotonin levels and give you a much needed lift.
- Bone or Muscle Pain: Another obvious sign of a vitamin D deficiency is bone pain. Be on the lookout for increased achiness in your limbs and stiff joints when you first wake up.
- Wounds that Heal Slowly: The rate at which our bodies heal from wounds and illnesses is an important reflection of our overall health. Cuts that seem to take forever to heal are a real warning sign, not just of Vitamin D deficiency, but other health concerns.
If you recognise any of these signs, book an appointment with your local GP. He /she can then arrange for a simple blood test to determine whether you have a Vitamin D deficiency. Here are some other reasons and signs you might have Vitamin D deficiency.
How to Treat Vitamin D Deficiency
Once your physician has determined that you’re Vitamin D deficient, he/she should then be able to help you identify the cause. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to get Vitamin D levels back to optimum.
Vitamin D deficiency is generally caused by nothing more sinister than a lack of sun exposure. In these cases, the solution seems obvious: Get outside and soak up some rays.
If you’re a night owl like me or spend a lot of time working indoors, standing out in the direct sun at noon with your arms and chest exposed just isn’t practical. Instead, ask your doctor to recommend a Vitamin D supplement. These supplements come in both liquid and capsule form and make it easy to get your daily recommended dose.
Another way to get more Vitamin D into your body is through your diet. Foods like fatty fish, oysters, egg yolks, fortified cereals, some cheeses and mushrooms all contain traces of Vitamin D. However, diet alone is rarely enough to maintain an optimum level, so dietary change should be accompanied by a Vitamin D supplement or more direct sun exposure.
It’s also possible to get Vitamin D from indoor tanning beds, but remember to be sun smart and avoid prolonged exposure that could damage your skin.
Benefits of Vitamin D
I was sceptical that one little vitamin could be responsible for making me feel so under the weather, but I felt an almost instant change in both my energy levels and my mood as soon as I began taking a Vitamin D supplement.
If low Vitamin D symptoms are wreaking havoc on your body, you can also expect a whole host of improvements once you address your deficiency, including:
- Healthier skin
- Stronger hair
- Stronger bones
- Better dental health
- Improved mood
- Increased energy
- Stronger immune system
- Improved concentration
Don’t waste another week battling low energy and the blues. If you’re sick of feeling out of sorts, ask your doctor for a Vitamin D test today. It might just be the solution you’ve been looking for!