This vitamin gets its nickname because of the sun. Your body can make vitamin D, but it needs direct sunlight to synthesize in the body. Read to see if you have any symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency. A simple blood test will let you know if you need to up your intake of vitamin D.
Darker skin and vitamin D deficiency can go hand-in-hand. This is important if you are Black, because then you are at greater risk for low vitamin D in your blood. In fact, you may need as much as 10-25 times more sun than lighter skin folk to produce the same amount of this vitamin. The reason is pigmentation. The more pigment your skin has, i.e. the darker it is, the more protection from the sun it provides. Kind of a Catch 22—because your dark skin protects you from the sun, you need more sun to compensate. If your skin is dark, read about the rest of these symptoms to know if you do, in fact, need more vitamin D.
It’s been proven that people with deficient vitamin D also have deficient positive energy. Often, a diagnosis of depression is coupled with a diagnosis of low vitamin D. In a small but telling study, three severely depressed women who also suffered from a vitamin D deficiency began taking oral vitamin D supplements. When their D levels normalized, each reported feeling better and markedly less depressed. In a much larger study, researchers found a strong correlation between depression and lack of vitamin D. Perhaps it’s called the “Sunshine” vitamin because of the positive state of mind it provides.
As you get older, physiology and preferences work against your vitamin D levels. For starters, your kidneys become less effective at converting the vitamin into a usable format for your body. Concurrently, your skin doesn’t synthesize enough vitamin D from sun exposure. A study showed that seniors who got regular sun exposure produced 75% less vitamin D than younger adults. However, most Fifty Plussers prefer to spend the majority of the day indoors and out of the sun, so their percentage is even lower. Your skin does not get the vitamin D benefit from sunshine unless you’re actually in the sunshine. Behind a window or sitting in a hot car does not count. You’ll just feel hot.
If you are overweight, you are at greater risk for a deficient amount of the vitamin that fights infection, absorbs calcium and maintains a healthy immune system. The reason is not conclusive, but science seems to say that because vitamin D is fat soluble, there is much more body fat to absorb the vitamin in an obese body. That spreads it quite thin. Alternatively, the vitamin could get diluted throughout the body, and this dilution shows up as a deficiency in people who are overweight because of the ratios. Either way, enough vitamin D is not finding its way to the bloodstream. And for overweight folk whose main source of vitamin D is the sun, as the bodyweight increases, the surface area of the skin that gets sun does not, so the body is not absorbing enough sun for the increased weight.
Got achy bones with no apparent cause? Guess what your bones, and your body, might be missing? If you guessed vitamin D, you’re the big winner. You’ll be an even bigger winner if a D supplement ends the aches in as little as a month. The Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health says that a deficiency in D can cause not only bone pain, especially in the hips, it can result in arthritis. Unfortunately, bone aches due to a deficiency in vitamin D are often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Now you know better. It could be rickets (in children) or osteomalacia (in adults), both due to a vitamin D deficiency. A conversation with your doctor and a basic blood test will let you know if vitamin D is the answer.
This is an early sign that your body is lacking this essential vitamin. If you are sitting calmly, have a normal temperature and have no reason to perspire, yet your forehead is glistening under the incandescent lights, it could be you’re lacking something. No, not a vacation in Barbados, although that might be true. You’re probably lacking Vitamin D. A wet forehead for no reason is a classic sign of this deficiency. Newborn babies also display this symptom, referred to as neuromuscular irritability. If you have this symptom, don’t sweat it. You can increase your vitamin D by eating salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, shrimp, egg yolks, beef liver, cod and fish oil and mushrooms. But not all at once. Ewww. Now I’m sweating.
Vitamins are either fat soluble or water soluble. Water soluble vitamins dissolve in water and then travel through the body. If there is an excess of vitamins, the kidneys eliminate them. Fat soluble vitamins, on the other hand, dissolve in—you guessed it, fat!—that is stored throughout the body. Our bodies do not have the capability to excrete fat, so a build-up fat-soluble vitamins can become toxic. Vitamin D falls into this category of vitamins. Too much will affect your digestive tract and can lead to constipation, dehydration or stabbing stomach cramps. A deficiency of D can cause gastrointestinal problems as well—or be caused by them.
Doctors have found that people who’ve had traumatic bone fractures often have a low amount of vitamin D in their system. Age did not matter. Vitamin D enables calcium absorption in the body. It is essential for healing and strengthening bones, so these unfortunate folk, already at a deficit, face a greater risk for their bone to heal improperly. Surprisingly, these “unfortunate folk” are the majority. One study of people who suffered broken bones found that 79% of men and 76% of women did not have enough vitamin D in them. Approximately 39% from each group were severely deficient. If you’ve been prone to bone breaks, see it as a warning sign that you might need more vitamin D.[/nextpage] [nextpage]
If you are frequently in the sun but you protect yourself with sunscreen, you might be at risk for low amounts of D. The sun is the primary contributor to this essential vitamin, and exposing skin to direct sunlight is how your body converts the vitamin D into usuable format. Shielding your skin with clothes and sunscreen is crucial in the battle against skin cancer, but the sunscreen also shields you from the healthy vitamin D our star is trying to deliver. Your protective measures are commendable, but they might place you with 75% of the population who are vitamin D deficient.
There is some evidence that links low levels of vitamin D to sinus infections, a.k.a. sinusitis. This upper respiratory infection can result from complications with the common cold or it can be triggered by bacteria or allergens. But fear not! Your body is prepared. . .if it’s stocked with vitamin D. Vitamin D activates your body’s T cells, the cells responsible for fighting infections. Without enough vitamin D, though, your T cells can be compromised, as well as your immune system, leaving you prone to repeat sinus, as well as other, infections. On the other hand, there is research that shows normal levels of vitamin D can actually prevent sinus infections.[/nextpage] [nextpage]
If you suffer acne, psoriasis or just unexplainable blemishes, it could be a sign you need more D. This vitamin, truth be told, is essentially a hormone. As such, if you are operating at a deficiency of D, it could show up on your face by causing a hormone imbalance and disrupting the way your skin produces oil. Hormone imbalance + oil = acne. Furthermore, low vitamin D can fail to protect against inflammation and infection, which also leads to acne. (Remember sinus infections?) Ensuring you get enough vitamin D activates T cells that battle infection. . .and balances the hormones that determine how your next selfie will look.
Psoriasis is another skin disorder in which skin cells start to grow too fast for anybody’s good. Old cells pile up causing thick, itchy, flaky patches. Triggers include injuries to the skin, infections, and you guessed it, a lack of vitamin D. Well, perhaps. No causal link has been proven between a vitamin D deficiency and psoriases. However, treatments that use vitamin D or that cause the vitamin D levels already in the body to increase, have shown to relieve the symptoms or psoriasis. The appearance of this skin disorder may be cause for alarm, but not for a vitamin D deficiency.
The main foods that provide vitamin D are probably not on your menu. These include cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, beef liver and egg yolks. Yuck, right? Fortunately for you, there’s the sun, the greatest source of providing humans with vitamin D. But if you are like most of the population, you coat your skin with sunscreen or avoid direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. You’re 0/2 for getting vitamin D. That’s risky. Fortunately, there’s another option. Fortified foods such as soy milk, juice and cereal contain D2, a vegan form of the vitamin. If you’re not getting it from these sources, time to find out if you’re deficient by calling your doctor.
Study after study has shown a link between a vitamin D deficiency and breast cancer. The correlation might be due to how cells work. Cells have receptors on their surface that receive chemical signals that tell a cell how to act or to do something, and like a good child, the cell obeys. In breast tissue cells, there are vitamin D receptors that allow vitamin D to bind to them. When vitamin D binds to the receptor, it can tell potential cancer cells to die or to stop growing, effectively stopping cancer from spreading. But if there is not enough vitamin D, these unhealthy cells can grow unchecked. If this is the case, you have bigger problems than a vitamin deficiency, but due to the relationship, it’s important to make sure you keep your vitamin D levels normal to defend against breast cancer.
You’ve been to the doctor. You’ve tried various treatments. But you’re still suffering from aches and pains and cannot figure out why or from where they are coming. It could very well be that you are just short of Vitamin D. Often misdiagnosed as arthritis or fibromyalgia, a vitamin D deficiency can show up as nagging aches that last for weeks. One woman visited 29 doctors with her three-page list of complaints comprised of aches, weakness and fatigue. Finally, the 30th checked her vitamin D levels which were extremely low. After six months of an aggressive vitamin D treatment, the woman crossed almost every symptom off of her list. All it took was a simple blood test, the 30th doctor. . .and vitamin D.
Some researchers believe that fatigue is a result of deficient vitamin D levels. Others recognize that the two are at least closely related but state other factors might be at play. However, a study in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences stated that a vitamin D deficiency was common among patients suffering fatigue and that after D levels were raised, the symptoms of fatigue were reduced. That’s encouraging. The cause of the relation, though, is still a mystery. It could be because muscle weakness, a result of osteomalacia—a disease that can be caused by deficient vitamin D, leads to fatigue. Whatever the reasoning, if you’re suffering chronic fatigue, it’s a sign something is wrong, and it could be a vitamin D deficiency.[/nextpage]