Vitamin D deficiency is a very common medical problem in the United States and throughout the world. In fact, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, one billion people worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D. That’s a huge number of people who probably don’t even realize they have a problem.
In America, and especially in the northern states where it is cold and cloudy for half of the year, this is a substantial issue that many are unaware of. A 2000 study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine reports that 77% of Americans are vitamin-D deficient.
Vitamin D affects almost every aspect of your life including your physical and mental health as well as your ability to perform in sports and other activities. It is essential for strong bones, mood-boosting abilities and increasing immunity. It is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle, though diagnosing the problem can sometimes be challenging.
Read on to learn about the benefits Vitamin D provides, as well as the signs and symptoms of a deficiency.
Did you know that the darker the color of your skin, the higher chance there is for you to develop a Vitamin D deficiency? Unfortunately, it’s true. African Americans and those with darker skin might need about 10 times the exposure to sunlight as someone with very pale skin to get the same amount of Vitamin D. The reason for this is because the pigment of your skin works as a natural form of sunscreen.
Feelings of Depression
If you’ve been feeling down in the dumps lately, it might be because you have a Vitamin D deficiency. This is because your serotonin level, the hormone in charge of making you feel good, decreases when you haven’t been exposed to much sunlight. So make sure you spend some time outside, soaking in the rays and filling up on Vitamin D!
If you are in a sedentary state, in a decently chilled room and still breaking a sweat, you might want to talk to your doctor. This heavy sweating is a symptom of being deficient and usually shows up on your forehead. It can also suggest other health issues so don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor ASAP.
If you have an intestinal or stomach condition like Crohn’s Disease, Celiac, gluten sensitivity, or bowel problems this may mean that you need to work on bringing up your Vitamin D levels. Having these problems can mean that your body isn’t absorbing the vitamins you take in through diet and supplements.
Feeling very weak can be a sign that you may need some more Vitamin D. Harvard scientists have made a connection between sudden and unexplained muscle weakness and the deficiency. They have found that when adults of at least 60 years of age supplement the vitamin, they have greater muscle strength and 20% fewer falls.
Another big sign that your body lacks Vitamin D is broken bones. Without enough Vitamin D, your bones become very soft, making it easy to break them and eventually leading to osteoporosis. The good news though is that with proper diet, time in the natural sunlight, and the right supplements, this problem can be remedied.
Being Overweight or Obese
If you a have a serious weight problem, this may affect your body’s absorption of vitamins. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which is taken from the blood through your body’s fat cells. This means that those who weigh more need more of the vitamin than people who are thin. Interestingly, this seems to ring true for those who are very muscular as well.
Sometimes a symptom of being Vitamin D deficient is experiencing chronic aches and pains. This phenomenon of achy bones is called osteomalacia. Even those who have been diagnosed with conditions like fibromyalgia can experience achy joints and muscles if they have a Vitamin D deficiency. If this is something that happens to you and hasn’t gone away after several weeks, consider discussing your concern with your doctor and asking whether you need supplements.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is symptomatic of a Vitamin D deficiency, among other problems. The American Heart Association believes that there is a link between lower levels of Vitamin D and heart problems. Evidently, having lower levels puts you in danger of having twice the risk of getting heart disease.
Tired All The Time
According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, high levels of sleepiness during the day are linked to a deficiency of the vitamin. So, if you feel like you could pass out at any moment and all you think about is going home to nap, it might be smart to check into the possibility that you might be lacking in Vitamin D.
Serotonin is the hormone that is in charge of boosting your mood. But in order to get that boost and feel good, your body’s serotonin levels are dependent on how much Vitamin D you have. So if you’ve been feeling extra crabby lately no matter how your day is going or how much sleep you got the night before, perhaps you need to choose some Vitamin D rich snacks to raise those levels.
Have you been packing on the pounds lately? Vitamin D is critical for keeping your weight in check because it sends the receptors in your brain messages that you’re full. Having enough Vitamin D also helps your body to absorb other nutrients like calcium, which helps control fatty acids and hinders the conversion of calories into fat. In a study published in 2009 in the British Journal of Nutrition, obese women were put on a 15-week diet and took 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. The results showed that they lost six times more weight than women who followed the diet alone.
Get Sick More Often
If you get sick more often in the winter, a Vitamin D deficiency could be the culprit. There is a known association between developing more upper and lower respiratory infections and low levels of Vitamin D. To combat this, make sure you’re eating foods that are high in the vitamin, such as salmon, tuna, and yogurt.
Are You Pregnant?
If you happen to be growing a baby, you probably need more Vitamin D. Expectant mothers need to make sure they are getting the nutrients and vitamins necessary to keep not only themselves healthy but also that little baby inside. It has been found that women who take 4,000 IU of Vitamin D daily experience the greatest benefits in the prevention of preterm birth or labor.
People who are lacking in Vitamin D are actually in danger of being twice as likely to develop various forms of the disease, including Alzheimer’s disease. For those who are severely deficient, it is 120 more likely that they could develop Alzheimer’s. Though researchers aren’t exactly sure how Vitamin D interacts with the brain, they believe that it helps to clear plaques in the brain that are linked to dementia.
Men who have low levels of Vitamin D are more likely to test positive for different kinds of cancers, especially prostate cancer. The connection has been found to be quite high in African American men. During your regular physical be sure to ask about your Vitamin D levels — it just could save your life.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed a link between identity disorders and Vitamin D. Schizophrenia is a disorder that is characterized by incoherent speech, hallucinations, and difficulty with other people. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting enough Vitamin D is an important part of the prevention of these types of disorders.
Vitamin D is essential to maintain a healthy mouth. Tooth decay happens when bacteria that is left on the teeth and breaks down the hard enamel that protects the softer inside of the tooth. Although we know that sugary snacks and infrequent brushing cause tooth decay, there is also a strong link between low levels of Vitamin D and unhealthy teeth. And as the vitamin also helps your body absorb calcium, increased levels will help protect your enamel and keep it strong.
Signs In Your Child
It is also important to know what signs of a deficiency to look for in your child as well. Many children do not get enough of the vitamin to reach a therapeutic level, and often, parents aren’t aware of how important it is. Children who do get enough of the vitamin are typically sick less often, have better teeth, and are not in danger of rickets, a childhood illness that softens the bones caused by extremely low levels of Vitamin D. Bowed legs can be a sign that this is a problem.
Lost Your Athleticism?
If you used to be a fantastic runner but suddenly (for no apparent reason) you aren’t able to tackle the miles you could before, you might need to look into testing for a deficiency. In a study published in February of 2009 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, teens with higher levels of Vitamin D performed better than those with low levels. They could jump higher, quicker, and with more power. Vitamin D gives athletes an improved anti-inflammatory response, muscle contraction, and protects against sports injuries. So, if you feel like your endurance has been suffering, it might be time to give a quick call to your doctor.