Vitamin D deficiency is an all too common condition – and many don’t even know they’re facing it.
quote Are you suffering from vitamin D deficiency without even realizing it? Read on to learn about the signs and symptoms, and how you can take control of your health if you are vitamin D-deficient.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY?
Common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Bone pain
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Depression / Sour mood
- Low energy
- Frequent illness
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
However, the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can be subtle, and the only way to know for sure is to get tested.
WHAT FACTORS PUT ME AT RISK FOR LOW VITAMIN D LEVELS?
While many factors can influence if you’re prone to be vitamin D-deficient, there are several elements that can make you more susceptible:
People with darker skin: Darker skin is less able to produce vitamin D from sunlight than lighter skin.
Older adults: Your skin doesn’t make as much vitamin D when you’re older, and your kidneys are less effective at converting vitamin D into a form your body can use.
People who are overweight or obese: Body fat binds to some vitamin D and prevents it from getting into the blood.
People with a GI tract disease: If you have celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or another gastrointestinal disease, your body may not be able to absorb vitamin D from your diet.
Geographical location: People living on the extreme north or south ends of the earth receive less direct sunlight year round, and colder winters make it more difficult to spend time outdoors.
Medications: Some drugs and prescriptions can prevent your body from absorbing or making vitamin D, including but not limited to:
- antibiotics – rifampin (rifampicin) and isoniazid, commonly used to treat TB. Vitamin D levels can sometimes fall after as little as two weeks’ exposure to these drugs.
- anti-seizure drugs – phenobarbital, carbamazepine, phenytoin
- anti-cancer drugs – Taxol and other related drugs
- antifungal agents – clotrimazole and ketoconazole
- anti-HIV drugs – efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin and in Atripla) and AZT (Retrovir, zidovudine and in Combivir and Trizivir)
- anti-inflammatory drugs – corticosteroids
Lifestyle: Certain lifestyle factors can reduce exposure to sunlight, such as work obligations, clothing choices, poor health, or those who lack outdoor space near their home.
Breastfed infants: Infants who are exclusively breastfed may be at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency, since human milk is naturally low in vitamin D. A 2015 study found that maternal vitamin supplementation of 6400 IU per day provided adequate vitamin D for nursing infants.
HEALTH RISKS OF VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
Researchers are still identifying all the risk factors of low vitamin D levels; however, existing research suggests that there is a link between low vitamin D levels and a variety of health conditions.
Weakened bones: Vitamin D is a key component of healthy bones, and too little vitamin D can make your bones soft and brittle. This can lead to conditions like osteoporosis (brittle, fragile bones) and osteomalacia (softened bones that bend and bow over time) in adults, and rickets in children.
Poor dental health: Recent research published in Nutrients found that low vitamin D levels were linked to a variety of dental problems, including dentin and enamel defects, periodontitis, and even oral cancer.
Depression: While researchers are still identifying the exact links between vitamin D levels and depression, several studies found a correlation between low vitamin D levels and greater risk for depression.
Heart Disease: While other lifestyle factors may play a role, research suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to cardiovascular disease.
COVID-19: Emerging research has found that vitamin D deficiency can make you more susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19. According to a study from the University of Florida, patients with vitamin D deficiency were 4.6 times more likely to be positive for COVID-19 than patients with no deficiency.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I HAVE VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY?
If your vitamin D levels are too low, here are a few steps you can take to up your daily vitamin D intake:
- Add foods that are high in vitamin D to your everyday diet – foods like salmon, eggs, mushrooms, or red meat. Fortified foods – foods that have vitamin D added to them – are another great way to increase your vitamin D intake.
- Spend 10-15 minutes per day out in the sunshine.
- Take vitamin D2 or D3 supplements – listed below are the recommended daily amounts of vitamin D depending on your age