Do You Have A Vitamin D Deficiency?
Known as the sunshine vitamin, due to the fact that the body produces it once our skin becomes exposed to sunlight, vitamin D plays an integral part in lowering the risks for a number of health problems. If you suffer from a vitamin D deficiency, your body will show it.
How can vitamin D benefit our health?
- Vitamin D plays a role in helping the body properly absorb and utilize calcium and by doing so, it lowers the risk for rickets, osteoporosis, fractures and bone loss.
- As calcium is vital for insulin secretion and vitamin D plays an integral role in the absorption and utilization of calcium- one study revealed how vitamin D may help help to regulate the symptoms of diabetes.
- A study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE found that postmenopausal women with higher levels of the main form of vitamin D in their blood had a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
- Vitamin D may help our cognitive abilities as studies have revealed that low levels of vitamin D often result in poor focus, attentive and decision making skills.
With vitamin D playing such an integral role in one’s health, it is shocking to know that a majority of the population are believed to suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. Symptoms are incredibly subtle which is likely why many people don’t even know that they’re deficient. As a result, they miss out on the opportunity to educate themselves about vitamin D deficiencies.
Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency
- Lack of sunshine
A large amount of our vitamin D comes from sunlight exposure (up to 70% of it) thus one risk factor and cause of a vitamin D deficiency comes from not getting enough sunshine. Urbanization and advancement in technology has led to a the growing population spending a lot of their time indoors and as a result, increasing the risk of a vitamin D deficiency. Moreover, living in the northern latitudes and wearing attire that covers your entire body as a result of cultural beliefs can also contribute to the deficiency.
- Skin pigmentation
Individuals with a darker skin tone are at a greater risk of a vitamin D deficiency, as their skin pigmentation acts as a natural sunscreen and this then affects the skin’s ability to create vitamin D. As a result, they require more sun exposure in order to properly produce the the same amount of vitamin D as someone who has much lighter skin.
- Poor kidney health
Our kidneys play a role in the conversion of vitamin D into its active form. However, ageing and other health conditions can affect the kidneys ability to do this and this then increases the risk of of a deficiency.
- Gut trouble
Gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s, celiac, inflammatory bowel disease and even medication can each affect the guts ability to absorb vitamin D from foods.
Other factors that can cause a vitamin D deficiency include the following:
- Pollution- This can affect your skin’s ability to create vitamin d as pollution often absorbs the sun’s rays.
- Magnesium plays a role in the metabolization of vitamin D in the kidney thus, a magnesium deficiency can contribute to a lack of vitamin D in the body.
- As most things in the body, the older we get does affect our ability to absorb and utilize vitamin D.
- Vitamin D levels have been linked to being much lower in overweight individuals as excess body fat somehow affects vitamin D absorption.
Signs of vitamin D deficiency
1. Bone loss
As vitamin D is essential for the proper absorption and utilization of calcium by the bones, bone loss often occurs as a result of a deficiency. One study revealed a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels and bone loss. Bone loss, in fact, can actually increase your risk of fractures thus individuals who have been diagnosed with low bone mineral density need to get their vitamin D levels checked.
2. Depression and mood swings
While studies remain inconclusive about vitamin D’s effect on mental health- researchers do agree that the mood hormone serotonin does elevate when exposed to bright light and it does fall with decreased sun exposure. As a result, a depressed mood or mood swings could be a sign of a vitamin D deficiency.
3. Sore bones
As vitamin D is vital in bone health, it should come as no surprise to know that sore bones, as well as back pain, are often a signs of a vitamin D deficiency. One study published in the journal Pain Physician found a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels and chronic lower back pain.
Treating a vitamin D deficiency
In dealing with a vitamin D deficiency, the best answers are often diet and supplements. According to the National Institute of Health, the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D is 400 international units (IU) for children under 12 months, 600 IU for everyone aged between 1 and 70 and 800 IU for individuals over the age of 70.
Foods rich in vitamin D
Foods that naturally contain vitamin D include fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon. Fish liver oils are also a good source of vitamin D, as are eggs and cheese.
Get some sun
If you have light or pale skin, it’s important to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes per day in the sun (whilst wearing a broad-spectrum screen, free of oxybenzone) whereas darker skinned people need to spend up to 40 minutes in sunlight, in order to ensure that the body is able to produce vitamin D naturally.