Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that needs skin exposure to sunlight for the synthesizing process. An increased amount of time spent indoors and a poor diet have made vitamin D deficiencies common. Since vitamin D aids in muscle growth, back calcium metabolism, helps maintain immunity and regulates blood pressure, its deficiency can be extremely damaging for your body.
Some of the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency are living at high latitude or in a highly polluted area, using too much sunscreen, having a darker skin color, and being overweight.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Some of the common vitamin D deficiency symptoms that are observed include:
1. A weaker immune system
Your immune system is extremely complex and affected by a large number of factors. One of these is an adequate amount of vitamin D in your body. Immune cells fighting infection require vitamin D to function properly.
2. Feeling tired or fatigue often
The causes of fatigue can be a difficult problem to pin down because there are so many possible reasons. It is, however, included as one of the vitamin D deficiency symptoms because there are a number of studies reporting a close relationship between the two.
From the results of these studies, women with a blood level of vitamin D lesser than 30ng/ml are believed to be much more likely to suffer from chronic fatigue. Early data indicates that a similar result might be seen in men too.
The link between depression and vitamin D deficiency is a little complex. Observational studies have linked low vitamin D and depression about 65% of the times, yet controlled trials have not returned the same numbers.
In recent times, though, people suffering from depression are being tested for vitamin D levels, particularly if they are elderly.
4. Bone pain and lower back pain
Vitamin D plays a very important role in the calcium absorption process. This is why one of the most pertinent vitamin D deficiency symptoms is a pain in the back or other pressure bearing bony areas. The pain can be severe enough to affect the person's everyday functioning and limit his/her daily activities.
5. Muscle pain
Several studies have concluded that vitamin D deficiency could play a major role in the development of muscular pain, particularly of the kind which has no other obvious causes.
Nerve cells responsible for sensing pain, called nociceptors, have a vitamin D receptor present in them which could be activated in people with low levels of vitamin D.
6. Hair loss
Hair loss (alopecia) has many causes. Genetic predisposition, stress, and other causes are responsible for hair loss. Having a sudden and rapid hair loss? Some kind of a nutritional deficiency should be suspected.
Vitamin D deficiency, particularly in women, is believed to be linked to early hair loss. There is more research needed on this subject to conclusively link vitamin D levels and hair loss. That said, initial evidence definitely suggests there might be a connection.
7. Wounds heal slowly
Vitamin D plays a dual role in promoting wound healing. It not only helps in the production of a number of compounds necessary for the wound healing to progress but also the spread of inflammatory markers in the body.
Thus, in people suffering a vitamin D deficiency, the rate of wound healing is much slower than in otherwise unaffected individuals.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
The most common causes and corresponding treatment of a vitamin D deficiency are as follows:
- Insufficient intake of vitamin D
The most obvious and likely cause of a vitamin D deficiency is not consuming the recommended amounts vitamin D over a long period of time.
- Lack of sun exposure
People working indoors, wearing fully covered clothes (for religious or any reason), or living in high latitudes where the UV-B rays of the sun are scarce, are much more likely to develop a vitamin D deficiency.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
The nutritional demands of a pregnant woman are unique in their nature, raising the risk of a vitamin D deficiency. Being a breastfed infant can also be a cause for vitamin D deficiency because human milk is low in that vitamin and a supplement may not be provided by the parents.
The treatment for vitamin D deficiency is pretty straightforward. Supplements are available over the counter but should be taken only after a doctor's recommendation. The recommended daily allowance can vary according to age and gender.
Foods rich in vitamin D, such as fatty fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel) or fish oil, are good options to be included in the diet. Egg yolk, fortified milk, cheese, and beef liver are also decent options for consuming foods rich in vitamin D.
Finally, ask your doctor about the potential risk of developing skin cancer by spending more time in the sun. If you get the go-ahead, then soak up the sun to get a natural boost of vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more prevalent than it was because of changing occupational and food habits. There is also an increased amount of attention being paid to the possible effects of vitamin D deficiency. Problems such as fatigue, muscle pain, and even depression may have its roots in vitamin D deficiency.
Luckily, the problem is easy to solve with a few supplements, tweaks in the menu, and spending more time outside.