Feel tired easily? Or Get frequent joint pains? If yes, these may be symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. Don’t worry. You are not alone. Almost 4 in 10 individuals are facing vitamin D deficiency globally. Moreover, by taking supplements, certain food items, and getting adequate sunlight, managing it is really easy. Let’s understand more about Vitamin D Deficiency!
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Also known as the sunshine vitamin, it is produced by your body when the fat below your skin is exposed to the sun. Once absorbed, it gets metabolized first in the liver and then kidneys before you can utilize it. Vitamin D is also present in some food items such as fish liver oils, fish, egg yolk, and fortified grain and dairy products.
This vitamin exists in two forms:
- First Form :- Vitamin D2: Present in sun-exposed mushrooms, plants, and yeasts
- Second Form :- Vitamin D3: Found in animal foods such as egg yolk and fatty fish
Vitamin D3 is more efficient in improving the levels of vitamin D as compared to vitamin D2.
Functions of Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays helps your body to absorb calcium and phosphorus and thus keeps your bones strong. Other functions include:
- Maintains immunity
- Improves mood and prevents depression
- Increases strength of upper and lower limbs
- Triggers weight loss
- Supports the health of heart, lungs, brain, and teeth
- Regulates insulin levels
- Boosts your energy levels
Moreover, kids receiving vitamin D supplements are at a lower risk of influenza A.
What are the Normal Levels?
Here is what different levels indicate:
- Normal: 30 – 80 ng/mL
- Insufficiency: Levels less than 30 ng/mL
- Deficiency: Levels less than 20 ng/mL
- Severe deficiency: less than 20 ng/mL
- Toxicity: greater than 80 ng/mL
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
If you suffer from milk allergies, shun the sun, or follow a vegan diet, you may be at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. Other common reasons for this deficiency are liver and kidney disorders, obesity, digestive disorders, and smoking.
The risk of deficiency is also higher in elderly, breastfed babies, dark skin people, and individuals who have undergone bariatric surgery
Signs and Symptoms of Deficiency
Deficiency in children results in a condition known as rickets. It softens the bone and impacts the child’s growth. Some symptoms of rickets are:
- Deformities of bones
- Weak tooth enamel
- Delayed teething
- Soft bones
- Bending of the spine
- Bone pain
- Short stature
- Weak bones that are prone to fractures
In adults, a similar condition can develop due to a lack of vitamin D and is known as osteomalacia.
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the commonest causes of tiredness. However, in the majority of the cases, it is overlooked to be a possible cause. Fatigue is also associated with low quality of life.
It is seen that vitamin D levels lower than 20 ng/ml are more likely to cause fatigue.
Bone Pain and Bone Loss
Vitamin D supports bone health by improving their calcium absorption. It also works in sync with the parathyroid gland (gland surrounding the thyroid gland) and kidneys to maintain calcium levels. So, if you don’t have sufficient vitamin D in your body, your bones cannot get enough calcium. This results in bone and back pain.
It is also seen that vitamin D deficiency increases your probability of suffering from long-standing back pain. You may also experience bone pain in ribs, legs, or joints.
Vitamin D also supports bone metabolism. So, if you are deficient in vitamin D, your bone mineral density will be lower. This increases the risk of fractures, especially in older adults and females.
Although the exact reason behind this is not known, it is seen that there are vitamin D receptors in a part of the brain that regulates mood. Moreover, supplementation with vitamin D is seen to improve depression and other mental health disorders.
Hair loss, like fatigue, can be because of various reasons. However, a long-standing hair fall may be a sign of vitamin D deficiency.
Alopecia areata, a condition where you face severe hair loss from the head and other body parts, is also associated with vitamin D deficiency.
Adequate vitamin D levels maintain immunity so that your body can fight disease-causing viruses and bacteria. So, if you often get sick, it’s a good idea to check your vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Impaired Wound Healing
Vitamin D is responsible for producing compounds important for the wound-healing process. It also aids in fighting infection and reduces inflammation.
So, it’s a no brainer that vitamin D deficiency impairs the healing of wounds after injury or surgery.
Vitamin D is present in nerve cells sensitive to pain (nociceptors). Its deficiency thus results in muscle pain.
Of note, just as low levels of vitamin D results in health problems, higher levels of vitamin D are also not safe. However, Vitamin D toxicity is rare and happens only when a large dose is taken frequently. Some symptoms of overdose are:
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty in concentration
- High blood pressure
What Can You Do About It?
If you are deficient in vitamin D, getting adequate sunlight is the best option. You should also include vitamin D-rich foods such as cod liver oil, egg yolk, mushrooms, yeast, fatty fishes such as salmon and tuna, fortified cereals, and dairy products
Vitamin D supplements come also handy in cases of deficiency. Vitamin D3 supplements are more effective as compared to vitamin D2. As the dose of the supplement depends on your blood levels of vitamin D, it is recommended to consult a doctor before consuming it.
Time for an Interesting Fact
The body produces vitamin D3 when ultraviolet B in sun rays come in contact with the skin. As individuals with dark skin have greater melanin that provides natural protection from sunlight, they need 3 to 5 times higher exposure as compared to those with lighter skin to get the same amount of vitamin D!!
Wrapping it up!!
Vitamin D deficiency is relatively common. Some common symptoms of deficiency are joint and bone pains, getting sick often, fatigue, hair loss, depression, and muscle pain. The good news is that once you take sunlight, supplements, or increase intake of vitamin D-rich foods, the symptoms improve. If you are planning to start supplements, it is recommended to consult your doctor before taking them.