Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. We need vitamin D for healthy bones, muscles, and teeth. Without it, our bones become damaged, weak, brittle, and break more easily.
We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight on our skin, but in winter and in the more northerly latitudes, it often isn’t enough.
We also prevent the absorption of what sunlight we do get by covering up and wearing sunscreen in summer to minimize the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
The trend of avoiding dairy can also contribute to a vitamin D deficiency because many countries add vitamin D to cow’s milk.
How Vitamin D Deficiency Affects You Long Term
It’s thought many of us are vitamin D deficient, and in the long term, this can lead to serious health problems.
Research indicates that low levels of vitamin D are associated with the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis.
Getting enough vitamin D is vital to your health.
The Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency are vague and are often mistaken for other illnesses. You may not be aware you lack vitamin D until you feel exhausted enough to speak to your doctor and have a blood test.
Here are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency that we tend to ignore.
1. Feeling Weak
Muscle weakness is a classic example of a vitamin D deficiency. Your body isn’t getting enough of what it needs to keep your muscles in good shape. You’ll feel generally fatigued and tire easily when walking, lifting, or carrying out gentle exercises.
Vitamin D creates energy, so if you don’t have enough, you’ll feel exhausted, crabby, and unable to carry out your day-to-day tasks.
Tiredness affects your body and your brain, so you may feel “in a fog” or simply too worn out to walk around and do much.
3. Bone Pain
In the past, rickets was a common disease associated with children not getting enough sunlight. It led to weak bones and easy breakages. Rickets is making an unwelcome comeback in modern children who spend too much time indoors and always wear SPF 50 sunscreen.
Adults are no longer growing their bones, but they are constantly repaired and build up density through weight-bearing exercise, so a lack of vitamin D means your bones don’t repair properly—leaving you at risk of osteoporosis.
If your bones ache, they aren’t getting enough vitamin D to keep them strong.
4. Digestive Problems
Stomach pains, gas, bloating, and other IBS symptoms can be caused by inadequate absorption of vitamin D in the digestive tract. Stomach problems are very easy to blame on something else.
We generally feel happier in the sunshine, and that’s no coincidence.
Vitamin D is activated by sunlight on your skin, and this leads to an array of chemical processes such as helping your neurotransmitters develop serotonin and dopamine—two of the “happy” hormones.
Feeling down, blue, and miserable is a sign you lack vitamin D.
6. Hair Loss
Researchers have found a link between hair loss and vitamin D deficiency.
Because vitamin D helps the production of hormones, a lack of it means we don’t get enough nutrients to keep our skin, hair, and nails in tip-top health.
7. Sweating Head
Babies with sweaty foreheads present a classic example of vitamin D deficiency, but this occurs in adults too.
If you find yourself sweating for no reason, particularly from the forehead, it’s time to up your vitamin D.
8. Acanthosis Nigricans
You probably haven’t heard of this. It’s a darkening of the skin usually in body creases such as your armpits, groin, and neck. It’s a visible sign that you aren’t getting enough vitamin D.
9. Constant Colds
You probably take vitamin C for protection against colds, but the strength of your immune system is also affected by vitamin D levels. If you’re getting constant colds, up your vitamin D intake too.
10. Weight Gain
Studies indicate that a lack of vitamin D is associated with weight gain.
Researchers say that taking vitamin D won’t help you lose weight, but a deficiency can lead to weight gain.
A study by the Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon looked at the weight of 4,000 women and found that those who lacked vitamin D weighed more.
It’s Easy to Ignore the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
You probably already experience tiredness, aches, and feelings of depression but just ignore it.
Many people do. These symptoms are easy to dismiss because there are many other reasons for them.
Feeling tired and achy can be blamed on a lack of sleep. Hot sweats can be blamed on menopause, and feeling depressed blamed on the amount of stress you have to deal with.
Pretty much every vitamin D deficiency symptom can be caused by another health problem.
Just think—you feel tired, you ache, you have a cold most of the time, you get hot sweats, and you keep putting on weight. These are vague symptoms of most stressed-out working adults, but it could be due to a lack of vitamin D.
It’s very easy to ignore the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency and blame getting older, but if you have these issues, think about upping your levels.
Natural Remedies That Combat Vitamin D Deficiency
Soak up the Sun
The best way to get enough vitamin D is allowing sunlight onto your skin.
If you spend the majority of your time indoors—in your office, in your car, and in front of the TV—you risk losing out on essential sunlight.
If you are fair-skinned, then 20–30 minutes of summer sunlight on your arms and face three times a week is enough to boost your levels.
Sunburn does not give you a mega dose and can lead to skin cancer, so use a sunscreen once you’ve topped up.
Researchers think that being overweight leads to vitamin D storage in body fat instead of in your bloodstream. Working toward weight loss will not only help to regulate your vitamin D levels, it will reduce the risk of other diseases and boost your energy.
Eat the Right Foods
Not many foods contain vitamin D, but these foods will help keep your levels up.
- Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- Cheese and milk
- Red meat, including liver
- Fortified cereal
- Fortified bread
- Egg yolks
Another source of vitamin D is in dietary supplements, which are easily found in pharmacies and supermarkets.
Don’t Ignore Your Symptoms
If you’re feeling down, tired, and achy, then try upping your vitamin D levels.
Wear sunscreen to protect yourself from the harmful effects of too much sun, but get outside as much as possible, eat enriched foods, and take a supplement—particularly if you’re darker-skinned or live in northerly areas.