Almost every cell has receptor sites for vitamin D. This is just one reason that there are so many benefits attributed to this vitamin. While most vitamins function primarily as antioxidants or enzyme co-factors, vitamin D functions as a pro-hormone. This means that once it is converted into its active form, it has specific hormone-like effects in the body. The body makes it from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to sunlight. It’s also found in small amounts in certain foods like fatty fish and fortified dairy products. It is very difficult to get enough from diet alone.
Common risk factors for Vitamin D deficiency are dark skin, the elderly, overweight, obese, not enough fish or milk, living where there is little sun year-round, sunscreen, staying indoors.
Below are a few signs and symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency:
• Colds and Infections: Vitamin D directly interacts with the cells in the body that are responsible for fighting infection which keeps your immune system strong. A deficiency can increase respiratory tract infections like colds, various infections, bronchitis and pneumonia.
• Tiredness and Fatigue: Low Vitamin D levels can cause fatigue. You may not even realize you’re fatigued until AFTER you begin supplementing and begin feeling more energized. Levels under 30 ng/mL are considered “insufficient” and under 10 ng/mL “deficient”. But even levels in the 30 – 40 ng/mL are still not in the optimal range which is 50 – 80 ng/mL.
• Bone and Back Pain: Vitamin D improves your body’s absorption of calcium. Chronic bone pain and lower back pain may be signs of inadequate levels. Pain is typically in legs, ribs and joints.
• Muscle Pain: A vitamin D deficiency may be a potential cause of muscle pain in children and adults. The vitamin D receptor that is present in nerve cells is called nociceptors, which sense pain. A deficiency can lead to pain and sensitivity due to stimulation of nociceptors in muscles.
• Depression: A depressed mood may also be a sign of deficiency. Vitamin D can help improve depression as well as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder); depression that occurs during the colder months.
• Slow Wound Healing: When wounds don’t heal after surgery or injury, Vitamin D levels may be too low. The vitamin helps new skin form as part of the wound-healing process. It has a very important role in controlling inflammation and fighting infection both crucial for proper healing.
• Bone Loss: Vitamin D is essential for bone mineralization and remodeling. It enhances intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphorus, boosts calcium and phosphorus re-absorption in the kidney, and regulates levels in blood. Low bone density means that calcium and other minerals have been lost from bone. Simply taking calcium supplements will not compensate for a D deficiency nor will it increase density on it’s own. Optimal Vitamin D blood levels are a must for protecting bone mass and reducing fracture risk.
• Hair Loss: Severe hair loss such as female-pattern baldness and alopecia areata can be a nutrient deficiency and have both been linked to low vitamin D levels.
Correcting a Vitamin D deficiency is important! Vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common and most people are unaware of it since the symptoms are often subtle and you may think they are something else. Speak to your doctor about checking your blood levels as a deficiency can be fixed. You can increase your sun exposure, eat more vitamin D rich foods or take the proper amount of a quality supplement. Correcting your deficiency can have big benefits for your health.