Life after 50 is meant to be enjoyed. It's your time to shine at home, in your career and around the world (if you're the traveling type). Depending on your personal health history and how you've taken care of yourself, you may be at increased risk for health conditions. Men over 50 have increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, low testosterone, cancer and fatigue. In additi...
Spending time outdoors is a lot more important than you may think. When we aren’t getting enough sunlight, we may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Below we discuss 6 signs of vitamin D deficiency in adults.
The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D is popularly called “the sunshine vitamin” because our skin produces it when exposed to sunlight. We can also get it from certain foods and supplements to ensure we are getting the daily recommended intake.
Sources of vitamin D include the sun, fatty fish, beef liver, orange juice, soy milk, and supplements. Some claim that dairy products are a good source of vitamin D, and if you have a dairy allergy or stick to a vegan diet, you might have a vitamin D deficiency. However, according to this peer reviewed 2010 study the amount of vitamin D in these food sources is relatively low to nonexistent. In fact, most food sources contain very small amounts of vitamin D, meaning that food intake alone is not an adequate source.
A combination of vitamin D foods, supplements, and sunlight is the best way to ensure that you are getting the required amount of vitamin D. When we are not getting enough we are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D’s role in the body
Vitamin D has many different important functions throughout the body. It is the only vitamin that is also considered a hormone and every cell in your body has a receptor for it. It is important for every tissue, organ, muscle, and bone in your body.
Vitamin D regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and is important for bone and teeth growth and development. It facilitates healthy immune system function which can help the body fight off certain infections and diseases. The sunshine vitamin is also linked to healthy brain development and function.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide problem with an estimated 1 billion people affected by it.
People most at risk include:
- People with obesity
- Elderly people
- People who spend most of their time indoors.
- Those who live in big cities or areas of high pollution.
- People who always use sunscreen.
- People with darker skin due to the higher levels of melanin.
People who live near the equator or spend a majority of their time outdoors are less likely to develop vitamin D deficiency because their skin is able to produce enough to meet their bodies’ needs.
Being able to tell if you are vitamin D deficient can be tricky because the signs and symptoms may be subtle or easily confused with another health issue. However, the effect it has on your life might be significant.
6 Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency
- Feeling tired/fatigued. Vitamin D deficiency is very often overlooked as a potential cause for chronic fatigue. However, there are a number of studies that show low levels of vitamin D in the blood contribute to it. Those that reported fatigue saw significant improvement in their energy levels after taking vitamin D supplements.
- Getting sick often. Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating immune system function. If you have low levels of vitamin D, you are more likely at risk for bacterial and viral infections. Several studies have shown the link between vitamin D deficiency and respiratory tract infections such as colds, bronchitis, or pneumonia.
- Bone pain or bone loss. Since vitamin D plays a role in calcium absorption, bone pain or bone loss may result from a deficiency. In one study, people who reported bone pain in their legs, joints, or ribs had lower levels of vitamin D in their blood than those who had normal levels with no pain. Other studies have shown a correlation between low vitamin D levels and low bone mineral density, however the results were not clear on the cause.
- Lower back pain. Lower back pain has also been correlated to low levels of vitamin D in the blood due to the body’s absorption of calcium. Research showed that those with chronic lower back pain, including severe lower back pain that limited daily activities, were more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency.
- Depression. Vitamin D releases neurotransmitters in the brain that affect brain function and development, such as serotonin and dopamine. There have been several research studies showing a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. This is why many people believe that sunlight exposure is linked to depression or that rates of depression are higher during the winter months with less sunlight.
- Slow wound healing. Vitamin D deficiency may lead to impaired wound healing following injury, surgery, or infection. This is believed to occur because vitamin D increases the production of compounds that are crucial for new skin formation during the healing process. Vitamin D is also associated with regulating inflammation, which is essential for healing properly.