What are the signs and symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D (Sunshine vitamin) is a fat-soluble vitamin, present naturally in the body as well as supplied in the diet. It is also called calciferol. Vitamin D is present in different forms, but the most important form in the human body is Vitamin D3 also called cholecalciferol. The major part of Vitamin D comes from exposure to natural sunlight, where vitamin D3 is synthesised in the epidermis of the skin with the help of a chemical reaction after exposure to UVB sun radiation. The daily recommended dose of vitamin D is 600-800/day, which is difficult to achieve through diet or sun exposure, especially during winter. Oral supplements of 800-2000/day are given to achieve the recommended dose. The normal serum level of Vitamin D is 20ng/mol which is mandatory for normal health. Deficiency or excess of vitamin d in the body can cause serious consequences like fragile bone, calcium and phosphorus deficiency, rickets and osteomalacia, etc...
According to research, it is estimated that one billion people around the world have a deficiency of Vitamin D. Major part of these are living in European countries. It is found worldwide deficiency and remains common in school-age children and young adults.
The Function of Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a significant role in the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus. In the absence of vitamin D, it is absorbed that calcium absorption through the intestinal from dietary falls to 20% while this value is 70% when there is a sufficient amount of vitamin D in the serum. Similarly, in vitamin D deficiency, 40-60% of phosphorus is absorbed from the gut. Vitamin D acts on the kidney to excrete low amounts of calcium and phosphorus when the body is deficient in vitamin D. Therefore Vitamin D maintains a balanced range of both calcium and phosphorus which is necessary for bone health and other parts of the body. Vitamin D is also needed for the proper functioning of other systems of the body like the nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory, GIT, skin, bone health, etc...
Sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium. It can be found in food, supplements, and sunlight. The best source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight, but some foods such as fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk also contain it. Supplements are another option, but be sure to talk to your doctor before taking them.
There are two forms of vitamin D: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D2 is found in plants, while vitamin D3 is found in animal products. Both forms are converted into active vitamin D (calcitriol) in the body.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to several health problems, such as weak bones (osteoporosis), Rickets (a condition that causes the bones to soften and deform), and an increased risk of falls and fractures. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to a range of other conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
If you think you might be deficient in vitamin D, talk to your doctor. They can order a blood test to check your levels and recommend the best way to increase them.
How to get Vitamin D Naturally
There are several ways to get vitamin D naturally. The best way is to expose your skin to sunlight. This allows your body to produce vitamin D3, the active form of the vitamin. Many people experience Vitamin d deficiency due to staying indoors too often. This is why vitamin D deficiencies are so common in the Western world.
You can also get vitamin D from food sources, such as fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel). These foods contain high amounts of vitamin D and are easily absorbed by the body. Aim to have at least 3 portions of fatty fish per week for optimal health benefits.
Eat More Egg Yolks
Eggs are another great source of vitamin D, with the egg yolk having the highest levels of vitamin D. Eggs are packed with nutrients, but should not be consumed excessively.
Mushrooms are an excellent and extremely healthy source of vitamin D. They are also the only source of vitamin D that is vegetarian (among the food groups). Mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D. In fact, just one serving of mushrooms can provide up to 25% of the daily recommended intake. And, unlike other plant-based sources of vitamin D, mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light will increase their vitamin D content.
If you’re looking for a way to increase your vitamin D intake, consider adding mushrooms to your diet. You can find them fresh or dried at most grocery stores. And, if you want to maximise your vitamin D levels, look for mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light.
Mushrooms are just like humans in the way they process UV light, and also convert this sunlight into a source of vitamin d.
Try Fortified Foods
Vitamin D fortified foods are a good way to get your daily dose of this essential nutrient. You can find fortified foods in many grocery stores, such as milk, yoghurt, cereal, and orange juice.
When choosing a fortified food, be sure to check the label to see how much vitamin D it contains. The recommended daily intake for adults is 600 IU (international units). However, some people may need more or less depending on their age, health status, and exposure to sunlight.
Some commonly fortified goods include:
plant-based milk alternatives like soy, almond, and hemp milk
certain types of yoghurt
Try Using a UV Lamp (Sad Lamp)
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a number of health problems, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be deficient and they can order a blood test to check your levels.
As earlier discussed in this article, the primary source of Vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. The UV radiation of the Sun converts the inactive vitamin D present in the epidermis of the skin into active vitamin D called vitamin D3 and makes it available to perform different functions in the body. An estimated about 90% of the vitamin D is gotten from the sunlight the remaining 10% comes from other different sources. Deficiency of Vitamin D is observed in those populations who have less exposure to natural sunlight. The people living in European countries are top of that list. Other sources include milk, liver, egg yolks, fish, cereals, meat, fruits like oranges vegetables like broccoli, etc... This dietary source of vitamin D contributes 10% of the total vitamin D.
What are the signs and symptoms of vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a key element for the development and growth of muscle and bone. It also boosts the immune system of the body. The deficiency of Vitamin D can cause some serious consequences which are as follows.
Weak Immune systemVitamin D is mandatory to maintain strong immune systems in the body and inhibit the inflammatory response. It boosts the immunity of the body and regulates it. In case of Vitamin D deficiency, frequent illness and infection occur. Therefore frequent illness requires investigation for vitamin D.
Becoming ill often with a common cold or with more serious repository infections such as Bronchitis has been linked to Vitamin D deficiency. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27178217/)
In this instance the general role of Vitamin D is to aid in supporting the immune system; there are studies to prove that deficiencies can cause a more severe risk to viruses such as COVID-19, (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34607398/) although it is important not to associate consuming Vitamin D supplements as a prevention method to the Virus.
- Bone and muscle weakness
Vitamin D plays a central role in bone and muscle health. It helps to maintain an adequate amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. In the absence of calcium and phosphorus, the bones become fragile. The patient feels fatigued in his daily routine work.
A study shows that people who take vitamin D supplements for five days have significantly improved their energy levels
Bone damage and Loss
- Bone fractures, especially among older and more senior adults could be prevented by taking better Vitamin D supplements. Calcium absorption, which is improved with higher levels of Vitamin D, helps to make bones stronger and resilient.
- It’s been found within 81 studies, that people with arthritis and general muscle pain were subject to lower levels of vitamin D than people without these conditions. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29559013/)
- Vitamin D deficiency in the causation of Bone Loss is mixed within its studies, with Women often experiencing no apparent changes to bone mineral density when upping their dosage of Vitamin D supplements. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26237520/)
- However, a good supplement of Vitamin D may still be a good preventive measure against bone damage and loss as part of a further balanced diet. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4715837/)
- Bone fracture and Pain.
Vitamin D maintains the density and mass of bone and prevents it from fracture and loss. In case of Vitamin D deficiency, bone density is lost and prone to fracture. Joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis also occur in the absence of vitamin D.
Such type of symptoms more frequently occur in women after menopause.
The study showed that people who suffer from depression have low levels of Vitamin D in their blood. Vitamin D acts on brain receptors and regulates different brain hormones like dopamine. Dopamine helps to relieve stress and depression effects and elevate the mood of the person.
- A number of studies have linked Postpartum depression to a lack of Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy. Which within 1 one year can spread to anxiety and sleep difficulties (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33072644/)
- A lack of Vitamin D may be linked to general depression, with lower levels of it found within those peoples’ bloodstreams. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28914205/)
- Delay wound healing.
Vitamin D helps to form growth factors and other factors which are essential for the formation of scars after a wound. In presence of Vitamin D deficiency, these factors become fragile and result in delayed wound healing.
An often overlooked factor in general tiredness is a Vitamin D deficiency. There was one study that 1 in 480 older adults had linked vitamin D deficiency with fatigue symptoms (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31635199/)
- Cancer Risk
Colon Cancer has been linked to not having enough Vitamin D in the bloodstream. Interestingly enough, people living at higher altitudes such as the Northern US States had higher Colon Cancer death rates than the population inhabiting closer to the equator. (https://academic.oup.com/ije/article-abstract/9/3/227/723830)
Complications of vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to the following health issues.
Rickets is caused by the deficiency of Vitamin D. It is mostly found in pre-school children and leads them to disability. Such a type of condition found in adults is called Osteomalacia. Physicians treat them by prescribing Vitamin D.
- Heart disease
As there is no direct relationship between vitamin D and cardiovascular disease, Vitamin D deficiency cause calcium deficiency which leads to heart and vessel problems.
- Cancer Incidence
There is some evidence that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to an increased risk of cancer. However, the research is still inconclusive and more studies are needed.
Some experts recommend getting your vitamin D levels checked if you’re concerned about your risk of cancer. If you are deficient, talk to your doctor about the best way to increase your levels. This may include taking supplements or spending more time in the sun.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that plays a role in many aspects of health. If you think you might be deficient, talk to your doctor. They can order a blood test to check your levels and recommend the best way to increase them.
- Other Problems
- a. Autoimmune disease
- b. Skin pigmentation
- c. Nerves impairment
- d. Hormonal imbalance
How to check for Vitamin D deficiency?
If one has faced any of the above-discussed signs and symptoms, he needs to check his Vitamin D serum level.
The following tests are performed to roll out Vitamin D deficiency.
1. Serum 25(OH)D level
2. Serum Calcium and phosphorus
You can order your vitamin D test by clicking here.
What is causing your deficiency?
- One of the main causes of Vitamin D deficiency is a lack of sunlight. Often in the Northern hemisphere, not enough natural UVB sunlight is available during the Winter months Autumn to Late-March. This poses a problem for potential employees working in offices all-day who may be disillusioned in thinking they receive enough light from artificial indoor lighting. Moreover, windows in cars and buildings block UVB light which is naked to the human eye.
- For the population that lives closer to the Equator, their skin type may be accustomed to absorbing high levels of sunlight. Consequently having darker skin types poses a problem if you are to live within Northern regions further away from the Equator. The higher amounts of pigment melanin create a natural sunscreen effect.**(Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007; 357:266-81.)
- Lack of sunlight is a commonly known cause of Vitamin D Deficiency but what is not so known is having a better-balanced diet with a variety of intertwined food groups. By consuming oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, it is possible to stand a greater chance against Vitamin D deficiency. Other food sources may include red meat, liver, egg yolks and some fortified foods like breakfast cereals.
D2 or D3?
- There is a difference between Vitamin D2 and D3 in the sense that D2 is predominately made from plants and found in some supplements that you may purchase. D3 is produced naturally within the body and can also be found in animal foods.
- Vitamin D3 is naturally formed within the body and so it may be wiser to think that it may be the preferred choice when choosing supplements. When UVB is absorbed often through sunlight, a steroid known as 7-dehydrocholesterol is broken down to form what we know as Vitamin D3; this is why we may regard it as a more natural supplement than D2.
Emerging technologies to combat deficiency
- With low mental health such as depression linked to a Vitamin D deficiency, More technologically advanced holistic remedies have emerged over the past few decades. SAD Lamps have become more common, and are widely available for consumers to purchase online.
- There is caution, as like with any product there are manufacturing and usability differences. There are also limited medical studies to prove that this artificial light can improve general mental health and well-being.
- Traditionally a lot of lamps on the market boast a 10,000 LUX maximum light. But It is difficult to get that exact measurement of light as factors such as height, distance and time spent in front of the light can vary too much - for example, a SAD Lamp positioned 24 inches away could only produce ½ the number of Lumens that may be advertised (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LeNezZ5yK8)
The subtlety in Vitamin D symptoms may be the reason for its lack of diagnosis or often self-diagnosis. There is such a large variety in age, skin colour, and geographic location that may contribute to different effects of vitamin D deficiency.
For further information on Vitamin D and deficiency tests, click here.
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