Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, has been enjoying the media spotlight more and more in the past few years – and rightfully so – because with all the benefits it has to offer, vitamin D is in the frontline in the fight against disease. Its disease-fighting benefits range from boosting your immune system to reducing the risk of the incurable neurological condition, Multiple Sclerosis.
With summer literally on our doorstep, now is the perfect time to ask yourself: Am I vitamin D deficient?
The only accurate way to really know is to have a vitamin D blood test. However, there are some early signs and symptoms that may warn you that you have a vitamin D deficiency. These are:
1. You’re 50 or Older
As we get older our skin doesn’t make as much vitamin D in response to sun exposure. At the same time, your kidneys become less efficient at converting the sunshine vitamin into the form used by your body. Adding to that, older adults tend to spend more time indoors, which exposes them to even less sun.
2. You Have a Darker Skin
People with darker skins are at greater risk of deficiency, because darker skin types may need as much as 10 times more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D as a person with pale skin. That’s because your skin pigment acts as a natural sunscreen, so the more pigment you have, the more time you’ll need to spend in the sun to make adequate amounts of this essential vitamin.
3. Feeling a bit “Blue”?
Serotonin is the hormone associated with mood elevation and being exposed to bright light increases levels of this hormone in your brain. The reverse is also true and in 2006, researchers studied the effects of vitamin D on the mental health of 80 elderly patients. Their results showed that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had healthy levels of vitamin D.
4. You’re Overweight
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, hormone-like vitamin, which means the more body fat you have, the more of this vitamin you’ll need than a slimmer person – and the same holds true for people with higher body weights due to muscle mass.
5. Aching Bones
According to a leading researcher, Dr. Holick, many patients who complain about aches and pains, especially in combination with fatigue, end up being misdiagnosed as having fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. This is because these symptoms are classic signs of vitamin D deficiency osteomalacia, which is different from the vitamin D deficiency that causes osteoporosis in adults.
Dr. Holick says that vitamin D deficiency can cause “a defect in putting calcium into the collagen matrix into your skeleton”. As a result, you may suffer with throbbing and painful bones.
6. Sweaty Head
One of the first, classic signs of vitamin D deficiency is a sweaty head. In fact, doctors used to ask new mothers about head sweating in their new-borns for this very reason. According to Dr. Holick, excessive sweating in new-borns due to neuromuscular irritability is still described as a common, early symptom of vitamin D deficiency.
7. Gut Problems
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the sunshine vitamin is a fat-soluble vitamin. If you have a gastrointestinal condition that affects your ability to absorb fat, you may have lower absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D as well. Gut conditions associated with a deficiency in the sunshine vitamin include Crohn’s disease, coeliac and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity as well as inflammatory bowel disease.
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Am J Clin NutrMarch 2004 vol. 79 no. 3 362-371
The International Society for Clinical Densitometry, Vitamin D Deficiency: The Silent Epidemic of the Elderly
American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry December 2006; 14(12): 1032-1040