Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that has powerful effects on several systems in the human body. Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D functions as a hormone and every single cell in your body has a receptor for it. It’s called the sunshine vitamin, because it’s produced by your body from cholesterol in response to your skin being exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin D can be found in its natural element in a few foods including some fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks, and in fortified grain and dairy products. For an average person, the recommended daily intake (RDI) is usually around 400–800 IU, but experts believe that you should be consuming more than that. They believe that only 10% of our daily vitamin D intake comes from our diet, while 90% comes from sunlight.
Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, about 1 billion people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency and according to a 2011 study, 41.6% of adults in America are vitamin D deficient; if you’re experiencing some of these telltale signs listed below, you could be one of them.
Here are 8 common risks of factors for vitamin D deficiency:
1. You’re Feeling Moody or Depressed
Depression could be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. A 2008 study in Norway confirmed that people with low levels of vitamin D were more likely to be depressed. Cold temperatures are often responsible for gloomy moods and are often addressed as winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression related to changes in seasons, when mood dips occur due to cold weather when there is a lack of sunshine.
In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that people with lower levels of vitamin D are 10 times more likely to be depressed than those who have a healthy dose of the “sunshine vitamin”.
When a person is exposed to bright light like sunshine, the serotonin hormone in the brain increases. In cold countries during the coldest and darkest months, you can take advantage of light therapy in order to meet the vitamin D requirement for your body.
2. You’re Gaining Weight
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to weight gain. A five-year study by the Centre for Health Research in Portland, Oregon found that generally, women with low vitamin D status were prone to weight gain. Sunshine supplies the vital nutrient nitric oxide, which keeps our metabolism running smoothly and discourages frequent eating.
After examining the vitamin D status and weight of more than 4,000 women participants over 65, researchers found those with insufficient vitamin D levels weighed more than the women with adequate vitamin D levels.
3. You’re At Risk for Heart Disease or Cancer
Researchers found that people spend 90 percent of their lives indoors. These kinds of people (which is mostly all of us) are more likely to develop breast and prostate cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease; however, with too much exposure to sunlight, you’re at a risk of skin cancer. The Harvard School of Public Health established that men with vitamin D deficiencies caused by lack of sunlight were twice as likely to develop a heart condition. Doctors recommend spending about 15 minutes a day in the sun, which is enough for a daily dose of vitamin D.
4. Your Bones Ache
Vitamin D is essential for supporting bones and their structures. It helps regulate phosphorus, calcium and minerals, which are necessary for maintaining strong bones. When you’re low on vitamin D, your bones weaken leaving you to develop possible conditions such as osteoporosis (brittle bones) and rickets (soft bones).
According to Delbridge, a deficiency in vitamin D in adults results in arthritis or fibromyalgia (chronic muscle pain and fatigue). Adults who are not exposed to enough sunlight, especially during the winter months often feel aches and pains in their muscles and bones. Nutrients like collagen and calcium work together to build bones. With an insufficient dose of vitamin D, the process is interrupted, and results in these aches.
5. You Get Sick Often
Are you suffering from a vicious cycle of a bad cold? A lack of vitamin D can have something to do with it. Do not at any cost avoid sunlight; doing so could actually make you feel more sick! A healthy dose of vitamin D gives your immune system a boost, which decreases your chance of developing infections and the flu. Michael Holick, MD, professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics at Boston University Medical Center, recommends spending 10 to 15 minutes outside in the sun in order to knock out a common cold.
6. You’re Not Sleeping Well
The struggle to get better sleep seems never-ending for many of us. But did you know that sunlight could be the cure? Researchers found that having more natural light exposure during the day results in a more well rested sleep at night. Spending extended hours under artificial lighting or staring at electronic screens can cause serious sleep problems at night. Individuals who get more sunlight tend to be more physically active and have a better quality of sleep and is therefore advisable to get as much exposure to natural light during the day as possible.
7. You Sweat Excessively
Holick states that a sweaty head is the first sign of vitamin D deficiency. A change in the amount you sweat or your sweating patterns should be a cause of concern. Your body sweats when your body temperature rises above 98.6 F. Sweating is good for the body, but excessive sweating may indicate a deficiency in vitamin D. Consult your doctor and get your blood tested to see where your vitamin D levels are at.
8. You Have Trouble With Your Gut
The University of Sheffield conducted recent research, which suggests a large proportion of patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient. People with Crohn’s, celiac or inflammatory bowel disease may be at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency, this is because these gastrointestinal conditions directly affect fat absorption. When fat absorption is lower in the body, that in turn lowers the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like D, according to the NIH.
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiencies are incredibly common, and most people are unaware of it. The aforementioned symptoms are often subtle and non-specific, which basically means it’s hard to know if they’re linked to low levels of vitamin D or something else. It is best to speak to your doctor and get your blood levels measured to know where you stand. Fortunately, a vitamin D deficiency is usually easy to fix. You can either increase your sun exposure or eat more vitamin D rich food like fatty fish or fortified dairy products. Correcting your deficiency can have significant benefits for your health.