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7 Signs You May Be Deficient in Vitamin D

Are you deficient in vitamin D? Read on to see how raising your vitamin D levels can benefit your overall health!
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Most people realize that low levels of vitamin D contribute to a variety of health problems- including a reduced immune system, but many Americans mistakenly believe that because they consume dairy products that they are not at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

However, even a diet rich in dairy products (even pasture-raised dairy) is not enough to provide sufficient levels of vitamin D. Because of this combined with indoor lifestyles, most Americans are lacking in vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels are linked to numerous health conditions- such as a reduced immune system, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, gut sensitivity, and more recently- even high cholesterol. If you have any of the following signs, you could be deficient in vitamin D.

Common Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency

These 7 symptoms show you may have a vitamin D deficiency:

Depression or SAD

Daily sun exposure causes the levels of serotonin in the body to rise. This increases mood and can prevent seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and even depression. According to a study from 2006 on 80 elderly patients, study participants with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more likely to be depressed than the study participants with the highest vitamin D levels.

Aged 50 or Older

According to research from Oregon State University, older individuals require more vitamin D intake than younger individuals. This is the result of several different occurrences. First, older skin does not convert as much sunlight into vitamin D. Second, older individuals have a harder time converting vitamin D into usable vitamin D. Lastly, older adults typically spend more time indoors than younger people (although not always).

Overweight or Well-Built

A study published in 2013 in the International Journal of Obesity found that women who were overweight had much lower levels of two enzymes that are used to convert vitamin D into a useable form. When the overweight women lost 10 percent of their body weight, their vitamin D levels increased by 27 percent without making any other changes. This means that if you are overweight, you will require higher levels of vitamin D intake to reach optimal blood levels.

High Cholesterol

A 2013 article published in the journal Menopause examined the effects of vitamin D on 576 postmenopausal women. One group was given 400 units of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily for 4 years, and the other group of women were given a placebo. Accounting for all other variables, the study researchers found that the women who consumed the daily vitamin D and calcium had statistically significant lower levels of LDL cholesterol, which is often called the “bad” cholesterol. The study authors stated that while not a definite trigger for reducing cholesterol, it is likely that vitamin D and calcium have a positive effect on controlling cholesterol levels. Therefore, if you have high cholesterol, you are probably not getting enough vitamin D.

Dark Skin

According to studies, individuals with dark skin require more vitamin D than individuals with light skin. A study from 2006 found that dark-skinned people were more likely to have vitamin D deficiency than individuals with paler skin. The study authors found that the more pigmented the skin, the less sunlight penetrated the skin, reducing the amount of vitamin D absorbed by the skin. The study authors estimated that a dark skinned person requires about 10 times as much sun exposure as a paler-skinned person.

Achy Bones

Several recent studies have linked achy bones and chronic pain and fatigue with low levels of vitamin D. In 2003, a study of 150 individuals with chronic pain found that 93 percent of them had extremely low levels of vitamin D. According to studies, the ideal vitamin D level is 30-40 ng/mL, and most of the study participants had vitamin D levels of 12 ng/mL. In 2009, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that individuals who were taking pain medication and also had low levels of vitamin D required about twice as much pain medication as individuals with healthy vitamin D levels.

A Sweaty Head

According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in 2013, a common sign of vitamin D deficiency in infants is a sweaty head. The same symptom can be an indication of vitamin D deficiency in older children and adults as well. Digestive Issues Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means that if something interferes with the ability to absorb fat properly- like a digestive disease such as Crohn’s- then you are likely to have low vitamin D levels as well. Any sort of bowel disease or condition can link to low vitamin D levels.

How Vitamin D Can Prevent Disease

Most health officials now agree that increasing the intake of vitamin D3 is beneficial in reducing risk for a whole host of other issues, including cholesterol, breast cancer, common infections (like the cold and flu), and even cancer. Read more about how vitamin D can reduce these risks below:

Heart Disease

Recent studies have linked a deficiency in vitamin D with an increased risk for heart attacks and heart disease. According to data from the The Health Professional Follow-Up Study, which followed over 50,000 men for 10 years, it was found that men who had low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely as men with high levels of vitamin D to have a heart attack. Other studies cited by Harvard Health stated that vitamin D can work to reduce risk of heart failure, heart disease, stroke, and death from heart-related problems.

Infections and Illness

Most people know that vitamin D can work to improve the immune system. A study from Japan gave children 1,200 IU of vitamin D daily for four months. During that time, children who took vitamin D had a reduction in flu risk of 40 percent. Cholesterol As the above study referenced above stated, women who consumed daily vitamin D had lower cholesterol levels without doing anything else. Combine this with weight loss, which both lowers cholesterol and improves vitamin D absorption, and cholesterol levels will drop dramatically.

Cancer

Numerous studies cited by Harvard Health have linked low vitamin D levels with an increase in cancer risk. Adequate levels of vitamin D can reduce breast cancer risk- as cited above, but that is not the only form of cancer that vitamin D fights. Many studies have suggested that low vitamin D levels lead to an increased risk for developing colon cancer, but no study has officially “proven” the connection as of 2015.

The Ideal Vitamin D Levels

According to health experts, any blood level of vitamin D below 30 ng/ml is considered low. In fact, some health professional even suggest higher levels, of up to 70 ng/ml. The best way to get appropriate levels of vitamin D is through sun exposure. Varying factors will influence how long you need to stay in the sun for maximum vitamin D absorption. According to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine in 2008, spending 10 minutes in the noon sun during the warm months produces about 10,000 IU of vitamin D.

However, this does not mean that you are absorbing that much vitamin D. Skin color, age, weight, clothing coverage, and many other factors can influence how much is actually absorbed. For example, a person with dark skin might need to spend 20 minutes in the sun to get enough vitamin D. A person wearing more clothing would need to soak up the sun longer.

However, experts generally recommend spending half as much time in the sun as it takes to give you a sunburn every day in the warm months. In the winter, get as much sun exposure as you can. Other vitamins can influence how effective vitamin D is in the body.

The most important combo vitamins are listed below:

Vitamins Co-Active with Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin K1 and K2
  • Boron
  • Calcium

Many of these vitamins are found in foods such as nuts, seeds, apples, grapes, carrots, bananas, unprocessed grains, seafood, dairy products, leafy greens, cheese, eggs, and herbs.

Is Vitamin D Supplementation Safe?

Although some studies have indicated that supplementing with vitamin D does not reduce risk for heart attack or strokes, there is still evidence that supplements can have positive effects when access to sunlight is unavailable. Ideally, sun exposure is the best way to get vitamin D, just like eating vegetables is better than taking vitamins.

However, in the winter and during periods when sun exposure is not possible, vitamin D supplements can benefit the body in all of the above-mentioned ways- including working to improve the immune system and reduce cholesterol levels. There is little evidence that supplementing with vitamin D3 is unsafe (levels up to 1,000 IU per 25 pounds are estimated to be safe), which means that vitamin D supplements can be a helpful way to keep adequate vitamin D levels in the body.

Improve Cholesterol Levels and More with Vitamin D

These studies outline just how important it is to get adequate vitamin D levels. If you show any of the above symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, have your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor. You may be surprised at low they are. If your levels are low, getting out in the sun and supplementing for any gaps carry a whole host of health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and helping you become a happier, healthier you!

Sources


http://www.direct-ms.org/sites/default/files/Cognition%20and%20mood%20vitamin%20D.pdf

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/13/vitamin-d-may-lower-cholesterol/

http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/4/1126.full

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