Vitamin D can help improve overall health and prevent some serious diseases. But how do you know how much you need and how to get it?
Many people don’t suspect they are deficient in certain vitamins until they experience symptoms. Though many of these signs are subtle or linked to a variety of underlying conditions, it’s important to test blood levels in order to know for sure if a Vitamin D deficiency is the cause. In the meantime, here are a few symptoms that can be caused by not having enough Vitamin D.
- Frequent sickness or infection – Vitamin D works with infection-fighting cells to make sure your immune system can defend against viruses and bacteria. If someone is sick often or develops respiratory tract infections, colds, or the flu, it could be because of Vitamin D insufficiency.
- Often tired or fatigued – Excessive tiredness could occur, though Vitamin D deficiency is seldom the first diagnosis. However, being overly tired might be a sign of having low Vitamin D levels. Supplements might help improve energy, even if the blood level isn’t drastically low.
- Back or muscle pain – Vitamin D receptors are present in nociceptors, which are nerve cells that sense pain. Some studies show that people low in Vitamin D may have more or more intense chronic pain because of the link between the vitamin and these nociceptors.
- Depression and other mental health issues – As often observed during the colder months, depression may be linked to not getting enough of the “sunshine” vitamin. Because of the link, some compensate for a lack of sun by taking supplements as a mood booster.
- Slow-healing wounds – The ability to heal after a surgery, injury or infection is crucial to one’s recovery process. Some studies show that low levels of Vitamin D impede the wound-healing process, as it plays a role in controlling inflammation and fighting infection.
- A decrease in bone density – Bone loss can occur in those who aren’t getting enough of the vitamin. Though people might think calcium is the only bone supplement, vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and overall bone metabolism.
- Hair loss – An autoimmune condition called alopecia areata, commonly diagnosed in cases of female-pattern hair loss, could be linked to low Vitamin D levels.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
Not everyone consumes the right dosage of vitamins. Even when taking supplements, people could risk getting too much. When it comes to not getting enough, here are common reasons why some people lack Vitamin D.
- You have limited sunlight exposure. The body naturally produces Vitamin D with sun exposure. If you’re under quarantine, it’s wintertime or you wear protective coverings you may not be getting enough.
- You’re overweight or obese. Fat cells extract Vitamin D from the bloodstream. People with a high body mass index are more likely to have lower levels of the vitamin in their blood.
- You don’t consume the suggested amount. This is especially the case if you’re vegan or vegetarian, as most of the natural dietary sources of Vitamin D are found in animal-based foods such as fish, egg yolks, fortified milk, and beef liver.
- Your body can’t process Vitamin D. The digestive tract is responsible for vitamin absorption and distribution. Some individuals struggle to convert the vitamin into its active form. This is more common among older people, those with kidney failure or medical problems including Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and cystic fibrosis.
- You have high melanin levels. People with darker skin require about six times the sun exposure as fair-skinned people to produce the same Vitamin D level.
Too Much of a Good Thing
It’s rare for someone to have high blood levels of Vitamin D, but not impossible. Doctors strongly recommend capping usage at 100ng/ml to prevent harm from megadoses. High levels of Vitamin D can lead to serious problems, including:
- Elevated blood calcium levels – Because Vitamin D works closely with the digestive tract to absorb calcium, having too much can cause blood calcium to skyrocket. This can lead to vomiting, nausea, dizziness, excessive thirst, and frequent urination.
- Nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite – Similar to the effects of having high blood calcium, digestive damage can occur in people who consume high doses of Vitamin D.
- Stomach pain and constipation – Some patients face extreme stomach pain and hospitalization, depending on their age, by taking too many Vitamin D supplements.
Kidney failure – Seen mostly in people who already have established kidney disease, but not exclusively, excessive Vitamin D can lead to kidney injury and is usually treated with hydration and appropriate medication.
When it comes to getting enough of the “sunshine vitamin,” there are a few factors to consider. Check out our accompanying resource to learn more about what it is and how much to get.