Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is one of the most talked-about nutrients thanks to its importance in a number of bodily functions. But, a shocking amount of people are said to be vitamin D deficient - an estimated 41.6% of Americans [i].
Our main form of vitamin D comes from the sun, which can be problematic through the winter months. In theory, we are able to get enough vitamin D from our foods, but the choice of vitamin D-packed food out there is limited. It’s normal to get only 20% of our vitamin D from food, and the rest from sunlight. But where the sun is limited, how do we make up for it?
Vitamin D is a little different from other vitamins, as it acts a little bit more like a hormone. This is because low levels can have a huge effect on internal systems. Among its talents, Vitamin D plays an important role in giving you energy, and has also been linked to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) as the winter months are usually when people become deficient in the sunny vitamin. Lacking vitamin D can also cause hair loss and muscle pain, to name a few other symptoms of its deficiency.
So, are you getting enough vitamin D? If you don’t live on the equator or spend most of the winter somewhere with an abundance of sunshine, you might want to keep reading…
So, how much vitamin D do I need?
There are actually a few different types of vitamin D (five to be precise) but it’s vitamin D3 that’s the most important. The general recommended daily dosage is 10mcg, and no more than 100mcg.
There are factors that mean certain people are more at risk of a vitamin D deficiency:
- Having darker skin tones
- Being elderly
- Being overweight or obese
- Living far from the equator, where there’s less sun
- Staying indoors
- Using sunscreen all the time
- Vegan or vegetarian diets, not getting enough fish or dairy
Best Sources of Vitamin D
Apart from the sun, which is the best source of vitamin D? Well, there are a few foods you can stock up on (although the selection is limited).
The best foods for getting a good dose of vitamin D are; oily fish, eggs, fortified foods (breakfast cereal, margarine) and mushrooms (store your mushrooms in a sunny window so they can absorb even more vitamin D).
And let’s not forget that given the small amount of foods high in vitamin D, there are also supplements for you to take to boost your levels!
Signs You Might Be Deficient In Vitamin D
1. Feeling tired all the time
Vitamin D is an essential source of energy. Low vitamin D blood levels have been linked to suffering from frequent fatigue, and a study has shown that once given vitamin D supplements, energy levels increased [ii].
When you’re busy and not getting as much sleep as you should it’s easy to ignore tiredness as a warning sign. If you feel like you’re lacking energy, rather than turning to coffee, check how much vitamin D you’re getting. If it’s gray outside and you haven’t boosted your intake now the weather has turned, then chances are your body is lacking vitamin D!
2. Getting sick more often
Vitamin D is crucial to keeping your immune system strong. The vitamin interacts directly with the cells that fight off infection so that those pesky bacteria don’t harm you! So if you do lack vitamin D, it could mean you’re more prone to catching the office cold or a nasty stomach bug.
3. Bone pain
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium, so when you lack vitamin D, you may also be lacking in calcium. Calcium is an essential part of bone strength, so, having a calcium deficiency can make everyday activities and movements painful.
The areas where bone pain is most likely to present itself are the lower back, pelvis, hips, legs, and ribs. The pain can become worse when you put pressure on these parts. If you’re starting to notice unexplained aches in your bones, try a vitamin D supplement!
4. Muscle pain
A vitamin D deficiency has been found to be a potential cause of muscle pain. One explanation could be that the vitamin D receptor is in the nerve cells that sense pain, which are called nociceptors.
Studies suggest that those with muscular pains, such as growing pains, and already have a deficiency, noticed a decrease in pain after taking vitamin D supplements [iii].
5. Wounds not healing
Wounds from injuries and surgeries are said to heal at a slower rate in those with a vitamin D deficiency. The vitamin increases the production of compounds that are vital for the renewal of skin cells, an important part of the wound healing process.
Vitamin D also plays an essential role in controlling inflammation and fighting off infections, which both assist in healing wounds. This could also help in defeating acne scars and blemishes that are worsened by inflammation.
There’s a reason people feel happier in the sun! Vitamin D can increase mood levels, but the direct link isn’t clear cut. As said above, vitamin D helps to increase energy levels and lower pain, which would inevitably improve the mood of someone who suffers from fatigue or pain.
Researchers have found a correlation between depression and vitamin D deficiency, stating that those with a vitamin D deficiency are more prone to depression.
It’s difficult to pinpoint anything down to a vitamin D deficiency, but if you do notice any of these symptoms, it could be down to that! Those that are at higher risk of the deficiency (which are listed at the beginning), need to ensure that they have enough direct sunlight! Of course, keep your skin safe, too!
If you are concerned about your skin, add foods to your diet that contain vitamin D, and take supplements to increase your intake. You may notice some changes to your everyday mood!
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