Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D? 5 Signs You May Be Deficient

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D? 5 Signs You May Be Deficient

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D? 5 Signs You May Be Deficient

Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because the body produces the vital nutrient when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight for about 10 to 30 minutes.

Vitamin D is essential because it helps the body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks of strong bones, according to the National Institutes of Health. Vitamin D also supports the immune system and plays a vital role in keeping the body’s muscles and nerves healthy.

Besides sunlight, people can get vitamin D through food or supplements. However, 35 percent of U.S. adults and 61 percent of older people in the United States are vitamin D deficient, according to figures from StatPearls, a leading professional healthcare education and technology company.

Those who are most at risk for vitamin D deficiency are the elderly, people who are obese, patients in the hospital, and nursing home residents, according to Arielle “Dani” Lebovitz, a Franklin, Tennessee-based registered pediatric dietician, food education expert, and founder of the Kid Food Explorers. 

“The body naturally converts sunlight to vitamin D in the body. However, people who use sunscreen, have higher melanin in their skin, spend most of their time indoors, live in an area without a lot of sunshine or cities with high amounts of pollution are less likely to meet their daily vitamin D needs and may benefit from a supplement,” Lebovitz told the New York Post.

How Do You Know if You Have a Vitamin D Deficiency?

Like other health concerns, there are warning signs and symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency. The following are five signs to watch for:

1. Frequently getting sick

Vitamin D helps the immune system stay balanced so that it can fight off bacteria and viruses. Scientists say too much stimulation in the immune system can lead to allergies, autoimmune diseases, and chronic inflammation. On the other hand, too little stimulation can cause illnesses and infections.

2. Body pain

Low levels of Vitamin D mean lower calcium levels, which can lead to muscle aches, pain, and osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break. “Osteoporosis is most often associated with inadequate calcium intakes, but insufficient vitamin D intakes contribute to osteoporosis by reducing calcium absorption,” according to the National Institutes of Health. 

3. Poor dental health

Vitamin D not only helps maintain healthy bones in the body but also provides calcium to your teeth. Because of this, a vitamin D deficiency can cause “dental issues such as cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease,” Lebovitz said. One study associated low vitamin D levels with an increased risk of periodontitis, a serious disease that can infect the gums and tissues surrounding the teeth. The infection can move from the gums into the bone supporting the teeth. A weakened bone can cause teeth to become loose or fall out in some cases.

4. Mental health issues and low energy 

Several studies have linked low vitamin D levels with depression or depressive symptoms but found that the symptoms improve after people take vitamin D supplements. For instance, a 2020 study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety found that vitamin D supplementation can reduce negative emotions, and people with a vitamin D deficiency or major depressive disorder are more likely to benefit from supplementation.

5. Problems losing weight

Findings from observational studies suggest a strong link between obesity and low vitamin D levels, which could potentially be one reason why people with obesity have problems losing weight. Lebovitz noted that people with higher weight and fatty tissue are likelier to have a vitamin D deficiency. She cited a study published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology that associated obesity with inflammation in the body. The researchers found that both weight loss and supplementing with vitamin D could help lower inflammation.

The Best Food Sources for Vitamin D

While getting vitamin D from natural sunlight is ideal, eating foods rich in vitamin D is also a way of getting the nutrient. Nutritionists say among the best foods with high vitamin D levels are:

    Fatty fish. Halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, and other fatty fish are good sources of vitamin D. Furthermore, fatty fish are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have found that omega-3s in fish provide protection against cardiovascular disease, promote brain health, ease pain, and reduce inflammation throughout the body.

    Dairy Products. Many dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, are fortified with vitamin D. Fortified foods add vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients that are not naturally found in the foods. Non-dairy milk, such as soy milk, coconut milk, and almond milk, is also fortified with vitamin D.

    Egg Yolks. Nutritionists say eggs are one of the few food sources that naturally have vitamin D. Whole eggs are one of the most popular foods around since they can be eaten at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Most vitamins, minerals, and fat are found in the egg yolk, while most of the protein is found in the egg white.

Other foods that are good sources of vitamin D are UV-exposed mushrooms, breakfast cereals, orange juice, and beef liver, Lebovitz said.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

While vitamin D is essential, many people may not know how much of the nutrient is needed to stay healthy. The amount of vitamin D someone needs depends on whether or not that person has a vitamin deficiency, nutritionists say. However, there are recommended amounts for daily consumption of vitamin D.

For instance, the Endocrine Society, a professional, international medical organization in the field of endocrinology and metabolism, suggests adults need 37.5 to 50 mcg or 1,500-2000 International Units (IU) a day of supplemental vitamin D, Lebovitz said. An IU is a global standard that measures the biological effectiveness of a vitamin or mineral. Lebovitz added that children and adolescents may need at least 25 mcg or 1,000 IUs a day.

“A safe dose for daily use for people age 4+ without signs of deficiency is 10mcg or 400 IU/day,” she told the New York Post.

Clarissa Lenherr, a London-based nutritionist, warned against taking too much vitamin D. While it’s safe for people who do not have a vitamin deficiency to take the recommended amount, “vitamin D supplementation can be toxic or problematic at high levels, so you don’t want to take high doses of vitamin D without testing your blood,” Lenherr told The Standard.

Lebovitz agreed and advised following “up with your primary care physician or your medical provider if you think you may be at risk for deficiency.”

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