Few people are aware that Vitamin D is not exactly a vitamin – rather, it is a prohormone, i.e. a substance that is converted into a hormone into our body. You might have come across the notion that a huge part of the population is secretly Vitamin D deficient, and this has surfaced with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, as recent studies have shown that a Vitamin D deficiency is linked with a higher mortality rate.
Vitamin D serves many important roles within the body, including that of controlling blood calcium levels. It assists with calcium absorption and utilization. The calcium mineralization of bones, for instance, helps create and maintain healthy and strong bones.
This vitamin also blocks the release of the parathyroid hormone. This action is critical to bone health, as the parathyroid hormone soaks up bone tissue and increases the risk of brittle and thin bones.
Vitamin D also protects against infections and illnesses by bolstering the immune system.
Additionally, some research suggests that this vitamin may:
Lower the risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancer
Prevent and treat diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis
Decrease the risk of neuro-degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD), and Parkinson’s disease. (2)
D-ficient? Odds are you don’t know.
According to the Vitamin D Council, symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can be subtle—or even nonexistent—in the early stages. You might experience some tiredness and general aches and pains, but these symptoms are easy to dismiss because there are many things that cause them.
Aches and pains? You can easily chalk them up to the aftereffects of your last workout—or simply not being 20 anymore. Tiredness? That could be because you aren’t getting enough quality sleep.
However, according to research, one symptom to note is problems with breathing.
And here is how the link between Vitamin D and Coronavirus mortality rates is not so surprising. A study carried out by The University of Western Australia, the Busselton Health Study and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital found vitamin D deficiency can contribute to poor respiratory functioning and health in middle-aged adults.
Alongside playing an important tour in maintaining healthy bones, the study suggested vitamin D may also play an important role in respiratory health through its effects on lung development and structure, respiratory muscle strength, inflammation and immune response to respiratory pathogens.
This is why it is critical a Vitamin D deficiency is noticed on time.
Here are 15 subtle signs that you have a vitamin D deficiency:
Depression and low mood can be related to a number of physiological and psychological factors. However, there is scientific evidence that links a vitamin D deficiency to depression, especially in older people.
One study found that women given vitamin D supplements during the winter reported decreased symptoms of depression, while another study found a connection between symptoms of depression and low vitamin D levels in obese patients.
Depression is a complex mental health issue that is best treated with the help of medical professionals, but research suggests that taking a vitamin D supplement might be a helpful tool in staving off the blues.
You’re constantly tired even though you’re getting enough sleep
Fatigue and tiredness can have a number of causes, but a vitamin D deficiency is definitely one of them.
Vitamin D is incredibly important to bone health, as it helps your body absorb calcium and build a strong skeletal system. When you’re deficient, you’re more likely to have bone problems and an aching back.
One study of more than 9,000 older women found that there was an association between low vitamin D levels and chronic lower back pain. Some of the women with very low levels of vitamin D even experienced severe back pain that limited their ability to do daily tasks.
Your joints are more sore than usual after hitting the gym.
Foto: Aches and pains might be a sign of a deficiency.sourceMaria Fernandez Gonzalez/Unsplash
Joints such as your knees, hips, and vertebrae are especially prone to problems if you have chronically low levels of vitamin D, so talk to your doctor about any aches and pains you think might be related to a vitamin D deficiency.
There is some evidence that vitamin D deficiency might be one potential cause of muscle weakness and muscle pain.
Vitamin D plays a part in the health of nerve cells called nociceptors, which relay pain to the brain. Though muscle problems can have a range of causes, one study found that 71% of participants with chronic muscle pain were found to the deficient in vitamin D.
Another study found that taking high doses of vitamin D might help to lessen pain in people with low levels of the vitamin.
Talking to your doctor is the first step in diagnosing muscle pain, but it’s always a good idea to make sure your vitamin levels are in a health range.
Your hair seems thinner or more brittle than usual
If you’re noticing that your hair isn’t as thick and lush as normal, you might want to look into upping your intake of vitamin D.
Though research into the effects of vitamin D on hair loss isn’t very robust, one study did find a connection between low vitamin D levels and hair loss in women.
Very low levels of vitamin D can also lead to rickets, which is a disease that causes soft and brittle bones in children. Rickets is sometimes associated with a hair loss disorder called alopecia areata. However, it’s very unlikely that a healthy adult will develop alopecia areata from low levels of vitamin D.
Your cuts or bruises take forever to heal
Does it seem like every minor bump or scrape has you going through boxes of bandages? Impaired wound healing can be a sign that you’re deficient in vitamin D.
Some studies have found that the sunshine vitamin might actually increase production of compounds that are important to the process of forming new skin. There’s also some evidence that vitamin D could help control inflammation and fight infection. If you’re severely deficient in vitamin D, you might also have a harder time recovering from surgery.
You’re not getting enough sunshine
If your daily routine typically involves going straight from your house to your car, to your office and back again, you might not be spending enough time outside for your skin to make enough the vitamin D to satisfy your body’s needs.
According to the National Institutes of Health, most people need about 600 IU of vitamin D daily. Though you can get vitamin D2 from foods like dairy, egg yolk, beef liver, and fatty fish, most people who don’t spend at least 30 minutes twice a week outdoors without sun protection aren’t making enough vitamin D to support their health. Taking a supplement is a good way to maintain healthy levels.
Further, although wearing sunscreen regularly is a great healthy habit that will help protect you from potentially cancer-causing overexposure to UVA and UVB rays, it can also limit your body’s ability to make its own vitamin D.
You’re having trouble getting or maintaining an erection
According to one small study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, men with severe erectile dysfunction (ED) had much lower vitamin D levels than men with mild ED.
Researchers suggested that a lack of vitamin D might affect a man’s arteries, making them less able to dilate and fill the penis with blood. More research is needed to confirm a link between erectile dysfunction and vitamin D deficiency, but it may be something to bring up with your doctor if you’re experiencing problems with sexual performance.
It took you forever to get over your last cold
One of the most important roles vitamin D plays is keeping your immune system in top condition. When you’re deficient in this key vitamin, it might take you longer to get over minor infections and viruses.
In fact, having low levels of vitamin D might make you more susceptible to catching respiratory tract infections like colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia, according to recent research.
Years ago, doctors used to ask new mothers if their newborns’ heads were sweating more than normal. This can be a very early sign that a baby is vitamin D deficient. If you’re breastfeeding, it may be helpful to consume more foods that are rich in vitamin D or include some vitamin D drops in your regimen to make sure your baby is getting a sufficient amount.
Vitamin D is known to have an effect on over 2,000 genes in the human body, so it’s no surprise that the strength of your body’s immune system is also tied to how much vitamin D you are taking in.
When there’s a healthy amount of vitamin D being processed by your body, your immune system is resilient and able to fight off infections and disease. However, a lack of vitamin D can be devastating to your overall health and leave you vulnerable to constant attacks and health problems or scares.
Psoriasis may present itself as a scaly rash on your scalp or other parts of your body. Often it can be agitated by stress (unfortunately, finding out you have psoriasis tends to cause stress too). Although psoriasis is not always connected to a lack of vitamin D, the vitamin is sometimes used during treatment. The Mayo Clinic claims that if you have a lack of vitamin D, it will be harder for your body to defend itself against psoriasis.
Harvard University conducted review of health studies across numerous cohorts that associated increased risk of multiple health outcomes including cardiovascular disease and hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure) with vitamin D deficiency.
As we mentioned in relation to depression, vitamin D affects the levels of serotonin in your brain, which is what affects your mood. If you’re feeling cranky, it might be because you’re not producing enough serotonin. Vitamin D will help your moods stay balanced by ensuring your brain is working with the materials it needs to stay energized and focused.
If you notice mood swings that seem out of the ordinary, visit your doctor for a simple blood test. They will be able to identify what’s going on, and if a lack of vitamin D is the issue, they’ll help you make a plan to get better.
The solution may be as simple as getting out in sunlight more often or eating foods that are rich in vitamin D. For people who can’t handle too much direct exposure to the sun, supplements are readily available, so consider reaching for some before going off on anyone or getting too frustrated with yourself!
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