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5 Scary Signs you Have Vitamin D Deficiency

Wondering why you can’t seem to shake that cold or stomach infection with medication? Chances are an underlying Vitamin D deficiency could be jeopardising your recovery.

Vitamin D is stored and synthesised in the body naturally, activated by the liver and kidney when exposed to the sun (hence, the nickname “sunshine vitamin”). It’s key to maintaining calcium and phosphate levels in the body as well as keeping our immune system healthy.

Several factors have contributed to the rising incidence of Vitamin D deficiency. The main one is lack of proper exposure to sunlight – because we don’t spend enough time outdoors. Our sedentary lifestyle is another problem. It’s found that people who are overweight/obese are more prone to Vitamin D deficiency.

Since Vitamin D is a fat-soluble compound (i.e. it only dissolves in fat and is stored in fat throughout the body), a high-fat deposition in the body creates a greater demand for Vitamin D. Research has also shown people with dark skin pigmentation are more at risk as their skin colour blocks the sun’s ability to stimulate Vitamin D production. (Applying too much sunscreen can lead to a similar problem.) Genetic and other medical conditions such as liver and kidney disease can also cause a shortfall.

A Vitamin D deficiency isn’t easy to diagnose, as it doesn’t always cause symptoms until levels become very low or have been low for some time. But some of the more alarming signs to watch out for include:

#1 Bone Health

The body absorbs calcium with the help of Vitamin D and lack of calcium results in low bone density. Weak bones can lead to osteoporosis, and the loss of bone density, which can lead to fractures. Usually, people who experience muscle or joint pain think their calcium levels are low and take supplements without even realizing that the real problem is Vitamin D deficiency.

According to Bone Health & Osteoporosis Organisation, Vitamin D plays a very crucial role for women during menopause wherein bone density decreases increasing the risk for osteoporosis.

#2 Gastric Infections

Problems in the digestive tract can cause inadequate absorption of Vitamin D. So if you experience chronic gas, bloating and constipation or irritable bowel syndrome, you should get your levels checked.

Adequate intake of Vitamin D reduces the risk of colon cancer and can help colon cancer patients fight it.

#3 Frequent colds

Shortage of Vitamin D impacts the immune system. So if you find yourself catching colds more than once or twice per month, it may be because your levels are low. Vitamin D helps fight acute respiratory issues such as asthma and eczema as well.

#4 Depression

Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, falls with decreased sun exposure resulting in a lack of Vitamin D.

Another way to look at it is that people who spend more time indoors lack Vitamin D and are more likely to have a strained social life. The lack of a social circle discourages them to go out and this, in turn, ties them into a degenerative cycle.

#5 Adverse effect on children’s growth.

This applies specifically to children. Kids who appear too short for their age should get their Vitamin D levels tested, and a calcium deficiency may be stunting their growth. Extreme Vitamin D deficiency among babies between the ages of 6-23 months and adolescents aged 12-25 years can result in rickets.

Rickets is a condition that leads to softening and weakening of bones that cause several deformities. Inversely, adding enough Vitamin D to the daily routine can help cure several growth issues among young children.

Insufficient amount of Vitamin D among children can be the reason for issues like irritability, developmental delays, frequent fractures etc.

What’s the best way to make up for a Vitamin D shortfall?

An average adult needs 100-200 IU of Vitamin D daily. While doctors do recommend supplements and injections to boost Vitamin D levels in the body, it’s important to know that spending time in the sun is the best way to beat the shortfall. Spend a minimum of 15 minutes outdoors in the morning, from 8 am until noon. Exercise or walk during this time, wearing light coloured clothes, to gain the full benefit of sun exposure.

While the number of foods that contain Vitamin D is few, remember that without the help of fat, it cannot be absorbed or utilised in the body. So following the right diet is important. These are some foods you can choose from daily:

A 200-300 ml glass of milkTwo 50 g pieces of oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines30 g serving of whole soya beans or dried beans like rajma, chana1 egg yolk30 g serving of mushrooms

These simple guidelines will ensure your Vitamin D levels remain in check and will keep those scary symptoms at bay.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I increase my vitamin D level?

While doctors do recommend supplements and injections to boost Vitamin D levels in the body, spending time in the sun is the best way to beat the shortfall. Spend a minimum of 15 minutes outdoors in the morning, from 8 am until noon. Exercise or walk during this time wearing light coloured clothes to gain the full benefit of sun exposure.

What causes vitamin D deficiency in adults?

Several factors contribute to Vitamin D deficiency among adults. The main reason is the lack of proper exposure to sunlight. Our sedentary lifestyle is another problem. It’s found that people who are overweight/obese are more prone to Vitamin D deficiency. Since Vitamin D is a fat-soluble compound (i.e. it only dissolves in fat and is stored in fat throughout the body), a high-fat deposition in the body creates a greater demand for Vitamin D. Research has also shown people with dark skin pigmentation are at a higher risk as their skin colour blocks the sun’s ability to stimulate Vitamin D production. Applying too much sunscreen can lead to a similar problem. Genetic and other medical conditions such as liver and kidney disease can also cause a shortfall.

Can vitamin D deficiency be cured?

Yes, Vitamin D deficiency can be easily cured. While doctors do recommend supplements and injections to boost Vitamin D levels in the body, spending time in the sun is the best way to beat the shortfall. Spend a minimum of 15 minutes outdoors in the morning, from 10 am- 11 am. Exercise or walk during this time wearing light coloured clothes to gain the full benefit of sun exposure.

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in adults?

Vitamin D strengthens the immune system and helps keep illness and particularly respiratory infections at bay. Thus deficiency of this vitamin can cause one to fall sick frequently. Other symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, back pain, body ache, slow healing of wounds and poor hair health. 

Which fruit is rich in vitamin D?

Orange is the best source of Vitamin D among the few food sources that contain this vitamin in good amounts. Eating an orange or having a glass of orange juice will help you meet your Vitamin D requirement. Having said that, exposure to sunlight is the best way to keep up the Vitamin D needs of your body. 

Do bananas have vitamin D in them?

Bananas are the second-best source of Vitamin D after oranges among fruits. Being a great source of magnesium, they activate vitamin D in the body to get its optimal benefit. 

Does vitamin D affect sleep?

Vitamin D and sleep have a direct link. The deficiency of vitamin D in the body can lead to many sleep disorders like shorter duration of sleep, and disturbed sleep patterns that reduces the quality of sleep. Insufficient Vitamin D in the body can cause nose and nostril inflammation associated with sleep apnea. Vitamin D is also involved in the production of the hormone called Melatonin which regulates the human circadian rhythm and thus regulates sleep. 

Can lack of vitamin D cause dizziness?

Vitamin D plays an important role in blood regulation and fluid balance. Lack of the required amount of Vitamin D hampers these functions making one feel dizzy and tired all the time. 

Does low vitamin D cause weight gain?

No, Vitamin D does not cause weight gain. Vitamin d supports weight loss. 

Can lack of vitamin D cause anxiety?

Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, falls with decreased sun exposure resulting in Vitamin D deficiency. The imbalance of serotonin can cause a number of mental conditions like depression and anxiety. 

Can vitamin D deficiency affect your hair?

Vitamin D stimulates hair follicles and thus its deficiency can adversely affect hair growth. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to alopecia. Alopecia is an autoimmune condition which causes bald patches on the scalp. Furthermore, a good level of Vitamin D in the body has been found to promote hair growth and improve its quality. 

How long does it take to recover from vitamin D deficiency?

The recovery period of any Vitamin deficiency in one’s body depends on the corrective measures and personal factors like immunity, age, genetics, etc. However, it generally takes 3-4 months to recover from Vitamin D deficiency. 

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