Vitamin D is enormously important and is vitally needed for the proper functioning of various systems throughout your body – building strong muscles and bones, regulating blood pressure, relieving fibromyalgia pain, and decelerating the advancement of multiple sclerosis.
Since vitamin D is significant to your health and functioning of body systems, it’s low levels can lead to serious health issues.
The principal source of vitamin D is sunlight, right outside your door. Your body produces it from cholesterol when exposed to the sunlight.
To some extent, it can also be obtained from certain foods like fatty fish and fortified dairy products. However, it’s quite difficult to obtain enough from diet alone.
Vitamin D deficiency is fairly common. The rough estimate is that more one billion people worldwide suffer from lack of vitamin D in their blood.
Useful Related Post: Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
Risk Factors For Vitamin D Deficiency
There are a number of factors that can put you at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. I have reviewed several research studies and listed the most common risk factors that make you susceptible to vitamin D deficiency:
(i) Having darker skin
(ii) Being elderly
(iii) Being obese or even overweight
(iv) Having high muscle mass and low fat
(vi) Not eating much fish or dairy
(vii) Living further from the equator or where there is little sunlight year-round
(viii) Always using sunscreen while out door or excessively protecting yourself from the sun
(ix) Living in a polluted city
(x) Staying mostly indoors
(xi) Having impaired kidneys
(xii) Having digestive problems
The individuals who have any of the above characteristics, it’s more likely they need higher amounts of vitamin D to compensate for the risk factors.
People who live at places where they get frequent sun exposure or near the equator are less likely to be lacking in vitamin D because they get frequent sun exposure, so their skin synthesizes enough vitamin D to meet their bodies’ needs.
Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms And Signs
Low vitamin D level symptoms are usually so subtle that generally people are unable to realize that they are having low levels of vitamin D. Even when they’re having a considerable negative effect on their quality of life, they may not notice them.
Note: Many people lacking in vitamin D levels may not experience symptoms or even may go for years without having symptoms. Moreover, the vitamin D insufficiency symptoms can be vague or change over time, and are similar to symptoms of many other diseases.
Hence, it is recommended that instead of self-diagnosing – you check with your doctor about whether you are having a vitamin D deficiency or not.
Just for the sake of knowledge, here are the most common symptoms and effects of vitamin D deficiency.
Getting Sick / Infected Easily Or Often
One of the vitamin D’s important roles is maintaining your immune system robust, enabling you to fend off viruses and bacteria that can otherwise lead to illness (Source 1).
There can be many causes for falling sick frequently due to cold and flu, and vitamin D deficiency is one of them.
In one research study in which people with the chronic lung disorder COPD participated, only those who were having severely low vitamin D levels experienced considerable benefit after taking a high-dose of vitamin D supplement for one year (Source: 7).
Fatigue, Exhaustion And Tiredness
Being low in vitamin D levels can possibly be a reason for feeling tired or exhausted even after having enough rest and sleep.
Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked.
In one case study, a woman who was suffering from chronic daytime tiredness and headaches was shown to have a vitamin D blood level of just 5.9 ng/ml. This is very low, as anything below 20 ng/ml is considered deficient. When this woman was put on a vitamin D supplementation, her level augmented to 39 ng/ml and her symptoms disappeared (Source: 9).
However, even a slightly low vitamin D level may have a negative effect on the energy levels.
A large experimental study examined the co-relation between vitamin D and fatigue in young women.
The study discovered that women with vitamin D levels lower than 20 ng/ml or even 21–29 ng/ml were more likely to complain of tiredness and exhaustion compared to those with blood levels over 30 ng/ml (Source: 10).
Another research study in female nurses showed a distinct relationship between low vitamin D levels and self-reported tiredness. Moreover, the researchers observed that 89% of the nurses were vitamin D deficient (Source: 11).
Chronic Pain In Bones
Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining bones health in several ways.
For example, it boosts your body’s abilities to absorb calcium effectively.
Bone pain & lower back pain may be indications of inadequate levels of vitamin D levels in your blood.
One large observation study examined more than 9,000 older women for relationship between vitamin D levels and back pain. The researchers discovered that people with deficiency of vitamin D were more prone to have back pain; so much so – sometimes even severe back pain that limited their every day routine activities.
In one controlled observational study, it was found that people lacking in vitamin D were about two times more likely to suffer from bone pain in their legs, ribs or joints than those having blood levels in the normal range (Source: 15).
Low Bone Density And Thinning Or Brittle Bones
Vitamin D has a key role in bone metabolism and calcium absorption.
Whereas majority of elderly people who suffer from bone loss believe that they need to take more calcium, the real cause could be that they are deficient in vitamin D as well.
Low bone density is a sign that the bones have lost calcium and other minerals. This put older adults, particularly women, at an enhanced risk of fractures.
In a large research study in which more than 1,100 middle-aged women, in menopause or post menopause period, participated – the researchers discovered a strong connection between vitamin D deficiency and low bone mineral density (Source: 16).
In view of these discoveries, sufficient vitamin D intake and maintaining it within the recommended range could be a workable approach for conserving bone mass and decreasing fracture risk.
Depression And Anxiety
Low level of vitamin D may also lead to depressed mood.
In one review of many observational studies, a close relationship was revealed between low vitamin D levels in blood and depressionin in 65% of the cases .
Hair loss occurs often because of stress. Moreover, when hair loss is acute, it could be due to a disease or nutrient deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms in women may lead to a typical female-pattern hair loss.
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms in women include hair loss, although there is not much research on this so far (Source: 19).
Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease, is characterized by acute hair loss from head and other parts of the body. It’s linked to rickets, a disease that leads to soft bones in children because of vitamin D deficiency (Source: 20).
Other observational studies have also linked low vitamin D levels with alopecia areata, which supports the hypothesis vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for onset and progression of this disease (Source: 21, 22, 23).
Another study on people suffering from alopecia areata found that lower vitamin D levels are likely to be linked with a more acute hair loss (Source: 24).
The exact cause of muscle pain is often difficult to ascertain.
In one research study, 71 percent of people suffering from chronic pain were found to be having vitamin D deficiency (Source: 28).
One study involving 120 children who were deficient in vitamin D and suffering from growing pains showed that a single dose of the vitamin D decreased pain scores by an average 57 percent.