The body needs vitamin D to promote bone growth, absorb calcium properly, and for other essential body functions. Individuals who don't get enough of the mineral run the risk of osteomalacia in adults, and fragile, soft bones in children. Thirty minutes of sun exposure twice a week will give individuals plenty of vitamin D. It is also found in fatty fish, yogurt, milk, eggs, and cheese. A vitamin D deficiency may be linked to an increased frequency of illness including prostate, colon, and breast cancer; depression, heart disease, weight gain, and other health issues. Research shows individuals who have sufficient levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of disease. Vitamin D is helpful in treating osteoporosis, flu, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disease, autism, chronic pain, heart disease, high blood pressure, and neuromuscular diseases.
Here are some warning signs of a vitamin D deficiency.
Increased Frequency Of Illness
A 2014 study determined a severe vitamin D deficiency in adults doubled their risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. They found individuals with low vitamin D have a seventy percent chance of developing Alzheimer's and those who had a severely low level jumped to 120 percent.
There is also a link between low blood levels of vitamin D and aggressive prostate cancer in men. Research has shown men with severe erectile dysfunction (ED) had significantly lower levels of vitamin D than men with mild ED. There is an association between vitamin D deficiency and heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes. Individuals can reduce their risk of heart disease by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a healthy diet, including good sources of vitamin D.
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Fatigue is one of the most prevalent symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. Chronic daytime drowsiness can have a negative impact on an individual's quality of life, and low blood levels can cause myopathy and skeletal muscle fatigue. Cancer patients, in particular, have shown an increase in exhaustion. Another symptom of vitamin D deficiency is sleep apnea, sudden jerking body movements while sleeping, and intermittently waking up at night. A study on women found those with low levels of vitamin D complained of exhaustion more than those with normal levels. Lower vitamin D is also linked with lower hemoglobin and anemia. Those who are anemic are prone to experience chronic drowsiness.
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Back And Bone Pain
Vitamin D plays an important role when it comes to bone health, as it improves the body's absorption of calcium, which is necessary for building and keeping bones healthy. Almost one hundred percent of the calcium in our bodies is in our teeth and bones.
If individuals experience chronic lower back pain or bone pain, they may be deficient in vitamin D. Back and bone pain includes pain in the ribs, legs, or joints. Inadequate levels of vitamin D is particularly common in individuals with muscle knots. A recent study showed patients with low vitamin D who also took painkillers needed twice as much medication than those with normal vitamin D levels.
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Delayed Wound Healing
For the body to recover correctly, it must have adequate nutrients, vitamins, and other essential elements. A deficiency in vitamin D, which plays a significant role in the recovery process, will slow the healing process of wounds. An injury causes cells in the skin to demand high amounts of vitamin D.
Vitamin D manages genes that promote the creation of antimicrobial peptides that support the immune system and fight infections from wounds. A deficiency in vitamin D compromises the immune system making one more susceptible to harmful bacteria. Increasing one's intake of vitamin D will prevent delayed wound healing resulting and speed up the recovery process.
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Hair And Bone Loss
Evidence indicates hair and bone loss is a result of a vitamin D deficiency, as vitamin D helps stimulate hair follicle growth. The hair is affected when individuals don't get enough of the nutrient. A deficiency is also linked to alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. Research shows individuals with alopecia showed lower blood levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed in creating new hair follicles that will also prevent existing hair from falling out. Low bone density is associated with low levels of vitamin D. Those who are chronically low in the vitamin are more likely to have low bone density resulting in broken bones or fractures.
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Depression And Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are two of the most common signs of a vitamin D deficiency. Some individuals experience these mental health issues without realizing there may be an underlying vitamin deficiency causing the problem. One condition, seasonal affective disorder, is caused in part because of the lack of vitamin D individuals experience in the winter. Multiple studies have shown individuals with a vitamin D deficiency also tend to have depression, especially older adults who have a deficiency. In fact, one analysis of different study data indicated sixty-five percent of those with low vitamin D in the blood also experienced depression. Some studies showed there wasn't a significant link between vitamin D and depression. However, individuals in those studies were taking very low dose supplements. Additionally, the studies didn't last for long periods, which means there may not have been enough time to see the long-term effects of vitamin D supplements on mood.
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Patients with a vitamin D deficiency might experience ongoing or intermittent muscle weakness. This may also be paired with other symptoms like bone weakness or muscle aching. Studies have shown the muscle weakness tends to be reversible once patients are treated for vitamin D deficiency. In particular, older adults who have vitamin D deficiencies tend to have a higher risk of falling or experiencing proximal weakness. What's more, the bone health problems caused by vitamin D deficiencies mean a fall is more likely to result in broken bones. Muscle weakness and pain tend to present non-specifically in individuals with vitamin D deficiencies, meaning there's not one particular muscle group or part of the body that's more likely to be targeted. Some patients have found adding vitamin D supplements to their diet helps reduce the amount of muscle weakness they feel. However, for those who have severe deficiencies, it might be necessary to get much higher doses of prescription-strength supplements.
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Muscle Aches And Cramps
Muscle aches and cramps are often a key sign of vitamin D deficiency, especially when they're combined with bone weakness and muscle weakness. With that said, some individuals might experience muscle pain without any other symptoms and still have a vitamin D deficiency. Doctors need to keep vitamin deficiencies in mind when talking to patients who are dealing with ongoing and widespread muscle pain without any apparent cause. Multiple studies have been done indicating vitamin D deficiencies may cause muscle pain in both adults and children. In fact, a study done of individuals with chronic pain found seventy-one percent of the participants had a deficiency. The receptor for vitamin D is in the nociceptors, nerve cells responsible for sensing pain. If an individual is deficient in this vitamin, their nociceptors can't function as well, which may lead to a heightened sensitivity to painful stimuli. For those who are deficient, supplements have been shown in multiple studies to help reduce overall pain. For children with the deficiency, a study indicated taking supplements could help reduce overall pain by fifty-seven percent.
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Certain types of weight gain might be related to a vitamin D deficiency. Suddenly gaining weight is also often a sign of metabolic issues like low thyroid hormone. If individuals gain weight without having changed their diet or lifestyle, they should talk to a doctor to determine the underlying cause. Studies have shown individuals with large amounts of belly fat and large waistline circumferences have a higher likelihood of being vitamin D deficient. There has long been an established link between vitamin D levels and obesity. More in-depth research studies have pinpointed the vitamin D deficiency specifically to higher percentages of belly fat. The findings were consistent across all genders and ages. The reason for this isn't well known. It's not known whether the vitamin D deficiency will lead to storing more belly fat, or whether storing more belly fat makes the body more likely to develop a deficiency. Some of the correlation may be because lower vitamin D makes the body believe it's winter. Food scarcity in the winter might then lead the body to slow its metabolism and increase fat storage around the belly.
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A vitamin D deficiency might lead to increased irritability. For some patients, these feelings of irritability might correlate with depression and anxiety. In fact, depression and anxiety are both likely to present with irritability as a symptom. Anxiety may cause individuals to snap at others due to increased stress, while depression lowers overall energy and the ability to tolerate difficult situations. It's hard to have a positive outlook and to connect with others when depression and anxiety are both sapping energy. More research is necessary regarding the establishment of a link between irritability and a vitamin D deficiency. For one thing, it's uncertain if individuals who are unusually irritable without other mental health symptoms have a higher likelihood of developing a vitamin D deficiency. Some research has been done regarding the prescription of vitamin D supplements in a psychiatric hospital, but it's not conclusive yet.