What comes to mind when you hear ‘Vitamin D?’ You probably think of milk, which is certainly a source of it, but there are several others as well. You probably think of your bones as well. Believe it or not, by and large, the most significant source of Vitamin D for most people come directly from the sun. This is a good thing, considering that very few people get enough vitamin D from their diets. Most people aren’t aware of the fact that even with a healthy diet, it can be difficult to get the full RDA of Vitamin D from food alone.
Some of the best sources of Vitamin D include salmon, followed distantly by fortified beverages like orange juice and milk. While the fatty skin of fish is a good resource for Vitamin D, other foods, such as eggs, beef, and cheese contain trace amounts of it- hence the need for fortified sources or supplements. The average adult should strive for approximately 600 IU of Vitamin D a day. If that sounds confusing, you’re not alone. 1 IU varies depending on what’s being measured. In the case of Vitamin D, 1 IU is about equal to 25 ng cholecalciferol/ergocalciferol.
Did that clear it up any? No? Well, the important thing to know is that Vitamin D is critical for the human body; without it, you’re at risk for serious illnesses, including rickets and osteoporosis. If you’re not sure how you’re doing as far as Vitamin D intake goes, the good news is, you can at least keep an eye out for the warning signs and risk factors of a Vitamin D deficiency. Even before a serious illness, there are telltale signs that your body is in need of Vitamin D, and people who fall into certain categories have an increased risk of developing a Vitamin D deficiency. You can learn about them here.
11. Ain’t No Sunshine
While this may have less to do with genetics, where you live can be a big factor in your odds of a Vitamin D Deficiency. Given that the majority of Vitamin D is obtained from the sun, locations on the earth much closer to the equator generally yield more of it, because they receive more sunlight year round. For locations further from the equator, sunlight is less frequent, and for certain stretches of the year at the very north and south, nonexistent. Generally, it’s easy to get Vitamin D in the summer sunshine, but winter months may lead to deficiency.
10. Time Heals All Wounds…Slowly.
There is some evidence to show that a lack of Vitamin D can cause a person’s wounds to heal much more slowly. This is because Vitamin D is largely involved in the creation of crucial components for skin repair and recovery. There is also the fact that Vitamin D counteracts inflammation and infection, which is very important for wounds to heal properly. While there is definitely room for more research on the matter, a lack of resources to repair injuries, along with increased opposition in the form of infection sounds like it would result in a much slower recovery time.
If you find that you are inexplicably sore and tired, it may be an indicator that you are suffering from a Vitamin D deficiency. There are a number of theories behind this. When it comes to energy levels, a low level of Vitamin D in the blood can result in a feeling of constant exhaustion. Likewise, without Vitamin D to properly regulate certain receptors on the body’s muscles, a patient can experience muscle pain due to improper stimulation. Both fatigue and pain are symptoms of numerous ailments, however, so it is quite easy to overlook Vitamin D as a remedy.
8. Painful Bones
If you find that you often have pain in your bones, especially during periods of cold weather, you may be suffering a vitamin D deficiency, or at least be at risk for one. Typically, deficiencies that manifest this way will be characterized by stiff and aching joints, especially when one is waking up in the morning, which can make getting around much more difficult. Winter months can also be especially difficult due to the fact that, along with the cold weather, there is often less sunlight, which can make it harder for one to make up the Vitamin D deficiency.
7. You suffer from Depression
Depression is something that is not terribly well understood, often characterized by certain behaviors. Generally, these behaviors, such as lack of energy, excitement, or enjoyment, loss of appetite, or even suicidal tendencies, stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain. There is some evidence to suggest that Vitamin D could work to improve the levels of certain happiness causing neurotransmitters in the brain. Serotonin, for example, is thought to be bolstered by the presence of Vitamin D, which then leads to an elevated mood. The research on this point is somewhat conflicting; some studies show results, while others do not.
Weight and size are not factors in the production of Vitamin D, but such bulk does cause a problem due to the fact that the higher levels of body fat alters the concentration of Vitamin D in the blood. This is because of the fat solubility of Vitamin D; essentially, because Vitamin D breaks down in fat, the vitamin D that an overweight person gets from the sun and other sources end up getting diluted by the presence of excess fat. If you are overweight, you may have a higher need for Vitamin D to offset the effects of dilution.
5. Darker skin
The advantage that darker skin tones have in sunlight actually comes with an unexpected drawback. Studies have indicated that the same properties that help to protect darker skinned individuals from potentially damaging radiation from the sun also end up interfering with the skin’s ability to draw in Vitamin D. This relationship between protection from the sun and generation of Vitamin D is likewise true with various sunscreen products. Ultimately this leads to variation in how much sun exposure one needs in order to generate a given level of Vitamin D; darker individuals need up to ten times the sun exposure.
4. You’re 50 or older
As we get older, the body begins to break down. This is because the cells that replicate get weaker and weaker, make mistakes, and ultimately fail. This is why we get weaker as we age. Our body’s ability to process vitamin D from sunlight is no exception. The skin simply cannot generate the same levels of Vitamin D as it used to. Furthermore, the kidneys lose some efficiency turning the Vitamin D received into something that the body can take advantage of. Because of their frailty, the elderly may also spend more time indoors, offering less opportunity to absorb sunlight.
3. You Get Sick Often
Oftentimes, when it comes to talking of the common cold or the flu, Vitamin C is touted as the nutrient of choice to help abate the condition. This is no doubt because of the role that Vitamin C plays in bolstering the immune system, the body’s defense against foreign pathogens and the like. However, Vitamin D also plays a very crucial role in this regard. Specifically, Vitamin D is responsible for mobilizing T cells to attack foreign elements. If there is no Vitamin D to signal the cells, they will not be able to activate and do their job appropriately.
2. Gut Feeling
There are certain intestine related troubles, including Crohn’s, celiac, or inflammatory bowel disease, which may make it difficult for the people with such conditions to get enough Vitamin D. Specifically, these diseases and others like them can interfere with the way that Vitamin D is absorbed from the various foods that one eats. This is due to the fact that the fat containing the vitamin D is not being absorbed. That fat, therefore, is not able to be processed correctly by the body’s digestive system, which in turn means that the Vitamin D cannot be processed either, leading to deficiency.
1. Hair Loss
Hair loss has many underlying causes. Typically, stress can be a direct (think pulling your hair out), and indirect (hormonal changes) cause of it. However, a deficiency of Vitamin D can also play a role in the hair’s status. Vitamin D doesn’t just make for healthy bones. It also protects the health of the hair. A lack of it can cause your hair to fall out. Additionally, if this hair loss, known as alopecia areata, is accompanied by heavy sweating of the head, you can be reasonably certain that the issue is the level of Vitamin D in your body.
If you’re concerned about your Vitamin D levels, the best way to ensure you’re getting enough is to practice safe sun exposure; keep in mind, you don’t want to stay out too long, in order to avoid getting sunburnt. However, regular exposure for a few minutes a day ( a half hour or so) can help you avoid a deficiency. If you prefer Vitamin D from other sources, you could instead choose your food more carefully; certain sources of protein, like fish, eggs, and beef liver can help you boost your Vitamin D. Otherwise, supplements are the way to go.