Causes Of Vitamin D Deficiency
The daily intake of vitamin D a person needs in order for their body to function optimally, depends on factors such as age, weight, skin color and their overall health. People whose bodies require a greater intake of vitamin D are at greater risk of experiencing vitamin D deficiency.
Being an infant or an elderly person, being obese, having darker skin and/or experiencing a health condition which compromises oneâs ability to absorb vitamins properly are all factors which may increase the daily quantity of vitamin D an individual requires.
Factors which increase the likelihood of being affected by vitamin D deficiency include:
- Living in countries where there is little sun all year round
- Having darker skin
- Wearing high-factor sunscreen
- Spending the majority of oneâs time indoors
- Malabsorption as a result of conditions such as Coeliac disease which impede the normal uptake of nutrients
- Avoiding foods which provide a source of vitamin D such as fatty fish and dairy products
- Being obese
- Being elderly
The main source of vitamin D is exposure to solar UVB radiation (from sunlight. When the body is exposed to sunlight, it can manufacture vitamin D from cholesterol, a fatty substance synthesized by the liver and found in some foods. Anything that reduces a personâs access to solar UVB radiation will compromise the bodyâs ability to manufacture sufficient levels of vitamin D, therefore eventually causing vitamin D deficiency.
Depression And Vitamin D Deficiency
For most people, low vitamin D levels tend to be more of a problem. Deficiency can have a number of health effects, including poor bone health, but it can also impact brain development and functioning. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with mental health conditions including seasonal affective disorder, depression, and schizophrenia.
However, that does not mean that boosting vitamin D can always cure depression. One randomized controlled trial found insufficient evidence to support the use of vitamin D supplementation as a treatment for depression.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, whether or not it’s seasonal, talk to your doctor before you try to self-medicate with a supplement like vitamin D. Your doctor can assess your health and determine if vitamin D might help or if some other treatment would be more appropriate.
Can You Supplement Yourself Out Of Chronic Fatigue
This is the myth the supplement industry wants you to believe. All you need to do is take this fancy new supplement and your fatigue woes will be banished. In just four short weeks, youll be greeting the morning with a bundle of energy.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is complex. Incredibly complex. The likelihood of a supplement getting rid of your fatigue is small. Very, very small. If a supplement was to get rid of your fatigue, you were not dealing with chronic fatigue.
If your practitioner is pushing bottles and bottles of supplements on you, its time to find a new practitioner. You cannot supplement yourself out of chronic fatigue syndrome.
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Vitamin D Supplement Safety
Your body produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun, but many people may not get enough due to a variety of factors. Because of this, people often turn to vitamin D supplements. Unfortunately, it isnt uncommon for people to overdo it.
A 2017 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that between 1999 and 2014, there was an increase in the number of American adults taking daily vitamin D supplements of 1,000 IU or more. Of these, 18% exceeded 1000 IU each day and 3% took more than 4,000 IU per day, which may place them at a higher risk of experiencing some adverse effects related to excessive vitamin D.
In most cases, you can get all of the vitamin D you need naturally without supplementation through sun exposure and diet. A 15-minute walk outside each day with your extremities exposed can boost vitamin D production. .
Eating foods that are naturally high in vitamin D or are fortified with the nutrient can help. Foods you can eat to boost your vitamin D levels include:
- Egg yolks
- Fortified milk, yogurt, or juice
- Fatter fish such as tuna or salmon
- Cod liver oil
If you do decide to take a vitamin D supplement to correct a deficiency or because you are unable to get an adequate amount through sunlight and diet, always follow your doctor’s guidelines and do not take more than recommended amounts.
Are You At Risk Of Vitamin D Deficiency
Did you know that according to national surveys taken out across the UK, approximately 1 in 5 of the population has low vitamin D levels?
It isnt surprising really when you think about it. Our bodies can only make vitamin D when exposed to direct sunlight, which may be possible in summer for some people, but becomes difficult for everyone during the darker winter months.
You can also get vitamin D from animal produce like meat, fish dairy and eggs, which are either naturally high in vitamin D or have been fortified with vitamin D .
Other foods like breakfast cereals, fruit juices, faux meat, plant milks are often fortified . Wild mushrooms and those grown under a UV light are also great sources of vitamin D2.
People who do not get outside much, have dark skin, like to cover up, or do not eat animal products are naturally at more of a risk of vitamin D deficiency.
This is why the government now advise that everybody should think about taking a vitamin D supplement, particularly in the Autumn and Winter months.
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Other Symptoms Of Low Vitamin D
Other signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency may not be so clear cut as these symptoms are typically caused by a multitude of factors, not just vitamin D deficiency.
However, realizing that you have insufficient vitamin D levels may be the first step towards greatly improving your quality of life.
Below are five commonly experienced symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency.
How Do I Treat A Vitamin D Deficiency
There are three ways to help a vitamin D deficiency:
- Try to get more sun exposure around 15-20 minutes, three times a week is enough
- Eat vitamin D-rich foods
- Take a vitamin D supplement
If youre worried about low vitamin D levels or youre experiencing symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency, its best to get it checked out by a doctor.
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Does Vitamin D Deficiency Make You Tired
Yes, if youre not getting enough vitamin D you will likely experience low energy and feel tired.
An observational study, this one in 200 female nurses, found that only 9.5% of them had normal vitamin D levels, while 89% were found to have vitamin D deficiency. The study results found a significant relationship between vitamin D levels and fatigue scores, leading the study authors to conclude that high prevalence of fatigue among nurses could be attributed to a vitamin D deficiency.
Even children with vitamin D deficiency are prone to sleep issues, with this study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine concluding that this deficiency was linked to decreased sleep duration, poorer sleep efficiency, and even delayed bedtimes. The authors suggested that future studies in children should examine whether vitamin D deficiency leads to sleep disturbance or whether it is the other way around.
This article from Healthline notes that several studies demonstrated the positive impact that raising vitamin D levels can have on reducing fatigue.
For instance, in this study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences, 77% of the 174 adults who presented with fatigue were also found to have low vitamin D levels. After receiving vitamin D treatment for 5 weeks, their fatigue symptoms improved significantly as indicated by the comparison results of their pre- and post-treatment fatigue assessment questionnaires.
Can Low Vitamin D Cause Fatigue
Low vitamin D levels have been associated with a variety of health issues from depression to dementia and from breast cancer to heart disease. Vitamin D deficiencies can also result in bone diseases such as rickets in children and osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adults.
But you may not be aware that if youre not getting enough vitamin D, you may also suffer from dizziness, headaches, and yes, low energy and fatigue.
Especially this time of year, when the days are shorter, the sun sleeps longer, and were bracing ourselves for the winter doldrums, its not unusual for us to feel fatigued.
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Can You Rely On A Vitamin D Test Kit
At-home tests are convenient when it is difficult to attend a surgery appointment, but the following should be considered:11
- User error. This is a possibility with at-home tests and can affect results. Make sure you follow guidance closely.
- Understanding results. A test can show you are deficient, but without the support of a nutritionist or doctor it can be difficult to interpret what your results mean for you. For example, in the context of your age, gender and other personal factors. You will also need to seek further advice on the best course of action to take.
Those Not Exposed To Sunlight
Limited sunlight exposure can put you at risk. If you are housebound for any reason, if you live in a grey climate, or if you cover your skin for work, lifestyle or religious reasons, your skin might not get enough sunlight to make the vitamin D your body needs.
Remember, your skin needs to be exposed to the sun without sun protection or skin covering it to absorb vitamin D. It is recommended that you look to increase your dietary vitamin D or consider a supplement.
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People With Medical Conditions That Reduce Fat Absorption
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, it relies on the guts ability to absorb fat from the diet.
Thus, people who have medical conditions that reduce fat absorption are prone to vitamin D deficiencies. These include inflammatory bowel disease , liver disease and also people who have had bariatric surgery (
Summary: Those who need the most vitamin D are older people, people with darker skin, those who live farther from the equator and people who cant absorb fat properly.
When To See A Doctor
Most people do not realize that theyre vitamin D deficient, as symptoms are generally subtle. You may not recognize them easily, even if theyre significantly affecting your quality of life.
As a rule of thumb, you may consider asking your doctor to check for vitamin D deficiency if you notice any possible symptoms and have any risk factors. They can check your vitamin D levels with a blood test.
Your doctor may also help rule out other causes behind some of the symptoms youre experiencing.
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Risks Of Vitamin D Deficiency In The Elderly
People with vitamin D deficiency are likely to experience ageing more rapidly than those with sufficient vitamin D intake.
In the elderly, a deficit of vitamin D is associated with an increased likelihood that the health problems one does experience may be difficult to treat and/or result in death more likely than without a vitamin D deficiency. Among other factors, this is because elderly people who have vitamin D deficiency are also more likely to experience cognitive impairment, compromised muscle function and are more prone to falls.
Get Out In The Sunshine More
Most people can make enough vitamin D by simply being out in the sun every day for short periods of time with their hands, forearms or lower legs uncovered and without sun protection you dont have to go and sun it up in a bikini .
However, there is no definitive answer to how long you have to stay out in the sun for because everyone is different.
Skin colour and skin exposure play a big part in how much vitamin D your skin will absorb, e.g. people with dark skin such as those from an African, Caribbean or South Asian origin will need to spend longer exposed in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as somebody with lighter skin.
You also need to make sure you dont burn in the sun, so make sure you always have sun protection and sunglasses handy for when it gets super sunny and you can feel your skin getting red or burnt.
Please seek shade if you plan to be out in the sun for a long time the longer you stay in the sun unprotected, the greater your risk of skin cancer is.
Your body cannot make vitamin D with sunlight that shines through a window the glass will block the ultraviolet B rays from getting to your skin.15
If you think you are at risk, seek advice from a medical professional or ask your Doctor for a blood test to assess your Vitamin D levels. With your Doctors support, start taking a quality vitamin D3 supplement to meet UK Government guidelines.
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If You Take Any Group Of Patients With Almost Any Disease Their Vitamin D Levels Will Be Lower Than In A Healthy Individual Ian Reid
Ian Reid, professor in medicine at the University of Auckland, believes that diseases cause low vitamin D levels, as being unwell often leads to spending less time outdoors exposed to sunlight, rather than vice versa. If you take any group of patients with almost any disease, their vitamin D levels will be lower than in a healthy individual. This has led some to hypothesise its low vitamin D developing the disease, but theres no evidence to prove it, he says.
Some experts believe people who are unwell have low vitamin D levels because they spend less time outdoors, not that their low levels cause health problems
Researchers have found that higher vitamin D levels are associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer it plays a role in stemming the formation of new blood vessels and stimulating better communication between cells. Vitamin D also has been found to help maintain normal levels of calcium in the colon, which slows growth of non-cancerous but high-risk cells.
Other studies, including of the link between vitamin D and liver cancer,breast cancer and prostate cancer, suggest there is good reason to think that low vitamin D plays a part in the spread of cancer cells. But taking supplements would then, surely, help stave off cancer and a recent meta-analysis failed to find that supplementation reduced cancer risk.
D for depression
How To Get More Vitamin D
You can get more vitamin D by eating D-rich foods, including fatty fish , fish oil, fortified milk, egg yolks, and fortified breakfast cereals.
You could also take a vitamin D supplement. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends a daily intake of vitamin D of 600 IU for adults up to age 69 and 800 IU for adults 70 and older. The tolerable upper daily limit is 4,000 IU . Be careful when taking vitamin D supplementsvitamin D toxicity is possible .
It is possible to get enough vitamin D from the sun, but only at certain times of the year. Some researchers believe that about five to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., at least twice a week to your face, arms, legs, or back can produce sufficient vitamin D.
However, there are no actual recommendations regarding the amount of time to spend in the sun since sun exposure also increases your risk of developing skin cancer. During the winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it can be impossible to get enough vitamin D via the sun. Vitamin D supplementation can be helpful in maintaining normal levels.
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How To Supplements Vitamin D Safely
When supplementing with vitamin D, there are several other aspects to consider. First off, it is crucial to simultaneously take the right type of vitamin K, too, to escalate certain benefits. This is because experts now believe that vitamin D and K are especially important for a healthy heart and bones.
For example, when vitamin D stimulates increased absorption and retention of calcium, vitamin K performs the essential function of directing calcium where to go. It helps deposit calcium where it is needed, such as your bones and teeth, and keeps it away from undesirable places for calcium, such as the joints, blood vessels, and kidneys.
Vitamin K is also an important nutrient, essential to bone and heart health, including supporting healthy, flexible arteries and more. In fact, research shows that higher intakes of vitamin K have been associated with better heart, circulatory, and overall health, and well-being. Unfortunately, most people arent getting enough of this nutrient, eitherresearch shows only 1 in 3 people are consuming an adequate amount of vitamin K in their diets. 24,25,26
As for the right form of vitamin K, always look for vitamin K2, and more specifically, its most studied and effective forms of MK-4 and MK-7, which are very well-absorbed by the body, and research shows they can be very effective at increasing blood levels of K in the body.
You Experience Strange Muscle Pains
Mounting evidence shows a strong link between muscle pain and low vitamin D levels. If your child is experiencing growing pains, a vitamin D supplement may be in order. A study published in the journal Medical Principles and Practice found children who took a one-time dose vitamin D supplement experienced a decrease in their growing pains.
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