As the April rain pours and keeps me inside, I wonder about getting my daily dose of vitamin D. Lately, I have been noticing some symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. It is easy to get vitamin D in the summer when you go outside a lot and get plenty of sunshine, but when the weather turns nasty and you just want to stay inside, it is important to be able to notice the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in women and address them.
Causes of a Vitamin D Deficiency
While most of the time people associate a vitamin D deficiency with not enough sun, there are a number of things that can trigger a vitamin D deficiency.
- You aren’t consuming enough vitamin D in your diet. This often happens when people are following a strict vegan diet. Most of the natural sources of vitamin D are animal-based products. Vitamin D is found in fish oils, eggs, egg yolks, fortified milk and beef liver.
- Sunlight exposure is limited. The body naturally makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Therefore, you may be at risk of a deficiency if you live in northern latitudes, are home bound, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure.
- Darker skin. The pigment melanin in the skin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to exposure to the sun. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- Your kidneys cannot convert vitamin D to its active form. Aging can decrease a person’s ability to convert vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing the risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- Your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D. There are certain medical conditions which prevent the digestive tract from adequately absorbing vitamin D. These include: Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and celiac disease. .
- Obesity. Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells. It alters its release into circulation. Individuals who have a body mass index of thirty or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.
Symptoms You May Need More Vitamin D
- MUSCLE WEAKNESS
- Decreased muscle size can be the result of not enough vitamin D in muscle and nerve tissue. If you notice that you can’t complete the same number of repetitions you’ve always done, that may be a sign you need more vitamin D.
- Women with low levels of vitamin D are twice as likely to struggle with depression, according to a study in The Journal of Clinical endocrinology and Metabolism.
- Lower levels of vitamin D were reported in a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
- EXTREME CRANKINESS
- Vitamin D impacts the serotonin in your brain, which can also affect your mood. Extreme crankiness could be a subtle indication that your vitamin D levels are getting low.
- DECREASED ENDURANCE
- Reduced aerobic capacity and overall endurance in athletes is an indicator that you may have low vitamin D levels as well.
Treatment for a Vitamin D Deficiency
The treatment for a vitamin D deficiency includes getting more vitamin D through diet and supplements. There currently is no consensus on vitamin D levels required for optimal health. It likely differs depending on the health and conditions. Some people are recommending a concentration of less than 20 nanograms per milliliter.
The Institute of Medicine’s guidelines increased the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D to 600 international units (IU) for everyone up to age seventy. For individuals older than seventy, it raised it to 800 international units to optimize bone health. The safe upper limit has been raised to 4,000 IU. However, when doctors discover a vitamin D deficiency, they may prescribe more than 4,000 IU to correct it.
If you often cover your skin and stay indoors, you should speak to your doctor about taking a vitamin supplement for vitamin D. This is especially important if you have a risk factor for vitamin D deficiency.
Illnesses From a Vitamin D Deficiency
1.Dementia It was discovered that severe vitamin D deficiency in older adults was associated with a doubled risk for some forms of dementia. This includes Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia involves a decline in thinking, behavior, and memory that negatively affects daily life.
The study analyzed more than 1,600 people age 65 or older who did not have dementia at the beginning of the study. It compared the people with normal vitamin D levels to those with low levels of vitamin D. It was discovered that those with low levels of the vitamin had a 53 percent increased risk of developing dementia. Individuals who had a sever deficiency had a 125 percent increased risk of developing dementia. The authors of the study found that people who had lower levels of vitamin D were seventy percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who were severely deficient. The severely deficient were over 120 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.
This study does have its weaknesses. It was observational and did not provide a direct cause and effect relationship. It is theorized that vitamin D may help to clear plaques in the brain that is linked to dementia.
It is a good idea to follow the long-standing advice of eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and tending to your mental health to reduce your risk of dementia.
2. Breast Cancer and Low Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential in assisting the body with calcium absorption, which is essential for good bone health. Vitamin D is also well-known to help support the immune system, muscle function and nervous systems function properly.
Most of the vitamin D in our bodies is made when an inactive form of the nutrient is activated in your skin when it’s exposed to sunlight. There are smaller amounts of vitamin D found in fatty fish, eggs, fortified milk and meat. Due to the fact that more and more people are spending most of their time out of direct sunlight or wearing sunscreen in the sun, vitamin D production has become limited and individuals are at a greater risk of deficiency.
Research suggests that women with low levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of breast cancer. Vitamin D may play a role in controlling normal breast cell growth and may be able to stop breast cancer cells from growing.
3. Autoimmune Diseases and Vitamin D
Poor vitamin D intake and low blood levels of vitamin D metabolites are associated with increased incidence and severity of several autoimmune diseases involving the T helper type 1 lymphocyte. These include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus, erythematosis, and psoriasis.
4. Vitamin D and the Risk of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a severe brain disorder that affects about 1.1 percent of American adults. Symptoms of schizophrenia commonly appear between the ages of 16 and 30. These include hallucinations, withdrawal from others, trouble focusing or paying attention, and incoherent speech.
Individuals who are vitamin D deficient are twice as likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia compared with those who have normal levels a review published in October 2014 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found. The researchers reviewed findings from 19 different studies analyzing the relationship between schizophrenia and vitamin D. They determined a link between the two factors.
Randomized trials are needed to determine whether vitamin D treatment may be beneficial in preventing schizophrenia.
5. Vitamin D Deficiency and Heart Disease
Heart disease has been linked to a vitamin D deficiency. Many studies have shown an association between low vitamin D levels and heart disease and related complications, as discovered by a review published in Circulation Research in January 2014. However, science has not clearly determined if supplementation can reduce these risks.
It is possible to reduce your risk of heart disease by maintaining a healthy weight, regularly exercising, and eating a diet which is rich in egg yolks, fatty fish, meat and fortified milk.
Increasing your exposure to the sun by taking a walk, exercising outside or eating a meal outdoors will help you ward off a vitamin D deficiency. Eating foods that are rich in vitamin D, such as fatty fish, eggs, egg yolks, meats and fortified milk will help you to raise your vitamin D levels up to normal.
While these steps may not eliminate your risk of diseases or the symptoms of low vitamin D, they can help you to feel better overall. It is a great idea to start spending more time in the sun and eating vitamin D rich foods. If you can’t eat some of these foods, you can always supplement with cod liver oil or a vitamin D supplement to make sure that you are getting enough of this vitamin.