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Are You Low on Vitamin D? 

Vitamin D deficiency

People who are low on vitamin D usually suffer from a lot of signs and symptoms.

The effects of having a low vitamin D level can be devastating. The problem is that most people do not even realize that they are suffering from vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is a crucial vitamin for our health. It has many functions and participates in many processes in our bodies.

Vitamin D is also different from other vitamins and minerals. It acts like a hormone in our bodies with many cells having receptors to it.

Our bodies can naturally make vitamin D. We make it from cholesterol when our skin is exposed to the sunlight. That is why it is called the “sunshine” vitamin.

According to the Endocrine Society, adults should get between 1500 and 2000 IUs of vitamin D per day.

Vitamin D deficiency is more common than you think. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about this condition and how to deal with it.  

Low on Vitamin D Signs and Symptoms

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms

Low vitamin D levels symptoms vary from one person to another. The symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pains throughout your body
  • Bone and muscle aches
  • Generalized weakness
  • Stress fractures, especially in your hips and legs.

Low on vitamin D signs may interfere with your life without even realizing that you have vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D Deficiency Causes

Vitamin D deficiency causes

Vitamin D deficiency causes can be divided into three categories:

Medical Conditions

  • Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease, and Cystic Fibrosis: These conditions prevent vitamin D from being absorbed properly.
  • Weight Loss Surgeries: They reduce the sizes of the stomach and intestines. In the long run, they may affect the levels of many vitamins and minerals including vitamin D.
  • Obesity: People with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of more than 30 usually have vitamin D deficiency. This happens because fat cells prevent vitamin D from being released and keep it isolated.
  • Liver and Kidney Diseases: These conditions decrease the level of enzymes required to transform vitamin D into the forms used in the body.

Risk Factors

  • Age: Over time, the skin loses its ability to make vitamin D.
  • Mobility: People who do not get enough sunlight usually suffer from vitamin D deficiency.
  • Skin Color: People with dark-colored skin are less able to produce vitamin D than people with fair-colored skin.
  • Breast Milk and Formulas: Each contains small amounts of vitamin D. Infants should be exposed to sunlight to get enough vitamin D. 

Medications

Certain medications can lead to low vitamin D in blood including:

  • Laxatives
  • Prednisone and other steroids
  • Cholestyramine, colestipol, and other cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Phenobarbital, phenytoin, and other seizure-control drugs
  • Rifampin for TB
  • Orlistat, which is a weight-loss medication

Best Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D foods

If you wonder how to treat vitamin D deficiency naturally, the answer is simple. Get enough vitamin D via these ways:

  • Sun exposure for about 15 to 20 minutes 3 days per week is enough.
  • Foods for low vitamin D such as cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, tuna, fortified orange juice, fortified milk, liver, beef, egg yolk, fortified cereal, and cheese.
  • Vitamin D supplements and multivitamins.

Who is at Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency?

vitamin d deficiency risk factors
  • Breastfed infants
  • Older ages
  • Dark-colored skin people
  • Crohn’s, celiac, and other digestive problems
  • Obese people
  • People who had undergone gastric bypass surgery
  • Liver and kidney problems
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Granulomatous diseases patients such as sarcoidosis, TB, and histoplasmosis
  • Lymphoma patients

If you think that you have a vitamin D deficiency, talk with your healthcare provider. A simple blood test can measure the vitamin D levels in your body.

How to Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency prevention and treatment

Low vitamin D treatment and prevention are the same. The main goal is to reach a certain level of vitamin D in your body and maintain it.

Here are the minimum vitamin D amounts needed per day for each age group.

  • 0 – 12 Months: 10 mcg or 400 IUs per day.  
  • 1 – 70 Years: 15 mcg or 600 IUs per day.  
  • +71 years: 20 mcg or 800 IUs per day.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women need 15 mcg or 600 IUs per day of vitamin D.

Consuming vitamin D-rich foods and getting more sunlight will definitely increase your vitamin D levels. In addition, your healthcare provider may suggest taking vitamin D supplements.

Vitamin D supplements are available in two main forms.

  • Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol): It is derived from plant sources. You need a prescription to get it.
  • Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol): It is derived from animal sources and is available over the counter. Its absorption is faster than vitamin D2. Besides, its effects last longer.  

Does Having Low Vitamin D Put You at Risk from Coronavirus?

Vitamin D and Covid

According to a meta-analysis and GRADE assessment of several cohort studies, low vitamin D levels do not increase the risk of getting infected by COVID-19. Also, vitamin D deficiency does not aggravate the symptoms or increase the risk of death.

Besides, vitamin D supplements do not improve the symptoms or the clinical outcomes in COVID patients. The meta-analysis does not suggest taking vitamin D supplements to manage the COVID symptoms.

In a nutshell, keeping an adequate level of vitamin D is crucial for your overall health. Besides, vitamin D is important for your immune system. However, it cannot either prevent or treat COVID.

Vitamin D Deficiency on Skin

Low vitamin D effects on skin (skin rash)

Vitamin D is essential for skin health. The effects of vitamin D deficiency on the skin are usually obvious. if you suffer from one or more of the following conditions, you probably have vitamin D deficiency.

Skin Rashes

Skin rashes can occur due to vitamin D deficiency. If you suffer from red, dry, itchy skin regularly, check your vitamin D levels.
If you are low on vitamin D, supplements can treat and prevent rashes. It can also treat several skin conditions including eczema. Studies have shown that eczema patients usually suffer from vitamin D deficiency.

Acne

Low vitamin D levels can increase the frequency of acne breakouts due to hormonal changes. Besides, vitamin D has antioxidant properties, which help in preventing acne.

Skin Aging

Low vitamin D levels enhance the aging process of the skin. People who are deficient in vitamin D usually have early signs of aging. This happens due to the alterations in the functions of the body leading to premature aging.
In addition, skin aging lowers the ability of the skin to produce vitamin D. In a nutshell, it is a vicious cycle.  

Can Low Vitamin D Cause Hair Loss?

can low vitamin d cause hair loss

Many studies show that there is a connection between vitamin D deficiency and hair loss. Vitamin D plays a role in stimulating the growth of new hair follicles. Therefore, when its levels are low, the body cannot produce new hair follicles.

In addition, low vitamin D can cause alopecia. It is an autoimmune disorder that leads to the development of bald patches on the body, especially the scalp. This condition affects both men and women equally.

One study found that low vitamin D levels existed in women between 18- and 45-years experiencing hair loss problems including alopecia.

So, in conclusion, can low vitamin D cause hair loss? Yes, it can be the primary reason.

Can Low Vitamin D Cause Weight Gain?  

can low vitamin d cause weight gain

Overweight and obese people tend to have lower levels of vitamin D, compared to others who have normal body mass index (BMI).

Due to this association, several studies tried to find out if vitamin D deficiency can cause weight gain.

One study gave women 25 mcg of vitamin D or a placebo daily for 12 weeks.

The results showed that the vitamin D group lost about 2.7 kg of fat while the placebo group lost about 0.5 kg.

Besides, the vitamin D group gained about 1.4 kg of muscle more than the placebo group. However, no changes were detected in the total body weight or waist circumference.

Other studies showed the same results. The question now is, can low vitamin D cause weight gain?

All the studies agree that vitamin D has little effect on body weight. Therefore, the main cause behind weight gain may not be vitamin D deficiency. Still, more research on the relationship between body fat and body weight can help us to get to the bottom of this issue.  

Moreover, several studies suggest other explanations for low vitamin D levels in obese and overweight people.

For example, overweight people have more fat than others. Therefore, they need more vitamin D to keep adequate blood levels of vitamin D, which is stored in fatty tissues.

Furthermore, obese people usually spend more time indoors and consume more processed foods and less healthy, vitamin D-rich foods.  

Nutritionists suggest that overweight people usually need 1.5 times more vitamin D than people who have normal BMIs while obese people may need 2 to 3 times more vitamin D.  

Can Low Vitamin D Cause Joint Pain?

can low vitamin d cause joint pain

Joint pain can be due to many reasons. But, can low vitamin D cause joint pain?

One study found that vitamin D supplements can help people with chronic pain, especially when they have low vitamin D levels.

People over 50 usually develop joint pain, especially the knee and hip joints. One study found that people over 50 with vitamin D deficiency are more likely to develop joint pain. This pain gets even worse when the deficiency is ignored.  

Another study looked at rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and their vitamin D levels. RA is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own joints. All the participants suffered from vitamin D deficiency.


Another study suggested that low vitamin D levels occur in RA patients due to corticosteroid medications.  

Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with bone pain. Low vitamin D bone pain can be severe, especially lower back pain. Bone pain and joint pain usually come together when vitamin D levels are low.

Bottom Line

Vitamin D deficiency is a common health issue. The side effects can be non-specific and unclear. That is why most people may not be aware of this common issue.

How to treat vitamin D deficiency is an important topic to discuss with your healthcare provider if you suspect that your vitamin D levels are low.

Low vitamin D treatment usually includes consuming more vitamin D-rich foods and getting more sunlight. However, in severe cases, you may need vitamin D supplements.

People usually ask, “how much should I take?” when it comes to supplements. We talked about the daily requirements of vitamin D for each age group. If you are still confused, your healthcare provider can help you to fix the issue easily.

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