Are The Outdoors Calling Your Name?
This summer, perhaps more than ever before we are itching to get outside. After a year of being cooped up in our homes, the sunshine is calling to us – and with good reason! We crave that Vitamin D. Vitamin D is unlike any other Vitamin out there. It works like a hormone, and every cell in our bodies – literally every single one – has a receptor for it. Because of this, Vitamin D has a huge impact on our overall well-being as humans.
Our bodies make Vitamin D from cholesterol when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but that’s not the only way we can get it. While it’s hard to get a sufficient amount of Vitamin D through diet alone, certain foods like mushrooms, fatty fish, or fortified dairy products are great sources for it. Most experts would agree that a mix of diet and sun exposure is the easiest and best way to get your daily supply of the ‘sunshine vitamin.’ Recommended daily intake is between 400-800 UI (or international unit).
So then what’s the problem? Deficiency. Despite being one of the most important vitamins for humans, Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies out there. In fact, it is estimated that around 1 billion people – yes billion with a “B” – worldwide are Vitamin D deficient. In a 2011 study, over 40% of adults in the U.S. proved to be deficient. That number skyrockets to almost 70% in Hispanic populations and over 80% among African-Americans.
How Do You Know If You’re At Risk?
While anyone can fall victim to being Vitamin D deficient, there are some factors that can put you more at risk than others. Here are 6 common Vitamin D deficiency risk factors:
- Darker skin tones
- Staying indoors
- Not eating enough fish or dairy products
- Being elderly
- Living far from the equator
- Being overweight or obese
Despite it being very common, most people don’t realize they are deficient. Often, symptoms are attributed to other issues or simply ignored.
So How Can I Tell If I’m Vitamin D Deficient?
Yes, the signs are subtle, but they do exist. Here are 7 symptoms of being vitamin D deficient.
Being overly tired can, of course, have many causes, but lack of Vitamin D is one of the main ones that is often overlooked.
Low blood levels cause us to become fatigued and lack of Vitamin D can cause low blood levels. Studies have proven that taking Vitamin D supplements can drastically increase your blood levels and put an end to chronic daytime fatigue and headaches.
GETTING SICK OR GETTING INFECTIONS OFTEN
Vitamin D plays a starring role in keeping your immune system strong. Strong immune systems help us to fight off viruses and bacteria that can cause illnesses.
Vitamin D works directly with the cells that fight off pathogens that make us ill, so if you find yourself constantly coming down with something, especially the flu or colds, it could be because you need more in your system. More Vitamin D can even improve chronic conditions like COPD over time.
BONE AND BACK PAIN
Been feeling more aches and pains than usual lately? That might not just be age or a bad mattress, it could be a lack of Vitamin D. The vitamin helps your body absorb calcium, which is key to keeping your bones strong.
That’s right. Low Vitamin D doesn’t just make your bones hurt, it can actually cause bone loss. Again this is due to the fact that the vitamin helps us absorb that much-needed calcium. It also aids in bone metabolism, which is the cycle of bone growth and resorption.
Bone isn’t the only thing you risk losing when you are Vitamin D deficient. Hair loss is another key indicator that you might be lacking in your recommended dose of sunshine.
In one study, applying a topical synthetic form of the vitamin successfully treated hair loss in a young patient who had a Vitamin D receptor defect. However, it must be noted that if the hair loss is severe, it might be due to a disease or overall nutrient deficiency.
There’s a reason many of us feel sad on cloudy or rainy days. We love the sunshine and our bodies miss it when it’s gone. Though not directly related to lack of Vitamin D, minimal exposure to sunlight can plummet our serotonin levels, which leads to us feeling depressed.
In addition to bone pain, lack of Vitamin D can also cause muscle pain. Vitamin D is found in nerve cells called nociceptors. These nerve cells sense pain in the body.
Research has shown that the reason deficiency leads to muscle pain is due to the stimulation of nociceptors when the vitamin is low or absent. In a recent study, 71% of people with chronic pain were found to be deficient in Vitamin D.
Let The Sunshine In
If any of these symptoms are hitting close to home, you aren’t alone. Research suggests that during the COVID-19 lockdown, Vitamin D deficiency saw a spike, due to stay-at-home orders. The good news is that though it’s a common deficiency, it’s also a pretty easily cured one. Spending around 10-15 minutes outside a day might be enough to get your levels back up. You can also try upping your intake of Vitamin D-rich foods, or even taking a daily supplement. If you work on increasing your Vitamin D levels, and you’re still feeling unwell we suggest visiting your primary care physician, just to rule out any serious issues.
One Last Thing
Remember, if you choose to go outside to increase your Vitamin D, proceed with caution. You can have too much of a good thing, and too much sun exposure is one of them. Check out our blog on the dangers of skin cancer, and ways to prevent it. And as always, if you ever need us, your Best Neighbors Ever is just a short drive away.