Updated: 3 days ago
From hair-loss to low back pain, here are some of the signs your body is shouting out for more vitamin D!
Vitamin D has made a lot of headlines recently, hailed as a nutritional hero in aiding the body with the fight against COVID. Obtaining adequate levels of vitamin D from food sources alone can be difficult, leaving individuals prone to vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is a very important nutrient needed for a healthy functioning immune system, for strong bones, teeth and muscle function and blood pressure regulation. It also has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect within the body. Sunshine is an effective way of obtaining high levels of vitamin D, however, during the winter months this can be a challenge many of us face!
What are some of the symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency?
The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency can present as a some very common ailments, possibly due to the fact that vitamin D is a very common deficiency, particularly in vegan and ovo-vegetarians (the exclusion of all animal products other than eggs) and during the winter months.
According to the National Institute of Health ‘Assessing vitamin D status by measuring serum 25(OH)D concentrations is complicated. As a result, a finding can be falsely low or falsely high, depending on the assay used and the laboratory.’
So, what are the some of the symptoms we can look out for when it comes to vitamin D deficiency?
Low back pain
Yes low back pain! A very common complaint in many! Vitamin D status influences many aspects of musculoskeletal health. Joint pain can result from poor vitamin D levels with low back, hip pain shoulder and rib pain being the most common. Bone pain, closely associated with joint pain, can also be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. Gently pushing on your breastbone (sternum), may feel tender or sore, a possible sign of vitamin D deficiency.
Muscle soreness after a hard work out is to be expected, however prolonged muscle pain and/or weakness which can be accompanied with a waddling gait, can also result from low levels of vitamin D. Muscles closer to the trunk, tops of the thighs and shoulder are often involved with muscle pain related to vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D has been associated with mood disorders and anxiety, however in what capacity remains unclear. It has been speculated that the vitamin D receptors in a part of the brain, the hypothalamus, which plays an important role in brain chemistry is one possible pathway.
There are many vitamin D receptors located in the lungs and sinuses. This is due to the importance vitamin D plays in immune protection. Low vitamin D levels could exacerbate asthmatic symptoms and leave us susceptible to recurrent chest and sinus infections.
Unusual amounts of hair loss
Some hair loss is genetic and some hormonal-related. However, low levels of vitamin D can also cause increased hair loss, which may be more noticeable in the winter months due to lower levels of vitamin D.
Excessive sweating not associated with exercise or no particular reason can be a sign of low vitamin D levels.
Am I at risk of being deficient?
Vitamin D requirements vary from individual to individual, however some groups are more at risk of developing a deficiency than others.
As we age our ability to synthesise vitamin D declines, this coupled with a lower tendency to spend time outdoors renders the older population more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency.
Individuals with darker skin
As described by the National Institute of Health, the increased levels of pigment melanin in the epidermal layer of the skin, reduces the ability of the skin to produce vitamin D from sunlight.
Individuals who are obese or who have undergone gastric bypass surgery
Those with excess subcutaneous adipose tissue- excess bodily fat (typically with a BMI or 30 or more) can be vulnerable to lower vitamin D levels. This is due to the excess fat robbing the body of the vitamin D usually used for other bodily functions. The skin can still make vitamin D, however making enough to mitigate the sequestering of the vitamin D by the subcutaneous fat is the problem.
Those with impaired liver and gut health
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. To ensure is it absorbed by the body, a healthy, well-functioning liver is required to produce the necessary bile needed to assist the body in absorbing vitamin D. Those with fatty liver and other forms of liver disease, individuals with coeliac’s disease, ulcerative colitis and cystic fibrosis are more prone to deficiencies in vitamin D.
How much vitamin D should I take?
This varies from individual to individual. Advice from the NHS states that:
"children aged 1-10 shouldn’t exceed 2000IU per day and adults no more than 4000IU."
When we are exposed to 20 minutes of sunshine, the body makes approximately 25,000IU of vitamin D! Whilst we cannot overdose on sunshine, very high levels of vitamin D supplementation could lead to health complaints so sticking to recommended guidelines is ideal.
A high-quality supplement, either of pure vitamin D3 or a combination of D3 and K2 is an ideal way of boosting your vitamin D levels throughout the winter months. If you are susceptible to low levels of vitamin D as identified in the groups above, then a supplement throughout the year could be beneficial.
Which D3 supplement should I take?
I take two D3 capsules, 2000UI strength daily. I use TerraNova D3 which has no added binders or fillers, instead using freeze dried organic botanicals and other synergistic foods to enhance absorption and increase nutrient density. Genius. Wiley’s Finest also have a fabulous omega-3 fish oil product enriched with D3 and K2 which is ideal if you are also looking to increase your omega-3 levels.
For more information on optimising your health, see my second edition of Primal Living in a Modern World, available online and in store.