Vitamin deficiencies and symptoms

Contents

7 Common Nutrient Deficiencies: Know the Signs

1. Calcium Strengthens Your Musculoskeletal System

Calcium is important for maintaining strong bones and controlling muscle and nerve function. Signs of severely low calcium include muscle cramps and abnormal heart rhythms, Patton says. Make sure you’re getting enough with at least three servings of milk or yogurt a day, she says. Other good sources of calcium are cheese, calcium-fortified orange juice, and dark leafy greens.

2. Vitamin D Is Essential for Maintaining Strong Bones

This vitamin is also critical for bone health. Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency can be vague — fatigue and muscle aches or weakness. “If it goes on long term, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to softening of the bones,” Dr. Psota says.

To get enough vitamin D, Patton suggests having three servings of fortified milk or yogurt daily; eating fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna, twice a week; and spending some time outside in the sunshine every day.

3. Potassium Helps Muscles and Nerves Function Properly

Potassium helps your heart, nerves, and muscles work properly. You could become low in potassium in the short term because of diarrhea or vomiting, excessive sweating, antibiotics or diuretics, or because of chronic conditions such as eating disorders and kidney disease, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Symptoms of a deficiency include muscle weakness, constipation, tingling and numbness, and in severe cases, an abnormal heart rhythm.

For natural potassium sources, Psota recommends bananas, whole grains, milk, vegetables, beans, and peas.

4. Iron Is Necessary for Oxygen-Rich Blood

Iron is necessary to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body. When iron levels get too low, there may be a deficiency in red blood cells, a condition called anemia. Anemia causes fatigue; pale skin; and dull, thin, sparse hair, Patton says. To boost iron levels, she recommends eating iron-fortified cereal, beef, oysters, beans (especially white beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans), lentils, and spinach.

5. Vitamin B12 Aids in the Production of Brain Chemicals

Vitamin B12 aids the production of DNA and helps make neurotransmitters. Harvard Health Publishing says that vegans may be at particular risk for vitamin B12 deficiency because plants don’t make the nutrient, as are people who’ve had weight loss surgery, because the procedure makes it difficult for the body to extract B12 from food. Symptoms of severe B12 deficiency include numbness in the legs, hands, or feet; problems with walking and balance; anemia; fatigue; weakness; a swollen, inflamed tongue; memory loss; paranoia; and hallucinations.

You can get vitamin B12 from animal sources. “Boost your levels of B12 by eating more fish, chicken, milk, and yogurt,” Patton says. If you’re vegan, opt for vegan foods fortified with B12, such as nondairy milk, meat substitutes, and breakfast cereals.

6. Folate Is Vital for Women of Childbearing Age

Folate, or folic acid, is a particularly important vitamin for women of childbearing age, which is why prenatal vitamins contain such a hefty dose. A folate deficiency can decrease the total number of cells and large red blood cells and cause neural tube defects in an unborn child, Psota says. Symptoms of a folate deficiency include fatigue, mouth sores, poor growth, and changes in the color of hair, skin, and nails.

The Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board recommends that women who could become pregnant should make sure they get 400 mcg of folic acid daily, whether through food or a supplement. To get folate from food, go for fortified cereals, beans, lentils, and leafy greens, Psota says.

7. Magnesium May Boost Your Energy Level

Magnesium helps support bone health and assists in energy production. Although deficiency is fairly uncommon in otherwise healthy people, it can affect those who take certain medications, have certain health conditions, or consume too much alcohol, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements.

Magnesium deficiency can cause loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. In more severe cases, it can lead to numbness, muscle cramps, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, personality changes, or low potassium or calcium levels.

To help your levels return to normal, eat more magnesium-rich foods, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, spinach, black beans, and edamame, Patton says.

From Nutrient Deficiency to Healthy Eating

If you suspect you have a nutrient deficiency, talk to your doctor. “Blood tests can help determine if you are deficient,” Patton says. And if you are, your doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian or recommend supplements.

The best way to avoid or remedy nutrient deficiencies is to make sure you are eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, Patton says. “I encourage food first, but if you are at an increased risk of a nutrient deficiency, you may benefit from taking a multivitamin,” she says. And those at risk include the elderly, smokers, those who are lactose-intolerant, and those who have recently had bariatric surgery. Make sure to check with your doctor if you have questions about your risk.

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Would it surprise you to know that poor nutrition can be a cause of your pain? The Standard American Diet (SAD) causes numerous nutrient deficiencies, which has implications for chronic diseases, including pain. (1) Heart disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and even obesity are all related to nutritional deficiencies. The cause? Most Americans eating the SAD, which is a highly-processed and (sometimes) fast-food ritual, don’t realize their food is void of so many of the nutrients that their bodies need to function optimally. In addition, pharmaceutical medications increase the likelihood of nutrient depletion. Over time, metabolic processes break down, leading to a variety of pain-related illnesses, including musculoskeletal pain. I’ll explain how lack of important nutrients can be causing your discomfort.
Nutrition is an area where most medical professionals receive little training. If doctors learned more about the benefits of nutrition in medical school, it would likely improve the outcome for the majority of their patients. According to a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the average medical student received just 23 hours of nutrition instruction. (2) With four years spent in medical school, a mere 23 hours on the topic of nutrition is alarming!
For many of us, doctors included, the challenge is being able to recognize the connection between a nutrient deficiency and pain. Nutrient deficiencies alter bodily functions and metabolic processes down to the cellular level. Let’s look at some key nutrients and their connections to inflammation, pain, and illness.

7 Key Pain-Alleviating Nutrients You May Be Missing

1. Vitamin D
Most American adults are deficient in vitamin D, which contributes to a pro-inflammatory state. It’s immune modulating, and because it inhibits calcium absorption into the bone, can cause musculoskeletal pain. Researchers have found that vitamin D deficiencies are common in patients with chronic pain, and deficiency symptoms can include fatigue and muscle aches. (3) Vitamin D3 is the most bioavailable form, is quickly absorbed, and is rarely found in foods. The best way to increase your levels is to spend time in the sun, 20-30 minutes per day with exposed arms and legs, and depending on where you live, take a supplement.

2. B Vitamin Family
B vitamins are important for the myelin sheath, which protects your nerves. There are about 8 different B vitamins, and they all have critical roles. Vitamins B2 (riboflavin) and B6 (pyridoxine) can help improve carpal tunnel syndrome, and vitamin B3 (niacin) relieves osteoarthritis discomfort, resulting in improved joint flexibility, reduced inflammation and a reduction in the need for anti-inflammatory medications. (4) Vitamin B12 can help relieve the neurological pain that presents with tingling and other strange sensations. Different types of B vitamins are readily available in whole foods such as meat, fish, dairy, dark leafy greens, almonds, peanuts, mushrooms, avocados, beans, and eggs.
B vitamins are important for the myelin sheath, which protects your nerves.

3. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic, and it has a long history of use for musculoskeletal pain relief. In a study of patients taking 600 mg twice per day, results showed a significant analgesic effect and some symptom relief, but further research is needed on dosage and efficacy. (5) Find vitamin E in sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, red peppers, asparagus, fish, mangoes, and avocados.

4. Magnesium
Magnesium, the most abundant mineral in the body, is used for over 300 biochemical reactions, yet most Americans are deficient! It’s required for protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, energy production, and blood pressure regulation. (6) It is a cofactor for ATP, therefore, vital for energy production. Magnesium activates vitamin D, which is also important for calcium regulation and bone health. It regulates other minerals and also aligns itself with nutrients to help complete a multitude of biochemical functions. The older we get, magnesium intake decreases, and we see more deficiency symptoms. Numbness, muscle cramps, and abnormal heart rhythms are some of the symptoms seen with inadequate magnesium levels. This mineral is used to treat migraine headaches and may also be useful in treating fibromyalgia and impaired mitochondrial function. Dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, and bananas are rich sources of this mineral.
Dark leafy greens, avocados, and bananas are rich sources of magnesium.

5. Amino Acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are a large component of neurotransmitters, muscles, cells, cartilage, bone, and tissue. They are just as important as vitamins and minerals! In fact, for anyone recovering from injury or surgery, or for those desiring muscle growth, proper amino acid intake is critical. (7) Methionine is critical for those suffering from arthritis since it helps to relieve pain and stimulate cartilaginous tissue. The amino acid arginine is important for bone health since it is a component of collagen, an important component of bone. Adults require between 50 to 300 milligrams of amino acids per day. The foods with the highest amounts include animal products like lean meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, figs, and quinoa. Did you know that quinoa is actually a seed that is loaded with amino acids?!

6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are an essential type of fat that is used in metabolic processes, essential for good health, and help reduce inflammation in musculoskeletal and autoimmune conditions, relieving chronic pain. They stimulate the development of cartilage for joint repair, increase mineral absorption, and have been effective for treating migraines, back pain, and arthritis. For musculoskeletal pain, doses of 3000 milligrams (3 grams) of EPA and DHA daily is necessary to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits. (8) If you are not craving the familiar sources like halibut, salmon or sardines, be sure to include eggs, walnuts, and cauliflower in your diet.

7. Calcium

Calcium is important for muscle and nerve function.

Calcium is important for maintaining strong bones and controlling muscle and nerve function. Signs of severely low calcium include fatigue, muscle cramps, and abnormal heart rhythms. Make sure you are getting 9 servings of vegetables each day—especially dark leafy greens. Leafy greens are a rich source of calcium and not associated with intolerance or allergy that accompanies dairy products.

Medications and Nutrients

According to the Mayo Clinic, 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug, and more than half of Americans take two. (9) For most of us, as we age, these numbers increase; 20 percent of Americans take five or more prescription medications! And this does not even take into account the drugs available over-the-counter that might be added to the mix! If you are currently struggling with pain, or are overweight, chances are that you fall into one of these categories.
While the medications you take on a daily basis seem to do their intended job, behind the scenes it’s another issue. Doctors are taught to look for the potential side effects of medications. The ramifications of long-term medication usage are that they can cause nutrient depletion, leading to widespread effects throughout the body. Nutrient depletions affect the immune, musculoskeletal, digestive, endocrine and neurological systems, in turn, causing pain. Has this got you wondering about the medications you may be taking and their consequences?

Five Common medications and their effects (10)

  • Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs and Anti-inflammatories: (NSAIDS) These include over-the-counter drugs such as Advil, Aleve, and Excedrin, as well as prescription versions. This class of medication can deplete iron, vitamin B9 (folic acid), vitamin C, and zinc, leading to a weak immune system, anemia, and increased susceptibility to infections.
  • Glucocorticoids: These include steroids like prednisone and cortisone. This class of drugs can deplete a multitude of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, sodium, selenium, and zinc, which are important for bone and cellular health, muscle and nerve function, and immunity. Another consequence is reduced calcium absorption which then interferes with both magnesium and vitamin D metabolism.
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs: (DMARDS) These medications, used to slow the progression of joint damage, include medications like methotrexate, leflunomide, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine, minocycline, azathioprine, and cyclosporine. The list of possible nutrient depletions includes B3, B6, B9, B12, vitamin K, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, the important antioxidant glutathione, and probiotics which are vital for gut health.
  • Opioids: These drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain include codeine, hydrocodone, Vicodin, oxycodone, and morphine. Selenium and glutathione, both important antioxidants, become depleted, as does zinc, which again, is important for the immune system.

  • Proton Pump Inhibitor: (PPI) These drugs that help to relieve the symptoms of GERD include medications such as Prevacid, Prilosec, and Protonix. Because they act right in the stomach at the initial site of digestion, they can affect a whole list of nutrients that include calcium, chromium, folic acid, iron, B vitamins, vitamin C, and zinc. The cascade of consequences from all these nutrient depletions can include changes in bone health, immune system, digestive function and mental health status.

By making adjustments in your diet, you could set yourself up for success by seeing (and feeling) an improvement in your digestive health, getting better absorption of nutrients from food and supplements, and relying less and less on prescription medications to relieve your pain. An added bonus may be the money you save on all these expensive pain relieving meds! Nutrition is a fast way to change your health, resolve pain and lose weight.

6 Signs of Nutrient Deficiency

Here, Graham walks through six red-flag scenarios, and how you might reverse any deficiencies found.

1. Severe hair loss

While everyone loses about 100 strands of hair a day, suddenly finding clumps of hair on your pillow or in your shower drain merits a mention to your doctor. It could be a sign of bigger issues, such as low iron levels, which affects your energy, or thyroid disease, which could lead to sudden unexplained weight gain or weight loss.

“Always get that checked out,” Graham says. “We will do a blood test to check your iron levels.”

If your iron levels are low, you might also always feel cold, have headaches and feel dizzy often. If you have a thyroid disorder, it can make your muscles weak, your joints ache and your skin dry and pale.

Reversing iron deficiency

The good news is you can eliminate an iron deficiency with supplements. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 8 mg for men over 18 years old and 18 mg for women.

“It might take three to four months to remedy, but it is doable,” Graham says. Be sure to also include iron-rich foods in your diet, such as spinach and beans.

2. Burning sensation in the feet or tongue

“If you’re experiencing this, it should definitely sound an alarm,” Graham says. Talk to your doctor, who will likely order a blood test to check your B12 levels. You almost might have issues with balance, constipation and dry skin.

B12 plays an essential role in your health by producing hemoglobin, part of your red blood cells that helps the cells in your body receive life-giving oxygen. The vitamin is needed for a variety of systems, like your digestive tract, to work properly.

In addition, B12 deficiency can create mild cognitive impairment, so if you’re experiencing any changes in memory, thinking or behavior, see your doctor. Over time, B12 deficiency can permanently damage your nervous system, traveling up the spine and into the brain.

Vegans take special note: Plant-based diets eliminate most foods (meat and dairy products) rich in B12, increasing the risk of deficiency. But you can get your daily dose from almond milk, nutritional yeast, and fortified soy and coconut milk.

“It can take a long time to become deficient in B12 — as long as three years to deplete the liver of this important vitamin,” she says. “But over time, not having enough B12 can seriously damage vital functions and it must be addressed.”

Raising your B12 level

Taking B12 supplements will bring back and maintain proper B12 levels. “The body does not create B12 on its own,” Graham explains.

Healthy adults should take in 2.4 mg of B12 daily. For some, especially those with autoimmune diseases like pernicious anemia, B12 must be taken in shot form to help carry B12 directly to stomach cells.

Calcium regulates your heartbeat. So a deficiency could cause an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, and even lead to chest pains.

3. Wounds are slow to heal

If you are diligent about brushing and flossing daily and your gums are still red, swollen and bleed, you might need to boost your vitamin C intake. Another sign might be that you bruise easily.

“Vitamin C is like a cement. It pulls the cells together and makes wounds heal,” Graham says.

In fact, vitamin C has many powers, including serving as an anti-inflammatory and as an antioxidant to limit damage to cells.

Boosting vitamin C

First and foremost: If you smoke, take steps to quit. Among its many negative effects on your health, smoking limits your body’s ability to absorb vitamin C.

Also, eat more fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, including kiwi, red bell peppers and, of course, oranges. Healthy adults should get 60 mg of vitamin C each day.

4. Bone pain

If you are feeling pains in your bones, you might be deficient in vitamin D.

“If you’re an adult and it feels like you’re having growing pains — like you had as a kid — tell your doctor,” Graham says.

Treating vitamin D deficiency

For adults, the RDA of vitamin D is 600 IU (800 IU for adults age 71 and older). Foods rich in vitamin D include salmon, herring, sardines, canned tuna, oysters, shrimp and mushrooms. Or, choose cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, oatmeal and cereals that are fortified with vitamin D.

You can also get your daily dose by going out into the sunshine for 10 minutes without sunscreen (if you’re going to be outdoors longer than that, make sure to put that sunscreen on to protect against potentially damaging UV rays).

For severe deficiencies, your doctor might prescribe a vitamin D supplement.

Unlike other vitamins and minerals, vitamin D levels are regularly tested in routine blood tests at your annual physical, so it’s easy to identify deficiencies.

5. Irregular heartbeat

“Calcium regulates your heartbeat,” Graham says. “So a deficiency could cause an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, and even lead to chest pains.”

Other signs you might not be getting enough calcium:

  • Twitches around your face and mouth. Calcium works with muscles to help them contract properly.
  • Muscle cramps. Without enough calcium, the muscles do not fully relax.
  • Fractures. Calcium is needed for strong bones. Without it, bone loss, or osteoporosis, can lead to more fractures.

How to get more calcium

Adults should receive 1,000 mg of calcium each day from food sources and supplements.

Calcium-rich foods include as salmon and sardines (both of which are also excellent sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids), broccoli and bok choi.

And, of course, dairy products — including skim milk, and nonfat or lowfat yogurt. Try swapping one daily sugary beverage (soda, juice, coffee concoctions, etc.) for an 8 oz. glass of milk. And keep a few yogurts in the fridge at home or work for midday snacks. You can also use the milk and yogurt to make homemade smoothies, with fresh or frozen berries.

6. Your night vision deteriorates

If you don’t take in enough vitamin A, your night vision and the sharpness of your sight could deteriorate over time.

“A lack of vitamin A causes the cornea to become dry and that makes the eyes cloudy and can lead to vision loss,” Graham says. “It can also damage your retina.”

If you notice changes in your vision, schedule a visit with your ophthalmologist, who will examine the back of your eye.

Achieving an “A”

In addition to annual check-ups with your primary care doctor, see your eye doctor annually — and don’t hesitate to go sooner if you start experiencing blurriness or trouble with your night vision.

Graham also recommends a diet rich in vitamin A, including milk, eggs, mangos, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes and apricots. “You can also take supplements if your diet is not meeting your needs,” she says. Aim for 900 mg of vitamin A each day if you’re a man, 700 mg if you’re a woman.

Simple blood tests can reveal your levels of vitamins and minerals. However, the routine blood work at your annual physical doesn’t typically include most of these tests.

“Communicating your concerns with your primary care doctor is essential,” Graham says. “That way, we can check out your issue and reverse the problems early on. Often the treatment for these deficiencies is fairly simple, so the key is identifying them.”

by Kyle Hilsabeck

Vitamin and mineral deficiency can often present with symptoms we ignore or assume are just normal parts of life. Symptoms like fatigue, frequent illness, skin problems, changes in hair & fingernails, vision problems, tingling sensations, and dental issues can all be signs of serious dietary nutritional mineral and/or vitamin deficiency.

Sometimes there are aspects of our health that we easily write off as part of normal life. Everybody experiences this, right? But sometimes it could actually be a warning sign of a more serious problem related to nutritional deficiencies or other health problems.

Identifying Signs of Nutritional Vitamin Deficiencies

One of the key problems with identifying nutritional deficiencies lies in the fact that nutrients are used for so many processes throughout the body, so deficiency can appear in a wide variety of seemingly harmless symptoms.

Please note that the below list primarily focuses on nutrients with well-defined recommended daily intakes and deficiencies, but there are also nutrients that we are only beginning to understand like plant-based antioxidants, polyphenols, amino acids and more that can also contribute to some of these symptoms.

If you are experiencing any of these vitamin deficiency symptoms, you should always check with your doctor or trusted health care provider before attempting to self-diagnose or treat.

Anemia

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B12 (pernicious anemia, megaloblastic anemia)
  • B9 / folate (megaloblastic anemia)
  • B Vitamins (megaloblastic anemia)
  • Iron (iron deficiency and microcytic anemia)

Bleeding and Clotting Problems

  • Vitamin C (bleeding gums, nosebleeds, bruising)
  • Vitamin K (bruising, slow clotting times / excessive bleeding, heavy menstrual periods, blood in urine/stool)
  • Iron (heavy menstrual periods)
  • B9 / folate (bleeding gums)

Bone problems

Brain / mental problems / headaches / Dizziness

Cardiovascular

  • Magnesium (Abnormal heartbeat, high blood pressure)
  • B Vitamins (elevated homocysteine levels)

Coldness / tingling / numbness

  • B12 (numbness and tingling in hands/legs/feet)
  • B9 / folate (tingling, prickling, numbness)
  • Calcium (numbness and tingling around mouth, fingers, and toes)
  • Iron (coldness in hands/feet)
  • Magnesium (numbness and tingling in fingers and feet, hot flashes)

Eye and Vision Problems

Fatigue

  • Vitamin C (fatigue)
  • B12
  • B-vitamins
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Melatonin
  • Antioxidants

Fingernail Abnormalities

Fluid Retention / Edema

  • B Vitamins
  • B1 / thiamine
  • B6 / pyridoxine
  • Potassium
  • Cysteine

Gastrointestinal Problems

Hair Abnormalities

Immune Deficiency

  • B Vitamins (athletes foot)
  • Vitamin A (impaired immune function)
  • Vitamin C (impaired immune function)
  • Vitamin D (impaired immune function)
  • Vitamin E (impaired immune function)
  • Omega-3 (lowered immunity)
  • Zinc (low immunity, recurring colds/flu)
  • Selenium (impaired immune function)
  • Copper (impaired immune function)

Joint Problems

  • B1 (swelling)
  • B6 (swelling)
  • Potassium (swelling)
  • Manganese (clicking joints)

Mouth and Tooth Problems

  • Vitamin A (weak enamel)
  • Vitamin C (gingivitis, bleeding gums, tooth loss)
  • Vitamin D (weak enamel)
  • B12 (swollen inflamed tongue, canker sores, cracks in corner of mouth)
  • B3/niacin (canker sores, painful tongue, cracks in corner of mouth)
  • Zinc (mouth ulcers, loss of taste, cracks in corner of mouth)
  • B9/folate (bleeding gums, canker sores, painful tongue)
  • Calcium (crowded teeth, canker sores, weak enamel)
  • Vitamin K (crowded teeth, weak enamel)
  • B2 / riboflavin (cracks in corner of mouth, painful tongue)
  • Iron (cracks in corner of mouth)
  • Protein (cracks in corner of mouth)

Muscle Issues / Weakness

Skin Problems

Smell / Nose

  • Zinc (loss of smell)

It is important to note that this list is by no means all-inclusive and should not be used to self-diagnose or treat your symptoms.

Vitamin Deficiency is Easy to Treat once it is Identified

If you are experiencing any of the listed vitamin deficiency symptoms, you should discuss them with your trusted healthcare provider who can properly assess your health status, run any necessary tests, and help determine if you could benefit from nutritional interventions. Ask your trusted healthcare provider if you could benefit from incorporating and of the McCord Research Olivamine Nutritional Supplements

Disclaimer: These statements have not been reviewed by the FDA. These products are dietary supplements and are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The decision to use these products should be discussed with a trusted healthcare provider. The authors and the publisher of this work have made every effort to use sources believed to be reliable to provide information that is accurate and compatible with the standards generally accepted at the time of publication. The authors and the publisher shall not be liable for any special, consequential, or exemplary damages resulting, in whole or in part, from the readers’ use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this article. The publisher has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third party Internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

4 Signs You Have a Vitamin D Deficiency

Part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is making sure you’re getting sufficient amounts of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. To do so, you eat a well-balanced diet and maybe even take a multivitamin every day. However, there’s a chance you might be lacking vitamin D, as diet alone is often not an adequate source for this hormone. We’re breaking down the basics of vitamin D so you know when to talk to your doctor about a potential deficiency.

How Do I Get Vitamin D?

Your body creates vitamin D naturally when you expose your bare skin to the sun’s ultraviolet B rays. The rays energize the cholesterol in your skin, which causes the cells to create vitamin D. If you decide to get your vitamin D through sun exposure, you need to do so with great caution because extended sun exposure can result in sunburns and skin cancer; spend no more than 10 minutes outside without sunblock. But we recommend opting for safer ways to meet your daily dose. These include eating plenty of fish, mushrooms, and fortified foods and drinks. You can also speak with your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement.

Am I at Risk of a Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency is widespread, with about one billion people worldwide falling below proper levels of this essential vitamin. Several risk factors increase your chances of a deficiency. Here are a few to keep in mind:

  1. Indoor jobs. If you work indoors during the day, you are missing your prime ultraviolet B absorption hours. These rays can’t pass through windows, so even if you can see the sun from your desk, you’re not increasing your vitamin D levels.
  2. Age. People age 55 and older don’t convert the ultraviolet B rays into vitamin D as efficiently as younger people do.
  3. Dark skin. Darker skin has larger amounts of melanin, which slows down the rate at which your skin absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet B rays.
  4. Specialty diets. Only a few types of food contain significant amounts of vitamin D, most of which tend to be animal-based or fortified dairy products. Therefore, vegetarians, vegans, and lactose-intolerant people have more difficulty reaching significant levels of vitamin D through their diet.

What Are Symptoms of a Deficiency?

A vitamin D deficiency presents itself in various, somewhat vague, symptoms. These symptoms are common signs of several different health conditions, so a deficiency typically isn’t the first suspected ailment. If you notice several of the following symptoms, speak with your doctor. They can run a blood test to determine if you do have insufficient amounts of vitamin D. Keep in mind, this is a list of only a few of the symptoms, so be sure to explain any abnormal symptoms you experience to your doctor.

  1. Weak bones. Vitamin D allows your body to pull calcium and phosphate from the digested food in your intestines. When your body is low in calcium and phosphate, perhaps from being unable to absorb them, it releases a hormone that extracts existing calcium and phosphate from your bones, leaving them weak and soft.
  2. Frequent illnesses. Vitamin D strengthens diseases’ worst enemy: the antimicrobial peptide (AMP). You can find AMPs in immune cells and on mucosal surfaces, and they rid your body of bacteria and viruses that can make you ill. The immune system relies on vitamin D to keep it healthy and robust, so a deficiency of vitamin D can result in frequent illnesses.
  3. Muscle pain. Your muscles contain pain receptors called nociceptors that respond to different stimuli. A vitamin D deficiency results in a chemical stimulus that causes the nociceptors to send pain signals to your spinal cord or brain stem.
  4. Inflammation. Certain T-cells, a form of white blood cell, tell your immune system how to react to an invading bacteria or virus. The presence of vitamin D in your body, or lack thereof, will cause your immune system to produce a specific type of these T-cells. When you have sufficient levels of vitamin D, the result is T-cells that aren’t inflammatory and will thus cause less pain and swelling.

If you have a combination of any of the symptoms above or meet one of the at-risk qualifications, don’t hesitate to speak with your primary care physician at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group. Your doctor will determine if a vitamin D deficiency is likely, and they can test your blood to check your hormone levels. Whether these symptoms are a sign of vitamin D deficiency or something else entirely, your doctor can help find the right treatment to help you achieve better health.

Sources:
Healthline | 8 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Healthline | 6 Side Effects of Too Much Vitamin D
NCBI | Vitamin D Deficiency in Adults: When to Test and How to Treat
CDC | Vitamin D
Healthline | Rickets
Everyday Health | 5 Illnesses Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency
NCBI | Vitamin D Status Is Associated With Arterial Stiffness and Vascular Dysfunction in Healthy Humans
Vitamin D Council | How do I get the vitamin D my body needs?
Healthline | How to Safely Get Vitamin D From Sunlight
NCBI | Muscle Pain: Mechanisms and Clinical Significance
NCBI | Vitamin D in Pain Management
Britannica | T cell
Science Direct | Nociceptor
US News and World Report | How Much Time in the Sun Do You Need for Vitamin D?
Prevention | These 10 Groups Of People Are More Prone To Vitamin D Deficiency

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