Vitamin D deficiency: Symptoms, dietary and lifestyle tips
The “Sunshine” vitamin or the so-called Vitamin D is produced by our bodies in response to our skin being exposed to sunlight.
I am pretty sure; you all must have recently found out that you are deficient or know someone who is deficient in Vitamin D3.
It is really shocking for most of the people when they have never had a problem before and believe that nothing has changed to make it a big problem now.
But the harsh truth is that a lot has changed and this Vitamin D deficiency is now a global health problem affecting so many people worldwide.
Now, what is Vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency means that you do not have enough Vitamin D in your body. It can be due to limited exposure to the sun, fat malabsorption, strict vegan diets, Post bariatric surgery, age over 60 years, obesity or in dark-skinned people
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency
If you shun the sun completely, you might be at a risk of vitamin D deficiency.
For many people, the symptoms are subtle. Yet, even without symptoms, too little vitamin D can pose health risks. Low blood levels of Vitamin D have been associated with the below given symptoms-
1. Rickets - Severe lack of vitamin D causes rickets which shows up in children as Muscle weakness, incorrect growth pattern, Incorrect posture, deformities in the joints.
2. Muscle pain or weakness - Vitamin D receptors are present in the nerve cells, which sense pain. Thus, there is a link between chronic pain and low blood levels of vitamin D
3. Falling sick very often- Vitamin D has major role in keeping our immune system strong. Studies by Mathias W Pletz et al. Respir Res .2014. have shown a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and respiratory tract infections.
4. Fatigue and tiredness- If you excessively feel fatigue or tired, you can watch out for vitamin D deficiency. Taking Vitamin D supplements might help improve energy levels.
5. Impaired wound healing- Vitamin D has a major role in controlling inflammation and fighting infection. This fat-soluble Vitamin increases the production of compounds that are crucial for forming new skin as part of the wound healing process.
6. Bone pain- Bone pain and lower back pain may be the signs of inadequate vitamin D levels according to studies by Erhan Gokcek et al. Anesth Essays Res. Jul- Sep 2018. Also, adequate Vitamin D intake may be a good strategy for protecting bone mass and reducing the risk of fractures.
7. Depression- Depression is associated with low vitamin D, and some studies have found that supplementing with Vitamin D improves mood.
8. Hair loss- Hair loss is usually caused by stress. But when this hair loss is severe, it can be a result of a nutrients deficiency like Vitamin D.
If Vitamin D deficiency continues for long periods, it might result in complications like
- Cardiovascular problems
- Recurrent infections
- Neurological diseases
- Pregnancy complications
- Certain cancers like breast, prostate and colon
- Autoimmune problems
How to treat Vitamin D deficiency?
Our goal should be – To check, To reach and To maintain. Vitamin D is the only nutrient, your body produces when exposed to sunlight.
You can get enough Vitamin D in a variety of ways. These can include
1. Exposing yourself to early morning sun.
Especially your face, arms, legs or back (Between 9 am to 11 am) around three days per week. The darker your skin, the more sun exposure is needed in order to get sufficient Vitamin D.
According to the Vitamin D council, it should be
15 minutes for fair skin people
45- 60 minutes for dark skinned people
Avoid standing behind a window for the sun. Use of sunscreen gels should also be minimized. Also remember to stay hydrated enough when outdoors and also wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun exposure.
Avoid spending early morning hours inside your house.
Vegetarian sources of vitamin D include-
- Orange juice fortified with Vitamin D1
- Vitamin D fortified Milk – Fortified cow’s milk contain about 130 IU per glass (200ml)
- Fortified Yogurt
- Vitamin D fortified cereals like Oats.
- Swiss cheese
- Breakfast cereals (Vitamin D fortified)
- Soy drinks- Fortified soymilk contain 110 IU of Vitamin D per glass
Apart from this, Vitamin D is also present in multivitamins, supplement pills and liquid drops for babies.
- Dark chocolate- A tiny bit of dark chocolate once a day is also a good source of Vitamin D.
It is very important to check the food labels to get an idea of vitamin D present in them. Not to forget, adequate Calcium is also required along with Vitamin D in maintaining bone health.
So, one should try eating Bajra or Ragi roti in meals as well, to quicken the absorption of Vitamin D .
Non vegetarian sources include-
- Egg yolk
- Cod liver oil
- Canned Tuna
- Liver, beef
Indulge yourself in weight bearing exercise to strengthen your bones and Muscles
4. Skip alcohol
The Bottom line
Explaining in a nutshell, short bursts of sunlight exposure can usually allow your body to produce all the vitamin D needed for the day.
But for some people, it’s a task to achieve, due to work or other reasons. So, getting the required vitamin D from diet should be your main goal. The foods listed above are some of the top sources of vitamin D available.
Strangely enough, Overdose of Vitamin D supplements can cause problems. So, it is always advisable to consult a Registered Medical practitioner before starting on any Vitamin D supplementation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sneha Jain, Dietician
Sneha is a Post graduate with specialization in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a university topper and holds 5+ years of experience in Apollo hospitals, VLCC, slimsutra and first cry fit-kids . She has successfully counselled clients all over India for weight loss, weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, PCOD, hypothyroid, Pregnancy and lactation and growth charts for children. She has her own diet consultation e-clinic (diet_diariez)
She believes in customized diets and eating local and seasonal foods. Her counselling not only involves diet planning, but also lifestyle modification and stress relief strategies.