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10 Signs & Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is a critical fat-soluble vitamin that you attain from sun exposure, food, and supplements. Although vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, many people are deficient in it around the world.

That is because sunlight is necessary for vitamin D to convert to its final form in the body. This vitamin, which acts as a hormone, also needs other nutrients for maximum absorption like magnesium and vitamin K. (1)

Fat-soluble vitamins do store in the body over time, but since vitamin D needs extra support from nutrients and the sun, it is much less rare to get too much. Although it is possible to receive too much vitamin D through supplementation, other fat-soluble vitamins that do not require sun-like vitamin E are more likely to lead to an overdose. (2)

Vitamin D is necessary to carry out several functions in the body, and nearly 50 percent of people in the United States alone are deficient in this vital nutrient. That is mainly because many people do not get an adequate amount of sunshine each day.
To get adequate amounts of vitamin D each day, many people benefit from a supplement, even if it only 1,000 to 2,000 IU. Others who are severely deficient may benefit from higher doses of 5,000 IU for a short period to increase numbers faster.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Do you think you are getting enough vitamin D in your diet or through supplementation? Find out more about some common signs, symptoms, and causes of vitamin D deficiency, as well as the best foods to eat to enhance plasma levels.

1. Mood Swings

Vitamin D is technically a hormone, as it acts as one in the body. The right balance of hormones is crucial to maintain optimal health.

Hormones act as messenger molecules, affecting brain and heart health, as well as many other organs. If you are deficient in vitamin D, there is a much higher chance you may suffer from more mood swings than someone with adequate or optimal levels. (3)

That is especially true for women, as our hormones fluctuate tremendously each month. While some may believe that there is nothing you can do to prevent mood swings, that is not true.

Having the correct balance of nutrients, hormones, and lifestyle habits can bring about healing to avoid unnecessary outbursts or mood swings.

2. Depression

Much like mood swings, depression occurs when there is an imbalance of serotonin in the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that can get thrown off by hormone imbalances.

 

Depression is a debilitating condition that many people suffer from globally. Vitamin D may play a significant role in lessening the effects of depression and prevention. (4)

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, may also be a cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that sets in the cold winter months, mostly in the northern hemisphere. That area of the world gets less sunshine and for long periods as well.

Therefore, the connection between depression, SAD, and vitamin D is promising. If you are suffering from depression, be sure to speak with a licensed psychologist, but do not rule out a chemical or hormonal imbalance in the brain either.

3. Weakened Immune System

Are you getting sick all the time? It may be time to check your vitamin levels, especially vitamin D. Vitamin D helps protect the immune system, lowering the chances of developing autoimmune conditions. (5)

Vitamin D is necessary to support a healthy, thriving immune system, to ward off illnesses, the flu, viruses, and even the common cold.

Keep in mind, if you are prone to getting sick all the time, it does not necessarily mean you are deficient in vitamin D. There are many factors to consider as well.

The proper balance of many fats and water-soluble vitamins, like vitamins E, C, A, K, are the vital elements for a healthy immune system. Lifestyle habits, as well as environmental concerns, are also essential elements for optimal wellness.

4. Fatigue and Exhaustion

Fatigue and exhaustion may also be a significant symptom of vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency affects the bones, muscles, and the entire body as a whole. That is the main reason why it can lead to extreme fatigue or exhaustion.

It could present itself as daytime fatigue for an otherwise healthy person, or extreme exhaustion in someone with chronic disease or autoimmunity. (6)

If you experience a lot of fatigue or exhaustion, speak to your healthcare professional about testing your micronutrient levels as well as your vitamin D.

5. Bone Disorders

The right amount of vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K is necessary to maintain healthy bones and avoid bone ailments. Vitamin D deficiency leads to a loss of bone density.

Some bone disorders that may develop because of vitamin D deficiency include more frequency of broken bones, osteoporosis (7), and in extreme and rare deficiency cases, rickets.

Bone deterioration over time can lead to more frequent falls, fractures, and disorders.

If you experience more frequent injuries through broken bones or fractures, be sure to check in with your doctor to get your vitamin D levels checked as soon as possible.

6. Dry Skin

Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency can also cause the occasional bout of dry skin or even severely dry skin called Ichthyosis.

It can also cause itchy skin or psoriasis. Everyone is different in how the body reacts to deficiency, so even if you do not experience dry skin or more than one of the symptoms listed, you may still benefit from extra vitamin D.

Getting the right amount of vitamin D can help provide the skin with extra moisture, avoiding frequent dryness and skin conditions. (8)

7. Muscle Spasms or Discomfort/Weakness

Muscle spasms or weakness is one of the most common vitamin D deficiency symptoms. That is because there is a direct connection between the muscles and bone health.

To create and maintain healthy muscles, vitamin D is essential.

Along with vitamin D, you also need to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of magnesium, vitamin K, and calcium for maximum absorption.

If you are experiencing shooting pains, muscle spasms, or even weakness and discomfort in your muscles, be sure to get your vitamin D levels checked at your next doctors’ appointment.

8. Brittle Hair or Hair Loss

Hair health is another factor in vitamin D deficiency because vitamin D stimulates hair follicles so they can grow well.

Some vitamins and micronutrients are also essential to maintain strong, healthy hair. Others include B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin A, and iron, to name a few.

A balanced diet is the best way to make sure you are getting enough nutrition to promote healthy hair. Remember not to buy into hair products promising strong hair, but instead, focus on a healthy lifestyle and diet.

9. Poor Vision

Vitamin D can even help promote stronger vision, and a deficiency can lead to a higher risk of blurry vision, macular degeneration, cataracts, and more.

Optimal levels of vitamin D are necessary to maintain healing in the cornea of the eye, promoting clearer vision.

There is emerging research that shows a promising connection between lower vitamin D levels and a higher risk of age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. (9)

If you or someone you know is suffering from poor vision, do not forget to check on this essential hormone to promote improved vision.

10. Mouth Ulcers or Bleeding Gums

Vitamin D deficiency affects most areas of them both, and the mouth is another area to monitor if you suspect you are deficient in this hormone.

Bleeding gums are common and can occur from poor dental hygiene, side effects of prescribed drugs like birth control pills, and even a lack of vitamin D.

A deficiency in vitamin D can also manifest in the form of mouth ulcers, commonly known as canker sores. (10) If you maintain good dental hygiene and you still suffer from bleeding gums and mouth ulcers, it cannot hurt to find out what your vitamin D levels are.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is common, and there can be many different causes. From factors related to gut health to malabsorption and much more, many people experience different causes of this widespread deficiency.

Causes that can affect your chance of becoming vitamin D deficient or insufficient include:

  • Intestinal Permeability (Leaky gut)
  • Malabsorption or maldigestion
  • Magnesium Deficiency
  • Poor diet
  • Limited sun exposure
  • Dark skin (higher melanin reduces the skins ability to make vitamin D)
  • Kidney dysfunction (necessary to convert vitamin D to its final form)
  • Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, or celiac disease (due to inability to absorb vitamin D through the digestive tract)
  • Obesity

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that affects many areas of the body. Even if you are not deficient, you may have insufficient levels, as it is a widespread deficiency.

It is crucial to make sure you keep a healthy diet to acquire enough vitamin D2 from food and sunlight or supplementation to get vitamin D3. That way, your body can sufficiently convert vitamin D to its final form for maximum absorption.

If you have one of the following causes, you are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you do have, or suspect you may have, one of the above causes.

While many doctors now test for vitamin D, not all of them are testing as a preventive measure. It is up to you to ask your doctor to check your levels so you can take control of your health.

Foods High in Vitamin D

Many foods are high in vitamin D, so it can be easy to get all the nutrition you need for vitamin D2. But remember that sunlight or supplementation is also necessary to attain vitamin D3.

Check out the list below to see where you can start adding more foods high in vitamin D to your diet today.

  • Egg yolks (egg white only contains protein)
  • Mushrooms
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Cheese
  • Beef liver
  • Fortified foods (dairy, soy, cereal, orange juice

Is there somewhere you can start adding more vitamin D to your diet? Because many of these foods are animal-based, those on a strict vegan diet may have a harder time getting enough vitamin D2.

Be sure to speak with your doctor about testing your vitamin D levels, especially if you do not often consume these foods and suffer from any symptoms.

Conclusion

Vitamin D deficiency is a common occurrence across the globe. Be sure you know your levels each year to make sure you stay as healthy as possible.

If you are not able to get your levels checked, be sure to eat plenty of foods high in vitamin D, get enough sunshine (typically 15-30 minutes a day does the trick), and supplement if you know you are deficient.

Signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can vary throughout all areas of the body, while bone and muscle issues are remarkably frequent. If you suffer from any of these signs and symptoms, do not ignore them. Get your levels tested as soon as possible.

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, and written, fact-checked & medically reviewed by health experts.

Throughout this article, you'll find scientific references (clickable links to highly trusted peer-reviewed scientific papers, links denoted by the numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3)).