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Vitamin D deficiency is increasingly common in the Western world. It's estimated that up to 50% of the population have either a Vitamin D deficiency or a Vitamin D insufficiency. People mistakenly think that they aren't at risk of Vitamin D deficiency. We read that our milk or our cereals are fortified, and we assume that those levels of Vitamin D are enough to keep us healthy.
After all, with the Vitamin D we get every minute we're out in the sun and the Vitamin D fortification in our food, we must be chockfull of it.
Well, probably not.
Why you might be deficient in Vitamin D
- The Sunlight: It's difficult to get all your Vitamin D requirements from the sunlight. The form of Vitamin D that comes from the sunlight has to be altered by your body several times before you can utilise it. Not only that, but if you live in a cold country (the UK, North America, Canada) you may get fewer hours of overhead sunlight. In winter, you will frequently not get enough Vitamin D from the sunlight. It is also harder for some groups to get the Vitamin D they require from the sun:
- People with darker skin: Such as people of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian ancestry. The darker your skin the more sun you need to get the same amount of Vitamin D as a light-skinned person
- People who need to use a lot of sunscreen: if you burn easily, you need to use sunscreen. The sunscreen blocks Vitamin D from getting though
- People who cover their body: If you cover your body, for cultural or other reasons, you are more likely to experience Vitamin D deficiency, this is because there is less skin area for the Vitamin to get through
- People who are housebound: If you stay indoors all or most of the day, you have no opportunity to get your Vitamin D
- Food: Even with fortification, it is nearly impossible to get the correct amount of Vitamin D from food alone
- You don't take supplements: See above for the reason.
- You are at medical risk
- You are pregnant
- You are obese
- You have a gastrointestinal complaint like: Celiac Disease, Crohn's disease, or inflammatory bowel disease (this is because anything that interferes with absorption may prevent absorption of Vitamin D, which is a fat-soluble Vitamin)
- You are older than 65
- You are an infant (if fed exclusively on breastmilk and your mother does not take a supplement)
Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency
If you have Vitamin D Deficiency, you may notice the following signs:
- You feel sad: A 2006 study of 80 older people found that they were 11 times more likely to be depressed if they had lower Vitamin D levels. That's because Vitamin D impacts on Serotonin, the mood-stabilising neurotransmitter.
- Your bones ache: Patients with vitamin D deficiency tend to be misdiagnosed with Fibromyalgia, when what they really have is Osteomalacia. Osteomalacia means "soft bones" and is caused by Vitamin D deficiency. It can cause; pain in the bone; muscle weakness; partial fractures. Pain is most commonly felt in: the legs, groin, upper thighs, and knees. Movements can become hugely painful. In some cases, patients become so debilitated and their muscles so weak that they can't even get out of bed.
- Your head is sweaty: This is one of the earliest symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency.