Up to 90% of adults in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient. Many of us mistakenly think we aren’t at risk because we consume vitamin D-fortified foods, such as milk. Unfortunately, there are very few foods that have therapeutic levels of vitamin D naturally to support our health needs, leaving many of us vitamin D deficient.
Before the year 2000, very few doctors ever considered the possibility that you might be vitamin D deficient. But as the technology became inexpensive and widely available, more and more studies were done and it became increasingly clear that vitamin D deficiency was absolutely prevalent, especially in northern regions where sunlight is often scarce in winter months. So what should you watch for if you’re concerned you might not be getting enough? Here are a few signs you may be vitamin D deficient:
1. Persistent aches
Especially in the cooler months, vitamin D deficient adults feel more achiness in their bones and muscles, particularly when they awake in the morning.
2. You’re feeling blue
Vitamin D seems to improve levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, which has been known to boost your mood. Studies have shown healthy adults given vitamin D supplements during the cooler months reported greater positive mood than given a placebo.
3. You’re 50 or older
According to the American Cancer Society, your skin does not make as much vitamin D as you get older. And in fact, your kidneys start to become less productive when it comes to converting vitamin D into the form the body puts to good use. Additionally, many adults over 50 tend to spend less time outdoors resulting in less sun exposure compared to younger adults.
4. You’re overweight or obese
Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means the more body fat you have, the more it gets diluted. People who are overweight or obese may require more daily vitamin D to make up for this dilution effect.
5. You have darker skin
To make the same amount of vitamin D, someone with very dark skin needs 10 times the amount of sun exposure compared to someone with very pale complexion. Similarly, although sunscreen is highly recommended, a sunscreen with 30 SPF reduces your skin’s ability to make vitamin D by 97%.
6. You have gut trouble
Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, this means if you have gastrointestinal condition that affects your ability to absorb fat, you’ll likely have trouble absorbing fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D. This includes people with Crohn’s, celiac or inflammatory bowel diseases.
7. Head sweating
One of the classic signs of vitamin D deficiency is a sweaty head. Oddly enough, doctors used to ask new mothers about head sweating in their newborns for this very reason.
So how can you get your vitamin D safely?
- Sunlight: Sensible sun exposure is key. Since vitamin D production only occurs on unprotected skin, expose your arms, legs, abdomen and back if you can, for max vitamin D production, but be mindful of your body’s sensitivity to burn. Like we mentioned earlier, you may only make vitamin D for part of the year due to the angle of the sun and depending on where you live so you may need to look at other sources including…
- Food: So, while vitamin D isn’t readily available in all sorts of foods, you can find it within certain foods including: fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines), fortified milk, cod liver oil, egg yolks, mushrooms and a few more. And yet if you feel like you’re still not able get your vitamin d intake through sunlight or food, you can look to a…
- Supplement: During the cooler, darker months the recommended solution is vitamin D supplements, which are an inexpensive and effective way to receive therapeutic doses. Be sure to choose a vitamin D supplement blended with a non-GMO oil.
The difference between vitamin D2 & D3:
If you are looking to take a supplement, I recommend D3. I personally take a vitamin D3 supplement which uses cholecalciferol, the same form of vitamin D found in fish, eggs and the one produced naturally by sunlight on human skin. While the body is able to use D2 for some functions, D3 is the preferred source as it is absorbed much more effectively. In fact, D3 is said to convert up to 400x faster and is 4x more effective than D2.
If you’re interested in supplements, be sure to check out my recommendations for the best vitamins women should take over 50, including vitamin D!