I received some interesting health news earlier this week which provided some much needed insight into why I'd been feeling a certain way lately.
Aside from my rather busy schedule, I've been feeling tired, moody, unable to focus, kind of down, etc. Symptoms I was mostly ignoring, attributing my relatively busy lifestyle to them. Okay, very busy lifestyle.
So what came back is that I'm extremely vitamin D deficient. How could this happen? I take a supplement every day, I eat plenty of seafood, I think I get outside enough. Or do I?
In today's working world, we, as a collective unit, do not get enough vitamin D in our system. We're simply not outside as much as we used to be. I mean, how could we be? Children have school between the hours of 8-3, most adults with standard jobs, work the hours of 8-5 or longer. The only times we have to be outside is, if we're lucky, on the weekends (weather and season permitting). So it should be no surprise to anyone if they get their levels tested and they come back as deficient.
Aside from not having enough exposure to sunlight, there are other factors that may play a role in deficiency.
causes of vitamin D deficiency
- Diet: Those who follow a strict vegan diet, may not be getting the required vitamin D, as most sources come from animals. So if you're vegan, this is especially important for you.
- Lack of sunlight: Those who spend a lot of time indoors or live in northern latitudes may not get as much exposure to the sun and therefore produce less vitamin D.
- Malabsorption issues: When you have digestive issues such as IBS, Crohn's, Celiac's in particular, the ability to properly absorb nutrients from food is compromised.
- Being overweight: "Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D."
- Older Age: Vitamin D deficiency has shown to significantly affect the older population. It can aggravate osteoporosis, reduces longevity, increases the risk of cardiovascular problems and may also increase the risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
- Dark Skin: Some populations are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency as the pigment melanin in dark skin does not absorb as much UV radiation, so it's especially important to supplement.
signs of vitamin D deficiency?
- Feeling depressed: Most of us get used to feeling a certain way and believe that it's normal. But it's anything but normal to feel down all the time and it may have a lot to do with lack of vitamin D.
- Fatigue: This is such a broad symptom and generally overlooked as potential cause of vitamin D deficiency. "Fatigue is a vague but common complaint that is poorly characterized by physicians as well as patients. While fatigue may result from a number of different etiologies, at the present time, a comprehensive approach to each patient with fatigue does not include routine measurement of serum vitamin D levels."
- Gut issues: Vitamin D is fat soluble and often times gut disturbances such as Crohn's, Celiac's and NCGS (Non -Celiac Gluten Sensitivity) can impair proper absorption of fat. "Vitamin D deficiency decreases the production of defensins, which are anti-microbial molecules essential to maintain healthy gut flora. As expected, an oral supply of a synthetic defensin recovers gut bacteria balance, decreases blood sugar levels and improves fatty liver."
- Bone degeneration: What do you think of when you see the words bone health? Calcium, right? Well that's one part of it. In order for calcium to be properly absorbed, we need vitamin D to be present. Bone density is not something most young people have to think about, however, as the years creep on, particularly for women, this can become an issue.
- Hair loss: Do you pull out entire strands of hair when showering? Me too. Sometimes I wonder how I have any hair left at all. But now things are starting to make sense for me. Hair loss has been associated with low vitamin D.
- Excessive sweating: If you're getting a little dewy when you're at rest without much strain, this may be another sign that something is off. Excessive sweating, particularly on the head, has been associated with low vitamin D levels.
- Compromised immunity: So you get cold after cold and they last significantly longer than you recall. Several studies have shown a link between weakened immune systems and vitamin D deficiency.
So of course, now we get to the part of, okay so what do you do? If you want to go the absolute proper path, I would recommend getting a blood test first and foremost to see if you are truly vitamin D deficient. Chances are, if you're healthy overall and have a good diet, live in Hawaii and surf all day, this is not a concern for you. But if like me, you spend lots of time in-doors and didn't realize it, you may want to look into a potential deficiency. In the mean time, here are some really simple things you can do.
how to get more vitamin D
- Get outside: I can already hear the excuses. But the truth is, you can probably find 10 minutes to go for a walk at the office or if you work from home, put on sneakers and go for a little walk. If you're a busy mom, put the kid/kids in the stroller and take them for a walk. Not only will you get much needed sun exposure, but walking is miraculous for a little mind reset. Win-win, if you ask me.
- Eat the right foods: When it comes to nutrition, this is an easy one for me but may be more challenging for someone who is following a vegan or vegetarian diet. If your diet includes animal products make sure you eat plenty of eggs, sardines, mackerel, tuna, salmon, raw milk (if not df), and mushrooms.
- Artificial light: One thing I invested in earlier this year was an artificial light therapy lamp. I got this one but there are several options, if you shop around.
- A good supplement: All supplements are not created equal. I've been taking a tablet supplement for years and it has not been beneficial. Recently I started taking a high potency liquid supplement. I'm taking 4 drops per day, but that's because my levels are very low. Also, cod liver oil is an excellent source of vitamin D. An important thing to consider with cod liver oil is ensuring you invest in a quality supplement. As you would with any seafood, make sure it's from a wild caught source. The liver is the filtration organ so you don't want to cause yourself more harm than good.
These are applicable steps you can take right away if you think you might be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. And again, I'll stress the fact that knowing exactly where you are might be beneficial. I had absolutely no idea until my new doctor suggested that we take a look at those numbers.
It's not going to be an overnight solution as it can take several weeks for your levels to come back up, but at least you'll be moving in the right direction.