It’s an exceptionally cold winter in the Northern Hemisphere, so with sunlight at a premium, it’s a good time to stop and think if you’re getting enough Vitamin D.
There is no doubt that Vitamin D is crucial for bone health – it doubles as a hormone, and regulates calcium and phosphorous in the bone remodeling process.
It’s a crucial component in preventing fracture, and not surprisingly, a recent study has shown that half of older adults who have sustained a hip fracture had low serum Vitamin D levels.1
Vitamin D is also involved in many other important body processes, including reduction of inflammation, cell growth, and immune and neuromuscular function.
Now let’s take a look at six little-known signs that could mean you are Vitamin D deficient.
1. Chronic Pain And Muscle Weakness
This may sound quite drastic, but it can actually be very subtle, especially in the beginning. With Vitamin D levels registering extremely low among those with chronic pain and fatigue, and symptoms being relieved when Vitamin D is given, doctors are beginning to take notice.
Since Vitamin D is a hormone as well, receptors for it are located all over the body, including the muscles and brain.
Actually, muscle weakness as a result of Vitamin D deficiency makes perfect sense. You see, Vitamin D enters muscle cells when it is metabolized, enhancing muscle contraction, which is vital for, among other things, preventing falls and engaging in bone-building exercise.
So nonspecific pain and weakness may in fact be your body’s cry for more of this important vitamin.
2. Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency is, unfortunately, fairly common. It is not so much a symptom of Vitamin D deficiency insomuch as the two affect each other. As Vitamin D is being metabolized in the body, magnesium regulates enzymatic activity that affects Vitamin D uptake.
So if you are not getting enough magnesium, your Vitamin D levels will also suffer.
3. Impaired/Low Immunity
Do you find yourself catching “every cold that comes along”? It might be lack of Vitamin D.
As I mentioned earlier, Vitamin D receptors are found all over the body, including the immune cells. A 2006 study confirms the theory that Vitamin D deficiency is part of the seasonal nature of flu outbreaks – less sunlight means less Vitamin D, which leads to lower immunity and more flu. 2
The research suggests that Vitamin D may be most effective as a flu preventative. A 2010 Japanese study found that flu incidence did indeed decrease when schoolchildren were given Vitamin D3 supplements through the winter.
The study concludes that:
“Vitamin D(3) supplementation during the winter may reduce the incidence of influenza A, especially in specific subgroups of schoolchildren.” 3
A 2012 study found low levels of Vitamin D in those with autoimmune disease, and noted in their conclusion that:
“Cells of the immune system are capable of synthesizing and responding to vitamin D.” 4
In addition to Vitamin D supplementation, regular exercise also boosts immune function. Wintertime tends to promote a more indoor, sedentary lifestyle that is low in Vitamin D, so it makes sense to add exercise in with your immune-boosting efforts this winter.
4. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure may indicate that your Vitamin D levels are low.
Through a complex enzymatic process, your body forms a peptide that is able to increase blood pressure via artery constriction and retaining water and sodium. Vitamin D suppresses this enzymatic process so it does not activate inappropriately, thereby causing high blood pressure.
A meta-analiysis from 2011 clearly showed an inverse relationship between Vitamin D levels in the blood and hypertension.5 In other words, the lower the Vitamin D, the higher the blood pressure.
5. Feeling Sad
Sadness and depression can become worse in the winter, and low levels of sunlight (and subsequently low Vitamin D levels) play a significant role in this cycle.
A study analyzed the effects of Vitamin D3 supplementation on participants during the winter months, and the researchers concluded that:
“…vitamin D3 significantly enhanced positive affect and there was some evidence of a reduction in negative affect.” 6
Interestingly, when Vitamin D3 supplements were compared to anti-depressants in a 2014 study, the positive effect of Vitamin D3 on mood was comparable to the effects of the anti-depressants. 7
6. Being 50 Or Older Affects Your Vitamin D Metabolism
As we age, liver and kidney function tend to decline if not given special attention. The conversion of sunlight to Vitamin D involves both the kidneys and the liver, which are vital for synthesizing Vitamin absorbed in the skin into bioavailable, metabolically active Vitamin D3.
So if your liver and kidneys are not functioning well, your Vitamin D levels (and your bone health) will be compromised.
How Much Vitamin D Is Enough?
When determining the optimal amount of Vitamin D and when sunlight is not an option, the dosage should be 2000 IU daily of oral Vitamin D3.
In previous posts, I recommended starting Vitamin D supplementation with the lowest possible dose based on the “Adequate Intake” guideline of 600 IU, and then increasing your intake as needed based on serum tests. Serum concentration of 25(OH)D is the best indicator of vitamin D levels, since it reflects the vitamin D produced from the sun and from supplements and food.
Blood levels between 40 and 70 ng/mL are associated with decreased risk of disease and healthier immunity, so those are the levels you should aim to get. However, given the importance of Vitamin D on so many body systems, 2000 IU is the ideal daily D3 dosage, especially in cold and dark winters.
A note on sunlight – you can’t overdose on Vitamin D if you get it from sun, so if there is any possible way to get your skin exposed to sunlight during the winter months, I highly recommend that you do. It’s simply the best way to get the Vitamin D you need. But if not, oral doses of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) are a more bioavailable form than straight Vitamin D.
When It Comes To Supplements, The Osteoporosis Reversal Program Leaves No Stone Unturned
Chapter 10 of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program goes into detail about the function (both for bone health and general health) and recommended dosage of each Foundation Supplement, from B-complex vitamins to zinc.
You see, your bones need specific nutrients to reverse bone loss and for optimal health, so the Program leaves no stone unturned when it comes to key supplements and how much is needed of each.
Everything in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program is backed by dozens of scientific studies, and the research continues to confirm the accuracy of its approach. You can rest assured that when you follow the Program, you are following scientific, factual, cutting-edge information that has been proven to rejuvenate bones.
And the best part is, no expensive drugs (with dangerous side effects) are necessary! The Osteoporosis Reversal Program is nutrition-based.
Till next time,
1 Cranney C, Horsely T, O'Donnell S, Weiler H, Ooi D, Atkinson S, et al. Effectiveness and safety of vitamin D. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 158 prepared by the University of Ottawa Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-02.0021. AHRQ Publication No. 07-E013. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2007.
2 Cannell JJ, et al. Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiol Infect. 2006;134(6):1129–40.
3 Urashima, M., et al. “Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren.” Am J Clin Nutr. May 2010. (91(5):1255-60. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20219962
4 Aranow, Cynthia. “Vitamin D and the Immune System.” J Investig Med. August 2011. 59(6): 881-886. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/
5 Burgaz, A, et al. “Blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration and hypertension: a meta-analysis.” J Hypertens. April 2011. 29(4): 636-45. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21191311
6 Lansdowne, A.T., and Provost, S.C. “Vitamin D3 enhances mood in healthy subjects during winter.” Psychopharmacology. February 1998. 135(4):319-23. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9539254
7 Spedding, S. “Vitamin D and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis comparing studies with and without biological flaws.” Nutrients. April 2014. 6(4): 1501-18. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24732019