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Warning Signs You're Lacking Vitamin D, Say Experts

Three signs that indicate you're lacking vitamin D. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

We've all heard the saying go outside to get your vitamin D and it's true. Exposure to sunlight on a regular basis for about 10-30 minutes at a time is the most natural way to get your vitamin D intake. Without the proper level of vitamin D, loss of bone density can happen, which can lead to fractured and broken bones. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Nima Majlesi, ED physician at Staten Island University Hospital who explained signs you're lacking vitamin D. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Bone Pain

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Dr. Majlesi shares, "Lack of vitamin D will affect calcium deposition in bone and potentially lead to conditions of bone loss or deformity. Increased risk of stress fractures is also possible in deficiency."


Muscle Weakness

Woman Having Backache While Sitting On Sofa

Dr. Majlesi emphasizes, "Remember that calcium in muscle leads to contraction. The strength of contraction is partly due to how much calcium is available for that muscle to contract. Vitamin D deficiency may decrease intracellular calcium in muscles and hence lead to some muscle weakness."



Thoughtful girl sitting on sill embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenager spending time alone at home, young upset pensive woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

"Do you have seasonal affective disorder?," Dr. Majlesi asks. "Have you ever considered why the lack of sunshine leads to this condition? It is likely multifactorial. But Vitamin D deficiency theoretically may play a role in this disease. How vitamin D affects this is not clearly understood. More studies are required to understand the role of supplementation of Vitamin D for this condition."

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​​Why Vitamin D is so Important

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Dr. Majlesi says, "Vitamin D has gained a lot of recent notoriety and attention in discussions of overall health. The functions of Vitamin D are complex and appear to be more wide reaching than the commonly known benefits for bone and teeth. Despite being labeled a vitamin, Vitamin D does meet every definition for properties as a hormone. Vitamin D receptors are present on most cells within the body. Generally, the best way to summarize the function of Vitamin D is its function in calcium homeostasis. Most people do not realize that calcium is important for the function of all cells beyond bones and teeth. Proper muscle function requires calcium for contraction. In fact, every cell performs its function through an action potential. And calcium influx and efflux into cells is one of the important electrolytes involved in those processes. The role of Vitamin D in bone and musculoskeletal health is unquestionable. However, it appears to potentially have a role in maintenance of glucose homeostasis, cardiovascular morbidity, autoimmunity, inflammation, and cancer. There has also been some growing evidence linking the role of vitamin D to brain development, functions and diseases such as dementia and multiple sclerosis. The importance of vitamin D beyond the musculoskeletal conditions described above remains unclear however. Many of the studies performed simply look at Vitamin D deficiency in different disease processes. The easy conclusion from this is that supplementation may correct or potentially prevent these diseases. However, it is just as possible that Vitamin D deficiency could be the consequence of the disease and not the actual cause. More research and studies are required to understand the role of Vitamin D in many of the diseases mentioned."

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How Can a Vitamin D Deficiency Affect Overall Health?

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Dr. Majlesi explains, "The disease, Rickets, which is a disease of children leading to imperfect calcification and distortion of bone development often leading to "bow legs" is caused by Vitamin D deficiency. In addition, diseases such as osteomalacia and osteoporosis have been shown to benefit from Vitamin D supplementation. However, recent research has attempted to focus on other aspects of Vitamin D on human health. Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of vitamin D deficiency and potentially supplementation has been attempted to be evaluated. Critically ill patients with COVID-19 were found to have vitamin D deficiency. This caused some to interpret this literature as vitamin D supplementation may potentially decrease morbidity and mortality from COVID-19. Generally, all critically ill patients in an ICU will likely have some degree of vitamin D deficiency due to their lack of exposure to sunlight in addition to other potential factors. This does not imply that supplementation would prevent critical illness.

The Vitamin D Council — a scientist-led group promoting vitamin D deficiency awareness — suggests vitamin D treatment might be found helpful in treating or preventing autism, autoimmune disease, cancer, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, flu, and neuromuscular diseases. However, the reality is that no clinical trials have proven the health benefits to vitamin D supplementation for any of these medical conditions listed. Hence, most reputable medical organizations continue to state that the evidence does not support a basis for a causal relationship between vitamin D and many of the numerous health outcomes purported to be affected by vitamin D intake." 

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How to Get Vitamin D

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"Sunshine is one major critical aspect to improving vitamin D levels," says Dr. Majlesi. "It is thought that 15 minutes 3 times per week of sun exposure without sunscreen could be enough. However, as with everything in medicine, there is a risk vs. benefit analysis. Sunscreen will limit UV absorption and formation of cholecalciferol. However, excessive UV exposure will lead to increased risk of skin cancers. Dietary sources of vitamin D are ubiquitous in the American diet and can be found in seafood, dairy, grains, cereals and multiple other fortified food products. For most people, supplementation is probably unnecessary as our diets are fortified. Supplementation should be discussed with a health care provider. But the best choice would be a Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Dosing can vary but is very safe up to 2000 IU per day. No studies have looked at the higher dosing strategies many vitamin D supporters have recommended. However, it is important to note that it is difficult to overdose on vitamin D and overall it is a very safe medication when used in reasonable doses. And with the help of blood level measurements, safe administration is relatively easy to achieve. A health care provider can help guide correct dosing via routine blood measurements."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather