20 Surprising Signs You Have a Vitamin D Deficiency
A lack of sunlight does quite a number on your body.
Getting enough vitamin D isn't always easy—especially during the winter months. Sure, there are diet and supplements when sunshine isn't as aplenty, but, unfortunately, even that's not enough sometimes.
It's a problem. Right now, more than 42 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, and it can be really hard to realize it until you start having health issues. So read on for 20 surprising signs you have low levels of the important vitamin—and what you can do to counteract it.
You Feel Depressed
Feeling down? The cold, sunless winter months definitely aren't good for your vitamin D levels—and that's bad news for your mood. "With a vitamin D deficiency, an individual is more likely to experience depression since vitamin D receptors help regulate mood," says Kelly Springer, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Kelly's Choice. And the science doesn't lie: Past research has found a link numerous times, including in a meta-analysis of nearly 31,500 participants.
You Have Joint Pain and Inflammation
There's a long list of conditions responsible for joint issues, but this is one you don't hear about very often. "Past research has found that low vitamin D levels in the blood cause an inflammatory response, causing pain and inflammation in the joints," Springer says. If there's no other explanation you can think of behind the problem, it could be the culprit.
Your Wounds Heal Super-Slowly
Anyone who has wounds that always seem like they take forever to heal might need to up their vitamin D intake. In the past, research has shown the snail-like speed could be from low levels of the vitamin—and one 2011 study from the Journal of Dental Research in particular showed it could be critical, especially in post-surgical healing.
You Have Low Back Pain
If back pain constantly has you down, get your vitamin D levels checked. A 2008 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found lower concentrations of the vitamin were linked to significant back pain in women. Funny enough, researchers didn't see the same associations with men. And if you're experiencing back pain, check out these 6 Everyday Moves to Conquer Back Pain.
You're Experiencing Erectile Dysfunction
There are many factors that could be causing erectile dysfunction (ED), whether it's your age or health. According to Johns Hopkins University, past research has shown vitamin D levels play a role, too: Men with a deficiency were 32 percent more likely to have ED than men with normal levels, so it could be just the simple explanation you were hoping for.
You Have Muscle Weakness
If you're experiencing muscle weakness, a lack of vitamin D might be to blame. According to Mayo Clinic Proceedings, past research has shown it can cause the issue in both children and adults—in fact, 88 percent of women in one study who had muscle pain were severely deficient in the vitamin, something that makes you more likely to have injuries from falls.
You're Having Trouble Sleeping
Your vitamin D levels can play a big role in your mood—and also in how groggy you're feeling after a fitful night's sleep. According to sleep expert Dr. Micheal Breus, past research has shown low levels might impact the quality and quantity of your shut-eye, making it hard to get the amount your body needs to stay healthy. And if you're hurting for some shuteye, know that These Are the Best and Worst Sleeping Positions—According to a Sleep Doctor.
Having Low Immunity
Do you feel like you're constantly getting sick? In the past, vitamin D has been shown to help keep your immune system strong. And in a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found having inadequate levels of the vitamin is associated with an increased risk of cancer, autoimmune diseases, hypertension, and infectious diseases.
You Always Feel Tired
There are many reasons behind feeling tired, from long hours at work to your diet. In a 2015 study on female nurses published in the Global Journal of Health Science, many of the participants reported that they regularly felt fatigued—and researchers ended up finding out 89 percent of them were deficient in vitamin D. Coincidence? Probably not.
You're Experiencing Bone Pain
While muscle and joint pain is typically felt when you're being active, bone pain can come about at anytime and usually consists of achiness or tenderness. According to a 2009 study published in the journal American Family Physician, those feelings could be due to a vitamin D deficiency—especially if you feel discomfort when you put pressure over your breastbone or shinbone areas.
You Have Pneumonia
Pneumonia is caused by bacteria and viruses, but it turns out having low levels of vitamin D might be why the infection comes about in the first place. "There's a link between vitamin D and pneumonia: Deficient individuals are 2.5 times more likely to get pneumonia due to a weakened immune system," Springer says.
Your Muscles Are Aching
Sometimes there's a reason for muscle aches and pains, whether they're due to an extra-intense workout or an injury. When you have persistent pain with no real explanation—especially during the winter as opposed to in the summer—a vitamin D deficiency could be the culprit, no matter your age, according to the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
You're Sweating Excessively
Sweating profusely? There's a chance it could be due to low vitamin D levels. "Heavy sweating alone would be more difficult to pinpoint. However, with normal or moderate activity, a normal body temperature, and a mild temperature environment, excessive sweating could be a sign of vitamin D deficiency," Springer says.
While it's not uncommon to naturally lose hair as your age, women can experience the issue due to a vitamin D deficiency. A 2014 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found a connection between low levels of the vitamin and alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes bald patches. On top of that, additional research showed women with hair-loss had much lower levels of vitamin D than those who weren't having any issues.
If you're not feeling your best due to having some extra unwanted pounds on you that you just can't shake, a vitamin D deficiency might be part of the problem. While healthy levels of the vitamin can help you lose and manage your weight, according to Dr. Michael Breus, past research has shown obese individuals are 35 percent more likely to be lacking the vitamin.
You're Having Skin Issues
If you have atopic dermatitis—a common type of eczema that causes red and itchy skin—it's a good idea to have your doc check for a vitamin D deficiency. A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found those with low levels of the vitamin tended to have more severe symptoms of the skin issue. Supplementing the vitamin, on the other hand, could be a potential treatment. And for more secrets in your skin, check out these 30 Health Secrets Your Skin Is Trying to Tell You.
You're Feeling Dizzy
When you have benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), you experience episodes of dizziness or feel like you're spinning. According to a 2018 study published in the European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, researchers found that could be due to having a vitamin D deficiency. Those low levels may cause the disorder to develop—and if you don't up your intake, it could recur.
You Have Frequent UTIs
No one wants to deal with a urinary tract infection (UTI). The issue is typically caused when bacteria enters the urinary tract and multiplies, says the Mayo Clinic, and having low levels of vitamin D could be the reason behind the infection. According to a 2013 study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, researchers found recurrent UTIs in women were associated with a deficiency.
UTIs are the only issues caused by a vitamin D deficiency in women. Julian Whitaker, MD, says severe PMS symptoms—like mood swings, food cravings, and tender breasts—could simply be due to not having high enough vitamin D levels. In past research, those who upped their intake had a 40 percent lower risk of developing those sometimes-unbearable aches and pains than those who didn't.
You Have Issues with Your Digestion
Living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) means dealing with inflammation of your digestive tract on the daily—something that involves diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fatigue. And it turns out vitamin D might play a role in the disease: A 2014 study published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found being deficient might not only increase the risk of developing IBD, but also factor into its severity.
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