Vitamin D has always been considered an essential part of a well-balanced diet and lifestyle. It is responsible for multiple health-related processes, including fighting inflammation and supporting the immune system response. It’s also an essential agent for maintaining strong bones, muscles, and teeth.
In fact, vitamin d is so crucial to our wellbeing that every single cell in your body has a vitamin d receptor. According to the NIH (National Institute of Health), about 1 billion people worldwide have low vitamin D levels.
Specific populations are more prone to vitamin d deficiency. These include:
- People with darker colored skin
- Those who are overweight (especially those who are obese)
- Populations living further away from the equator
- Those who live/work indoors and do not get outside
- Individuals who always use sunscreen when they are outdoors (sunscreen is best for peak sun hours, try leaving it off for short bursts in the earlier and later parts of the day)
- People who eat less fish or dairy
Natural Sources of Vitamin D
The best way to assimilate vitamin d is to spend a little time outdoors every day. About 50% to 90% of our body absorbs it via a unique reaction between cholesterol and direct sunlight on your skin and in your eyes. Even 10 to 30 minutes per day of sunlight is sufficient. This is just one great reason to get outside and exercise every day.
The next best way to get your DDD (daily dose of D) is to eat foods that allow your body to absorb and assimilate them naturally. Foods containing higher concentrations include:
- Fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, and salmon)
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, cereals, soy milk, etc.
- Beef liver
Try incorporating combinations of these foods into your daily meals and snacks to help boost natural levels.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
A visit to your general physician or OB/GYN is the best way to test deficiency. Depending on your results and/or symptoms, s/he’ll let you know if a supplement makes sense for you. Normal ranges for adult women are roughly 20 -49 ng/ml.
Deficiency is most likely to show up in the following 5 symptoms:
1. Being prone to illness and infection (and being slow to heal)
If you are quick to get a cold or flu, or your scratches or cuts seem to get infected easily, you may have a sluggish immune system. The same is true if you are slow to heal.
2. Fatigue, tiredness, and depression
Sagging energy levels or depressed moods can also be a sign of deficiency. This is particularly true for women, who are more prone to report tiredness and fatigue when their levels approach the 20 ng/ml level. Even women with levels in the low-normal range have reported energy and mood boosts with supplementation.
3. Back and bone pain
Multiple studies have correlated chronic bone and back pain (particularly lower back pain) and low vitamin d levels. One study evaluated 9,000 women and found those lacking vitamin d were far more likely to report lower back pain or back/bone pain that kept them from pursuing normal life activities.
4. Hair loss
Men are typically the focus of hair loss, but women affect hair loss as well. Stress is a common cause of hair loss and hormonal imbalances (such as those associated with PCOS). It turns out that women lacking vitamin d are also more likely to experience hair loss or thinning hair.
5. Bone loss
Calcium cannot be absorbed without the presence of vitamin d. This is why most grocery store milk products are fortified with it. So, women who don’t get enough calcium also lack vitamin d, which means their bones break down faster than they rebuild, leading to bone loss. Untreated bone loss results in osteoporosis and elevates the risk for broken bones.
Are you interested in getting your vitamin d levels tested? Schedule a consultation with Overlake OB/GYN, where we work with women to support sustainable, whole-body wellness.