Vitamin D Deficiency: the missing key to your optimal health?

Vitamin D is best known for its role in forming strong, healthy bones, however, it also plays a critical role in the following areas:

  • Immune system
  • Hormone balance
  • Muscle function
  • Cardiovascular function
  • Respiratory function
  • Brain development
  • Anti-cancer effects

What are the best ways to get vitamin D?

Commonly known as “the sunshine vitamin,” the skin is able to make vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. There are also small amounts of vitamin D in foods such as fortified milk, and yogurt, cheese, eggs, cod liver oil, beef liver, and fatty fish such as salmon, trout, and tuna. However, it is very difficult to meet you requirements through diet alone.

How much vitamin D do I need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is 600 international units (IU) for adults, and 800 IU for seniors over the age of 70. These are the bare minimum amounts you need to prevent rickets but they are FAR from enough for most adults to optimize vitamin D levels to get all of its benefits (including anti-cancer effects).

According to the Vitamin D Council (and based on my clinical experience), most adults require 4000 IU or more during the winter months depending on their blood levels. Many adults who supplement the recommended 1000-2000 IU per day are still deficient when their blood levels are tested.

Factors that affect vitamin D status:

  1. Insufficient sun exposure: If you work 9-5 or are wary of the sun, and therefore don’t spend much time outside, or cover-up and use sunblock, you likely aren’t getting enough vitamin D from sun exposure. And if you live in Canada, it’s essentially impossible to make vitamin D during the winter, even on sunny days.
  2. Skin pigmentation: People with darker skin tones have more melanin in their skin, which can interfere with the amount of vitamin D that the skin can produce. While fifteen minutes in the sun may be enough for a fair-skinned individual, someone with a deep complexion may require as much as six times the amount of sun exposure.
  3. Age: Seniors have an increased risk of developing vitamin D deficiency for a few different reasons. As we age, we lose some of the ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D also needs to be activated in the kidneys, which also decrease in function with age. Lastly, many seniors are housebound and therefore aren’t able to get adequate sun exposure outdoors.
  4. Kidney dysfunction: With age, the kidneys lose some of their ability to convert vitamin D into its active form.
  5. Digestive disorders/diseases: When the digestive tract is unable to absorb vitamin D, for instance, due to conditions such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease.
  6. Obesity: Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, thereby reducing its circulation throughout the body. Obese individuals typically require higher amounts of vitamin D supplements to prevent deficiency.

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog/Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes
  • Frequent infections or slow healing time

How can I get my vitamin D levels tested?

A simple blood test can be used to see if you have vitamin D deficiency. Your results can indicate the following:

vitamin D capsule

  • Severe Deficiency = less than 30 nmol/L
  • Deficiency = between 30 nmol/L and 75 nmol/L
  • Normal levels = between 75 nmol/L  and 100 nmol/L
  • Optimal levels = between 100-200 nmol/mL

How can I raise my vitamin D levels if I’m deficient?

  1. Get outside: practice safe sun exposure but don’t be afraid of the sun!
  2. Take a vitamin D3 supplement (dosing will be based on your blood levels)- gelcaps or drops are best for absorption.
  3. Get a series of vitamin D injections to raise your levels more quickly (as your Naturopathic Doctor if they offer these.

Resources

7 Common Causes of Fatigue

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Most people experience periods of temporary fatigue commonly associated with being overworked or overtired. Such cases usually have an easily identifiable cause and remedy.

Persistent exhaustion, however, is prolonged, profound, and is not relieved by rest alone. Described as a near-constant state of weariness, fatigue develops over time and diminishes energy levels, motivation, and concentration, while also impacting emotional and psychological well-being.

Below are some of the top causes of fatigue and their symptoms.

1. Low Protein Intake:

Protein is an essential building block of the human body. Vital organs, muscles, tissues, and even some hormones are made of protein. Proteins are involved in nearly every bodily function from regulating blood sugar levels to healing wounds and fighting infection. Because they are used to develop, grow, and maintain nearly every part of the body – from skin and hair, to digestive enzymes and antibodies – they are constantly being broken down and must be replaced through diet. While each person is unique in terms of their specific protein needs (based on body weight, gender, age, and activity level), on average, the recommended daily minimum intake of protein for men is 56 grams, and 46 grams for women. Symptoms of low protein intake include: low energy/fatigue, sluggish metabolism, poor concentration, moodiness, difficulty losing weight, muscle, bone and joint pain, blood sugar changes, slow wound healing, low immunity. Vegetarians and vegans, as well as those on weight loss diets, are among the groups that may be at risk of protein deficiency.

2. Iron Deficiency:

The signs and symptoms of low iron or iron-deficiency vary depending on its severity. Mild to moderate iron deficiency can have little or no symptoms. However, if the body continues to be deficient in iron, it can lead to anemia, and symptoms then intensify. The most common symptom of iron deficiency is extreme fatigue. This is because iron is critical in the production hemoglobin, a protein that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout the body. Without adequate levels of iron, the body cannot produce hemoglobin, and as a result can leave you feeling fatigued. Iron defieciency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide.

3. Vitamin B12 Deficiency:

The human body requires B12 to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA, and carry out various functions. Like most vitamins, B12 cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from food and/or supplements. However, many people do not consume enough B12 to meet their needs, due to dietary habits or restrictions (e.g. strict vegetarians) or because they have existing medical conditions that interfere with food absorption (e.g. celiac or Crohn’s disease). As a result, B12 deficiency is relatively common.

4. Vitamin D Deficiency: 

Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, and it also appears to play a role in insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and immune function. Canadians are at risk because of our long winters and it is essentially impossible to get sufficient vitamin D from your diet. Those who avoid the sun, have darker skin complexions, are strict vegans, or who are obese, may be at even higher risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. According to recent research, roughly three-quarters of American adolescents and adults are vitamin D deficient.

5. Hypothyroidism:

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, stems from an underproduction of thyroid hormones. Since the body’s energy production requires certain amounts of thyroid hormones, a drop in hormone production leads to lower energy levels, causing you to feel weak and tired. Approximately 25 million people suffer with hypothyroidism and about half are undiagnosed. Older adults, particularly women, are more likely to develop hypothyroidism.

6. Insomnia/Non-restorative Sleep:

How much sleep a person needs varies but most adults require roughly seven to eight hours each night in order to function optimally. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or cause one to wake up too early and not be able to fall back asleep. Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors. Nonrestorative sleep (NRS) is defined as the subjective experience that sleep has not been sufficiently refreshing or restorative. NRS is conventionally recognized as a symptom of insomnia or as a feature of medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome. In the case of both insomnia and NRS, you may still feel tired when you wake up, which can impact not only your energy level and mood, but also your health, work performance, and quality of life.

7. Adrenal Fatigue/Burnout:

Adrenal glands play a significant role in stress response, as well as in balancing hormones. Adrenal fatigue is a condition where the body and adrenal glands cannot keep up with the amount of stress that many people experience daily as part of modern life. Acute stress and/or chronic stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet and exercise can cause adrenals glands to become overloaded and ineffective. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

  • Unrelenting tiredness
  • Fatigue despite adequate sleep
  • Body ache, muscle weakness, muscle tension
  • Poor focus, racing thoughts
  • Moodiness, irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizzyness or feeling unsteady with position changes
  • Difficulty exercising or poor exercise recovery

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