We humans need vitamin D, a nutrient that’s essential for our bones, skin and mental health. But many of us aren’t getting enough.
In fact, it’s estimated that around a third of Australian adults aren’t getting enough vitamin D. Researchers from Deakin University found that those who are at the greatest risk for deficiency are women, the elderly, people who are obese, people who do less than 2.5 hours of physical activity each week and people from non-European backgrounds.
Around 80 to 90 per cent of our vitamin D comes from sun exposure, and it isn’t easy to get it in large quantities from our food. But when we don’t get out in the sun enough (because we’re trying not to get skin cancer, and because our lives require us to be indoors so much during the day and so on), we can become vitamin D deficient, and this can cause a raft of problems.
Severely low levels of the vitamin can cause rickets in children and softening of the bones (osteomalacia) in adults. And when left untreated, this can lead to bone pain, brittle bones as well as muscle pains and weakness. Researchers have also found there is a connection between moderately low levels of vitamin D and health conditions such as cancer, diabetes and osteoarthritis.
It’s recommended by dermatologists that we keep using sunscreen and get our vitamin D from food and supplements instead, rather than risking the harmful rays of the sun exposing us to skin cancer.
At least 600 IU (15 µg) of vitamin D per day is recommended for people aged under 70, and 800 IU (20 µg) per day is recommended for those aged over 70 years. Higher doses might be required for people in high-risk groups, which will depend on factors such as where you live, skin colour and age.
People who have been diagnosed with a deficiency will need greater amounts, possibly in conjunction with calcium. Your doctor will advise you on how much to take if this is the case.Vitamin D deficiency is conclusively diagnosed via a blood test, but there are some other signs to look out for that might mean you aren’t getting enough:
1. Your bones ache
Adults with a vitamin D deficiency can feel more aches and pains in their bones and muscles, as well as joint stiffness when they get up in the morning.
2. You are tired all the time
Even if you get plenty of sleep, not getting enough vitamin D means you always feel completely exhausted. If you’ve had a busy day it’s normal to be tired (particularly if you’re a parent!) but if not it’s something you should look into.
3. You’re depressed
Researchers have found link between low levels of vitamin D and depression symptoms. Vitamin D receptors have been found in many parts of the brain, including those linked to depression.
4. You have a sweaty forehead
A noticeable sign of vitamin D deficiency is sweatiness on the forehead even if your body temperature and activity levels are normal.
5. You’re over 50
As you get older, your skin doesn’t make as much vitamin D as it used to, and your kidneys are less efficient at converting vitamin D into a useful form for your body to use.
6. You’re overweight or obese
Having a higher concentration of body fat affects the levels of vitamin D in your blood, because the vitamin is fat soluble. The more body fat you have, the more it is diluted.
7. You seem to catch every single bug
If you find yourself coming down with every cold, flu, virus and other bug going around, this is a sign your immune system isn’t functioning properly. Vitamin D deficiencies have been associated with depressed immune systems.
Have you ever been vitamin D deficient?
If you become concerned about any symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention – we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice – https://www.stayathomemum.com.au/my-kids/babies/important-hotlines-websites/
SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information. All information provided is correct at time of publication.