Thursday, March 17, 2016
As the days are getting longer and we are preparing to move the clocks forward, we may be tempted to enter the 'spring mode' a little too fast. There is a tendency amongst people to cut back on their vitamin D supplements once the weather gets warmer, trying to get the necessary dose in a more natural way. Even though we’re getting more hours of daylight, this doesn’t automatically mean that we’re getting more sunlight, so we still have to take care of our vitamin D levels.
We don’t get as much sunshine as we would like in the UK, so with a lack of sunlight usually comes a lack of vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for a healthy body and an active lifestyle. It boosts our immune system and ensures our teeth and bones are kept healthy, by regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. However, the body cannot produce vitamin D alone, so we need to help it by providing a healthy diet and the right supplements.
Dr. Donald Hensrud, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, explains that “vitamin D deficiency almost always requires supplements. We can boost our levels by eating foods that contain vitamin D and getting enough sunlight exposure, but it is very difficult to come back from a deficiency through enriched foods such as fatty fish, cheese, liver, eggs and milk alone."
However, you may be suffering from a lack of vitamin D without even knowing it. This is something the Department of Health1 have commented on, stating that a significant proportion of the UK population suffer from vitamin D deficiency and don’t know it. Because it’s not widely spoken about, a lack of vitamin D can often be overlooked by people.
A lack of vitamin D can lead to serious health consequences and diseases, such as osteomalacia, skeletal diseases, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases and even cancer. You may think that this deficiency can be easily recognised, but this is not always the case. While most people think bone discomfort and teeth sensitivity are the only symptoms, this is incorrect, and there are other symptoms to look out for.
We want to make sure that all of our patients know when and how to listen to their bodies. For this reason, below we take a look at various symptoms that most people experience before they are diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency:
- Frequent infections: you may find yourself getting colds too often. Recent studies have discovered that there is a close connection between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of infections. This is because vitamin D helps you fight against various infections, such as pneumonia, respiratory tract or urinary tract infections, so a deficiency can weaken your immune system.
- Depression: the fact that you are constantly feeling blue is not a coincidence. Vitamin D has an essential role in regulating adrenaline and dopamine production (substances responsible for our happiness), so feeling blue can be another sign of a lack of vitamin D.
- Hair loss: Cairo University2 researchers discovered that, in some cases, people struggling with hair loss also had worryingly low levels of vitamin D and iron.
- Extreme fatigue and an inability to concentrate.
- Eye tiredness.
- Tenderness in joints and muscles.
- Balance issues, and the constant need to sit down.
- Panic attacks, severe anxiety and lightheadedness.
- General muscle pain.
- Chest palpitations.
- Bruising sensation to various parts of the body.
With this in mind, it cannot be overemphasised how important vitamin D is for an active lifestyle. If you have experienced any of the symptoms described, you should contact your GP as soon as possible and ask to have a blood test.
If after the blood test, you are diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency, don’t worry. While it will usually take up to 6 months to see concrete results, the symptoms will fade with each day. Your body just needs time to fully repair the damage caused by the deficiency.
However, correcting vitamin D deficiency is not as simple as taking a simple treatment or spending more time in the sun. Once the deficiency is identified, you will have to include vitamin D supplements in your daily meals. The Department of Health recommends that patients suffering from this deficiency should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (0.01mg) of vitamin D.
If you would like to discuss your initial or follow-up treatment for vitamin D deficiency with our dedicated GP, Dr Webberley, please get in touch. She can go through your treatment regime and discuss with you any lifestyle changes that may be required.