At least one-quarter of US adults are not getting the recommended amount of vitamin D, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We have known for a long time that vitamin D is important for bone health," says bone health expert Marci Goolsby, MD. "One of the jobs of vitamin D is to help your gut absorb the calcium and phosphorus from your diet. These minerals in turn help build and maintain the strength of your bones. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to stress fractures and other problems with the bones. But vitamin D has many other functions as well. I describe it to my patients as a delicate symphony of everything that goes on in your body. If one of the instruments — in this case, your vitamin D — is off, it can throw off the whole symphony." Here are five sure signs you have a vitamin D deficiency, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Numerous studies show low vitamin D can lead to muscle fatigue, including research from Newcastle University which compared the scans of vitamin D-deficient people before and after treatment. "Examining this small group of patients with vitamin D deficiency who experienced symptoms of muscle fatigue, we found that those with very low vitamin D levels improved their muscle efficiency significantly when their vitamin D levels were improved," says Dr. Akash Sinha.
Lack of vitamin D can cause mood changes, doctors warn. "Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with a spectrum of health problems, and several studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is also associated with depression," says Ruta Nonacs, MD, PhD.
Easily Broken Bones
Bone fractures and injuries are common in people with vitamin D deficiency, especially children. "Everyone notices a fracture or a broken arm, but now we're looking deeper and uncovering the 'why' behind it. Why did this kid break their arm compared to these thousands of other kids who also fell? Why did this kid get a stress fracture in their foot?" says pediatric orthopedic surgeon Alfred Mansour III, MD. "I've had many patients who have struggled to improve from these injuries, and our group has found that vitamin D deficiency played a role in that."
Osteomalacia, a softening of the bones, is a common symptom of vitamin D deficiency. "From the perspective of vitamin D involvement in musculoskeletal pain, the process is presumed to begin with a lack of circulating calcium (hypocalcemia) due to inadequate vitamin D, and this sets in motion a cascade of biochemical reactions negatively affecting bone metabolism and health," says Stewart B. Leavitt, MA, PhD. "Therefore, experts recommend that vitamin D deficiency and its potential for associated osteomalacia should be considered in the differential diagnosis of all patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain, muscle weakness or fatigue, fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue syndrome."
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
According to Cleveland Clinic, adults need 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D a day. "Vitamin D is naturally found in some foods, primarily oily fish like salmon and sardines, egg yolks, mushrooms and liver," says Dr. Goolsby. "It's also added to some fortified foods, including milk and cereal. For many people, taking a supplement may be the best way to get the vitamin D they need. If your doctor tells you your vitamin D levels are low, speak with them about the right dose for you. This is important, because it's possible to get too much vitamin D if you're taking supplements."