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During the shortened days of fall and winter, the diminished sunlight hours could be robbing your body of the essential vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin.
A 2009 study showed that three-quarters of American teens and adults are lacking in vitamin D, which is vital for calcium absorption and promoting bone growth.
Depending on where you live and your skin type, you might require anywhere between 15 minutes and two hours of sunlight exposure in the winter to produce 1,000 international units of vitamin D, according to the Vitamin D Council.
“How many of us are actually out there in a bikini in the middle of winter getting sun exposure?” said Dr. JoAnn Yánez, executive director of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges.
“Probably nobody, unless they’re in South Florida or Southern California, and even then, people are so programmed to put on sunscreen,” Yánez said.
Sunscreen blocks much of the body’s natural ability to synthesize vitamin D, she added.
Your body might warn you with the following signs and symptoms if you have a vitamin D deficiency.
1. You get sick often
“It’s no coincidence that cold and flu season tends to correlate with those winter months when our vitamin D levels are lower due to lower sun exposure,” Yánez said.
A key role of vitamin D is keeping your immune system strong enough to fight off illnesses. If you find that you’re getting sick more often than usual, the culprit could be a lack of vitamin D.
Studies have shown that taking daily supplements containing a significant amount of vitamin D may lessen the risk of respiratory tract infections.
2. You sweat a lot
Excessive sweating, particularly on your forehead, might indicate that your body is lacking in vitamin D, experts have said.
A sign of a possible D deficiency might be that your forehead feels damp, yet you’re currently not very active.
3. Your bones feel weak
Because vitamin D is essential in maintaining bone health, pain in your bones or lower back could mean that you’re not producing enough of the vitamin.
When Mearaph Barnes, a registered dietitian, was impacted by a vitamin D deficiency in college, she discovered her critically low levels from blood tests conducted by her doctor.
“I didn’t want to fall and break a bone because my bones were becoming brittle,” she said.
One study showed that people with low vitamin D levels were about two times as likely to have aching bones in their legs, ribs or joints compared with people who had sufficient levels of the vitamin.
Vitamin D is especially important in children, because a deficiency could lead to less bone development, according to experts.
The risk of developing osteoporosis and fractured bones later in life depends on how much bone was built as a child and how much bone you lose in your adult years, research has shown.
4. You’re depressed
Vitamin D deficiency might be behind your constantly low mood. Some research has shown a link between a lack of vitamin D and depression.
Although it remains unclear how vitamin D works inside the human brain, research has suggested that increased levels of vitamin D can help treat depression by boosting the amount of certain chemicals, including serotonin, according to the Vitamin D Council.
5. Your wounds take longer to heal
If you find that you’re taking longer to recover after injuring yourself or following a surgical procedure, it’s possible that a lack of vitamin D could be the cause.
One study showed that vitamin D increased production of key compounds needed for the formation of new skin.
Researchers based in the United Kingdom also found that people recovering from severe burns had a more successful recovery if they had higher levels of vitamin D, compared to burn victims with lower D levels.
Although these symptoms may present themselves when your vitamin D levels are low, experts recommend having blood tests conducted to confirm whether or not a vitamin D deficiency is the issue.
“The best way to find out [if your vitamin D levels are low] is to have your levels tested through blood tests, because until you’re really sick and deficient, you usually don’t see signs of vitamin D deficiency until it’s very severe,” Yánez said.
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