31. Jul, 2018

What are the signs of vitamin D deficiency?

Have you recently started experiencing depression, brain fog/memory problems, muscle weakness, tiredness, or hair loss? You may be suffering from Vitamin D deficiency.

It is becoming increasingly common in 'sun safe' Australia among all age groups. Traditionally it was more common among older adults due to the skin's decreasing ability to synthesise it from the sun.

Our body uses vitamin D to help absorb the calcium we need for healthy teeth,  bones and muscle. It's role in brain function and cognition is not clear and  requires more research. We know there is an association between low levels and dementia and Alzheimer's, but we don't understand the relationship is yet.  

It is different from other vitamins because the best source is not actually food, but the sun.  Treatment for deficiency is with supplements because it would take too long to get it from food. If you spend a lot of time indoors for work or health reasons, or cover your body for health, religious or cultural reasons,  you may be at higher risk. Less known risk factors include having naturally dark skin, taking medicines that cause vitamin D to break down, and obesity.

If you think you may be vitamin D deficient, go to your GP and ask for a blood test.  If you're female I would suggest you also get iron studies, thyroid hormone and antibodies while you're at it.

If you're vegan or vegetarian, also check your vitamin B12. If you're at the other end of the spectrum and don't eat your vegies, check your folate.

If you're female and over 40, consider getting your reproductive hormones looked at also. Peri-menopause can sneak up on you!

References

Better Health Channel 2018, Vitamin D, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/vitamin-d

Cancer Council ACT 2018, Sun protection and Vitamin D, Getting the balance right, http://www.actcancer.org/assets/SunSmart/Vit-D/_resampled/resizedimage300300-201601CCFBinfographicsv4.png  

Littlejohns et al 2014, 'Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease', Neurology, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4153851/