Five signs you may be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency this winter

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Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, so a deficiency can lead to a number of problems. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors, so the winter may be a time when vitamin D deficiency is more common.

In summer months, the majority of the population will get enough vitamin D through exposure to sunlight and a healthy, balanced diet.

Between October and early March the NHS says we do not make enough vitamin D from sunlight, so you need to get vitamin D from your diet.

The Cleveland Clinic says that severe lack of vitamin D causes rickets, “which shows up in children as incorrect growth patterns, weakness in muscles, pain in bones and deformities in joints”.

It suggests that a lack of vitamin D “is not quite as obvious in adults”.

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Signs and symptoms might include fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, muscle aches, or muscle cramps, and mood changes, like depression.

The cerascreen health site says that vitamin D plays an important role in our skin health.

It notes the vitamin contributes to wound healing and a deficiency may contribute towards the development of skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.

Symptoms can also include muscle aches and weakness, waddling gait, chronic widespread pain or bone pain in the lower back, pelvis and foot.

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The NHS says risk factors of vitamin D deficiency include a lack of sunlight exposure, darker skin, being housebound, malabsorption, and being pregnant or breastfeeding. You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight.

Nonetheless, taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body. 

Around 20 percent of adults may have low vitamin D status, and there are several main risk factors for vitamin D deficiency.

If you or someone you care for is in a higher risk group they may need to take Vitamin D supplements.

For example, if you are spending a lot of time indoors, the NHS suggests you should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day to keep your bones and muscles healthy.

You can take Vitamin D supplements as tablets, liquid or a spray, and they can be bought in a pharmacy.

Over-supplementation of vitamin D, however, can be just as harmful and should be avoided.

The NHS says taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body which can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.

“If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice,” the NHS adds.

The health body adds that reports about vitamin D reducing the risk of coronavirus are not backed by enough evidence to know if this is the case.

“There is currently not enough evidence to support taking vitamin D solely to prevent or treat COVID-19,” it says.

In April 2020, the NHS issued a statement, based on recommendations from Public Health England (PHE), that we should all consider taking 10 mcg/day vitamin D as a supplement, to keep our bones and muscles healthy. This advice has been issued now, largely because of the restrictions imposed by quarantine and lockdown.

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