bM contributor and Nutritional Medicine Expert, Fiona Tuck explains these symptoms can be your body trying to tell you something.

Get out the winter woollies, light the fire and snuggle up with a cup of chai, its official winter has finally arrived. With the lack of sunny summer rays our vitamin D levels can fall by up to a whopping 30% in winter. Vitamin D is produced when our skin is exposed to ultra-violet light (UVB) from sunshine. We are therefore more prone to Vitamin D deficiency in winter or if we hardly ever expose our skin to UVB rays.

Vitamin D is an important vitamin for our general health and well-being, it helps the body absorb calcium and keeps teeth and bones strong. It also plays a crucial role in keeping our immune system strong and is thought to assist prevention of autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis and even some cancers.

The best source of Vitamin D is daily exposure to sunlight. If our levels of vitamin D are already low going into winter it is likely that our levels will drop during the cooler months and supplementation may be required. Small amounts of vitamin D can be obtained through the diet by cod liver oil, salmon (with bones), sardines, mushrooms and dairy. If you store your mushrooms in a sunny spot after purchasing this can help to increase their vitamin D content!

The only way to diagnose a vitamin D deficiency and if you need supplementation is via a simple blood test. Detecting symptoms of low vitamin D can be tricky however there are some signs and symptoms to be aware of. If any of these seem familiar it may be wise to get your levels tested.

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency

A low fat diet
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means if you do not include fats in your diet you will absorb less fat soluble vitamins. Malabsorption gut conditions This includes gut conditions like Crohn’s, IBS and celiac disease can also result in vitamin D deficiency.

Dark skin tone
The pigment in your skin acts as a natural sunscreen. The skin requires sunlight to manufacture Vitamin D so if your skin has more pigment, the more your skin is protected from the sun and the longer you need in the sun to make adequate amounts of vitamin D.

Flat or Depressed Mood
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with a low mood and depression. When vitamin D levels drop we can feel flat and sometimes even more teary or emotional than usual. The brain chemical Serotonin that helps us to feel good increases with exposure to sunlight and decreases when there is a lack of sunlight. This may be why many people feel sad in winter and happier in summer.

Aching bones
Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia type symptoms such as tiredness, aching bones and muscles can be symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D helps the bones absorb calcium. If there is a deficiency of vitamin D the bones can become weak resulting in aching bones.

Excess Sweating
A classic sign of vitamin D deficiency is excess sweating, particularly a sweaty head or hands. This can occur in children and adults.

Low Vitamin D levels can be hard to detect as deficiency signs are easily missed, a blood test is the the best way to check Vitamin D levels. If low, a supplement may be recommended until your levels raise to a satisfactory level. Most Vitamin D supplements are animal derived so if you are vegan speak to your healthcare professional or local pharmacist for a vegan friendly alternative.


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{Pic: Frank Body}