Your body doesn't produce vitamin D on its own, but it needs plenty of it in order to function properly. Although that sounds a bit ominous and introduces a sense of urgency, the good news is that vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin. Something to smile about, right? Sunlight is a rich source of vitamin D, so if you want to do your body some good, make it a point to get outside on a sunny day and soak up some of the rays, enjoying life as you enhance your health! When exposed to sunlight, your body goes to work manufacturing vitamin D out of cholesterol. Sounds like a good deal, although, of course, you want to be careful you don't expose yourself too much to the sun, which would mean risking a case of sunburn, or worse. Your Body is ‘Programmed' to Want and Need Vitamin D Vitamin D is an essential element for your body as several key systems in your body depend on it. It functions much like a hormone, with every cell in your body equipped with a receptor for it, per healthline.com. The vitamin can also be found in fatty fish and fortified dairy products, among other foods, although even then am otherwise healthy diet might not be able to provide sufficient amounts of D. What Does Vitamin D Do? Vitamin D is a key ingredient for producing strong and healthy bones. It can play an important role in helping your body in the absorption of calcium – which also enters in to the healthy-bone equation – as well as contributing to optimal cell growth while guarding against the kind of body inflammation that can promote disease in your body, per prevention.com. Signs of a Vitamin D Deficiency Vitamin D deficiency is actually fairly common, affecting more than 40 percent of Americans, and estimates are that about one billion people worldwide have low levels of D in their blood, per healthline.com. Per a 2011 study, broking down the numbers along ethnic lines, just under 70 percent of Hispanics are D deficient, while the number goes up to more than 82 percent for African Americans. Risk factors for a vitamin D deficiency, per healthline.com, include dark skin (limiting absorption of the sun's rays), old age, being overweight or obese, a diet lacking fish or dairy, geography (living far form the equator and thus being exposed to less sunlight), and frequent use of sunscreen when being outside. How do you know if you might have a vitamin D deficiency? The signs and symptoms often are barely noticeable at first, if discernible at all, but over time they can become quite apparent, such as in the following forms (if you suspect an issue with vitamin D yourself, be sure to meet with your physician to get an accurate diagnosis):
- Fatigue. Healthline.com cites a case in which in which a female subject complaining of chronic daytime fatigue and headaches, and with a significant D deficiency, found her symptoms resolved soon after a vitamin D supplement was added to her daily diet.
- Excessive sweating. In the case of a vitamin D shortage in your body, the excess sweat typically appears on the forehead – especially noticeable if your activity level at the time is minimal and it's not that hot out.
- Feeling depressed. Per prevention.com, one study suggests that vitamin D has an impact on feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, which can affect your mood. A shortage of D also has been associated with seasonal affective disorder, which typically is accompanied by feelings of depression.
- Bone pain. A study conducted by a Minnesota clinic looking at more than 100 patients suffering from persistent, general musculoskeletal pain, found that 93 percent had deficient vitamin D levels, per healthyway.com.
- Respiratory issues. Such respiratory problems can include asthma or other conditions in which a person finds himself or herself easily winded during routine activity or struggling to catch a breath for extended periods.
- Infertility. Per healthyway.com, research has indicated that a D deficiency can contribute to the development of a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common precursor to female infertility. A common PCOS symptom is acanthosis nigricans, which shows up as dark, velvety skin patches.
- Psoriasis. This can show up as a scaly rash on your scalp or even elsewhere on your body. Per healthyway.com, the Mayo Clinic says a D shortage can reduce your body's defenses against psoriasis.
- Hypertension. In other words, high blood pressure. A Harvard study cited at healthyway.com linked an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension to a D deficiency.
- Chronic infections. A vitamin D deficiency can compromise your immune system to some degree, making it that much more difficult for your body to ward off infections and disease.