Vitamin D deficiency symptoms: Mood disturbances could mean you’re lacking sunshine

This Morning: Dr Michael Mosley discusses vitamin D dosage

Spring is soon upon us, but there’s no guarantee of a sunny March. Are you in need of a vitamin D supplement? What are the signs you’re deficient in the sunshine vitamin? Adequate amounts of vitamin D ensure strong and healthy bones, and helps to protect you from various ailments.

For example, the Cleveland Clinic stated sufficient vitamin D levels can protect you from:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Infections
  • Immune system disorders
  • Falls (in older adults)
  • Colon, prostate and breast cancers
  • Multiple sclerosis

Have you noticed any mood changes recently? This could be down to a vitamin D deficiency, particularly if you’re feeling depressed.

The subtle signs that you’re lacking the sunshine vitamin could include bone and joint pain, especially in the back.

Furthermore, some people may experience muscle cramps or weakness, and/or fatigue.

People may unknowingly suffer from a reduction in bone mass density – this can only be certified by an X-ray.

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How can I get some vitamin D?

Vitamin D is produced when skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun.

Various factors influence how much vitamin D you get from natural sources, such as the season, the time of day it is, and melanin production.

Melanin is the pigment that causes skin to tan, with darker skin needing more sun exposure to get vitamin D.

Even in the summer months, people only really need around 15 to 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure – at the most.

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However, the NHS advises everybody to take “10mcg (400IU) of vitamin D daily [in supplement form] between October and March”.

“It’s important to take vitamin D as you may have been indoors more than usual this year,” said the national health body.

The Cleveland Clinic pointed out that vitamin D can also be obtained from food.

Examples of foods enriched with vitamin D include swordfish, salmon and tuna.

However, vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many foods, and vegans would struggle to get enough of the vitamin without supplements in the winter.

Vitamin D levels may also be lowered due to certain medications, such as:

  • Laxatives
  • Steroids
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Seizure-control drugs
  • Rifampin – a tuberculosis drug
  • Orlistat – a weight-loss drug

In addition, people suffering from certain health conditions are also at higher risk of a vitamin D deficiency.

This is true of those with cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease.

People with kidney and liver diseases are also at an increased risk of the vitamin deficiency.

Moreover, people who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more would be more likely to lack the sunshine vitamin.

This is because “fat cells can keep vitamin D isolated so that it’s not released”.

The Cleveland Clinic added: “Obesity often makes it necessary to take larger doses of vitamin D supplements in order to reach and maintain normal D levels.”

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