Suffering unexplained muscle soreness, low mood or tiredness? It sounds as though you could be suffering a from a shortage of the sunshine vitamin – vitamin D.
Many people find that health complaints such as low mood and tiredness get worse as the clocks go back and the days get shorter. It may well be that the lack of day light is to blame.
It is thought that as much as 90% of our vitamin D comes from the skin being exposed to sunlight, so it’s no wonder that deficiencies become more apparent in the dark winter months.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient and vital to help the body absorb and use calcium. Deficiency can cause bone pain and muscle weakness, and in the worst-case scenario, can lead to rickets and osteoporosis.
While it’s tempting to stay indoor during winter, getting outside in daylight is essential to your health. Taking a walk to the corner shop to pick up the newspapers, getting out for a 10-minute stroll during your lunch break – it will all help keep your bones strong and healthy.
In addition to bone complications, low levels of vitamin D can result in a number of other health concerns, with research suggesting that it may double the chance of developing high blood pressure and diabetes.
Five signs that you might be deficient:
- Getting sick more often:
Vitamin D has an important role in keeping the immune system strong, improving your ability to fight off bacteria and illness. If you become sick easily, particularly with colds, it may be due to low vitamin D levels.
2. Weight gain:
The hormone leptin, regulates body weight. Leptin is produced in fat cells and is controlled by vitamin D. When vitamin D levels are low, leptin is not as tightly regulated, reducing signals from the stomach telling the brain it is full, resulting in overeating.
3. Unexplained weakness:
Vitamin D is vital for healthy muscles and energy levels. Low vitamin D levels can leave you feeling tired and fatigued even if you are well rested.
4. Bone fracture after minor fall:
Vitamin D is required for bones to absorb calcium, helping to strengthen them. Deficiency leaves you more susceptible to fractures.
5. Low mood/depression:
Vitamin D deficiency can impact on mood and can cause seasonal affective disorder due to reduced regulation of neurotransmitters in the brain. This lowers the level of serotonin- the happy hormone- in the brain.
Sources of vitamin D:
It is suggested that adults aim to get 10mcg of vitamin D per day.
Salmon, swordfish and tuna are the best sources, along with eggs, cheese, mushrooms or fortified orange juice, milk, cereal or yoghurt.
However, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, so consider taking a vitamin D supplement throughout autumn and winter, especially if your lifestyle means that you are constantly indoors during daylight hours- i.e. you work in an office 9-5pm.