Vitamin D deficiency is a pretty common condition. Sadly, very few people realize that their health is at risk, so they choose to ignore the side effects. Even though milk products have substantial quantities of vitamin D, that’s still not enough to maintain bone strength and stay healthy.
In fact, the main source of this vitamin is not food, but the sun. Only natural sunlight provides enough vitamin D for your body to look and feel good. Unfortunately, older adults don’t get out much, and because they spend a lot of time indoors, it’s easy for them to become vitamin D deficient.
Here are five clear signs of vitamin D deficiency to watch out for:
- Weak muscles: In aging adults, vitamin D deficiency is strongly linked to weak muscles. Older people are susceptible to developing a vitamin D deficit due to several factors such as diminished exposure to direct sunlight, insufficient dietary intake, less-than-optimal intestinal absorption, and reduced skin thickness. Weakening of the muscles because of vitamin D deficiency can manifest in different ways. In general, older adults feel a heaviness in their legs and difficulty with standing up and climbing stairs. The good news is that supplementation can help older adults compensate for these insufficiencies, and thus get back on their feet.
- Mood changes: Vitamin D is not your average vitamin. In fact, it is a hormone. After vitamin D has been absorbed by the skin, it relocates to the kidneys and liver, where it is then transformed into an active hormone. This hormone helps assimilate calcium, and keeps the bones, muscles and teeth in excellent condition. Studies have shown that vitamin D is also responsible for activating genes that control the release of neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine); thereby affecting the functions of the brain. Seniors who feel depressed and tired all the time may actually suffer from a vitamin D deficiency.
- Weight gain: Research claims that, together with a hormone called leptin, vitamin D helps regulate body weight. Leptin is manufactured inside the body’s fat cells and works by delivering signals to the human brain, basically letting a person know that they’re full and they can stop eating. Vitamin D controls leptin levels inside the body, making sure that the right signals are sent to the brain. When someone is deficient in vitamin D, these signals get disrupted and the body doesn’t know when to stop eating. This can make people overeat and gain weight.
- Fatigue: Many older adults who feel tired don’t realize that they might have a vitamin D deficiency, so they choose to ignore their symptoms. Someone who has stiff joints and is constantly feeling fatigued might want to boost their intake of vitamin D (especially if they don’t go outside much or don’t eat many milk products). Apart from fatigue, vitamin D deficiency may also trigger pain in the legs and difficulty moving around the house.
- Stomach problems: Vitamin D deficiency may lead to inflammatory bowel disease, which is a chronic illness that causes swelling and irritation in the digestive tract. This condition is split into two main types: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Older adults are more predisposed to developing inflammatory bowel disease because they’re susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. Gut problems are unpleasant and they can also tamper with the fat absorption process. Since vitamin D falls into the category of fat-soluble vitamins, insufficiencies may trigger severe gastrointestinal problems.
Vitamin D is an extremely important nutrient that the body needs to function properly, and insufficiencies may trigger severe health problems. Older adults who don’t go outside much should make a lifestyle change if they want to preserve their health, maintain strong bones and have a healthy digestive tract.
Expose yourself to more natural sunlight, especially in the morning. Take relaxing walks to the park and enjoy the beautiful weather. This will boost your mood and keep your bones strong and healthy. Vitamin D supplements may be advised if your deficiency is extremely severe, but it’s a decision you’ll have to consult with your physician before staring a treatment.