What’s Considered Low Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin as your body can produce it when the skin is exposed to sunlight. However, many people do not get enough Vitamin D from the sun, diet, or supplements. Low levels of Vitamin D can lead to various health issues, including weak bones, muscle weakness, dental problems, and depression. In this article, we will discuss what is considered low Vitamin D and what you can do to improve your Vitamin D levels.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is not like most other vitamins. Your body can produce it when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D can also be obtained from certain foods and supplements. Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth as it helps your body absorb calcium. It also plays a role in maintaining your immune system, muscle function, and reducing inflammation in your body.
What Are the Symptoms of Low Vitamin D?
Many people with low Vitamin D levels may not have any noticeable symptoms. However, some people may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Bone and muscle pain
- Depression and mood changes
- Hair loss
- Impaired wound healing
What Are the Causes of Low Vitamin D?
There are various causes of low Vitamin D levels. Some of the common causes include:
- Lack of sunlight exposure
- Limited dietary sources of Vitamin D
- Medical conditions that affect Vitamin D absorption such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
- Age – Older adults have reduced skin production of Vitamin D
- Dark skin – Melanin in dark skin reduces the production of Vitamin D
What Is the Optimal Level of Vitamin D?
The optimal level of Vitamin D is a matter of debate among healthcare professionals. However, most agree that a blood level of at least 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L) is desirable for overall health. Some consider a blood level of 50 ng/mL (125 nmol/L) to be optimal for reducing the risk of fractures and falls in seniors.
What Are the Blood Tests to Measure Vitamin D?
The most accurate way to measure Vitamin D is to get a blood test. Two types of tests are commonly used:
- 25-hydroxyvitamin D test (25-OH-D) – This test measures the total amount of Vitamin D in your blood.
- 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D test (1,25-(OH)2D) – This test measures the active form of Vitamin D in your blood.
What Is a Low Level of Vitamin D?
The following levels are generally considered low:
- Less than 12 ng/mL (30 nmol/L) – This is considered a severe deficiency that increases the risk of severe bone diseases such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
- 12 – 19 ng/mL (30 – 47.5 nmol/L) – This level is considered inadequate for maintaining good overall health.
- 20 – 29 ng/mL (50 – 72.5 nmol/L) – This level is considered insufficient and may increase the risk of bone diseases and other chronic illnesses.
How Can You Improve Your Vitamin D Status?
The following are the main ways you can improve your Vitamin D status:
- Get more sunlight exposure – Ideally, you should spend around 15 minutes in the sun midday for most days of the week without sunscreen. Expose larger areas of your skin, such as your arms, face, and legs.
- Eat more Vitamin D rich foods – Foods rich in Vitamin D include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified foods such as milk and cereals.
- Supplements – Vitamin D supplements are an effective way to increase your Vitamin D levels. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider before starting any supplements.
What Are the Possible Risks of Too Much Vitamin D?
Taking too much Vitamin D supplements can lead to toxicity, which can cause various symptoms such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Kidney damage
What Are the Common Questions About Low Vitamin D?
Here are some of the most common questions and answers related to low Vitamin D:
- Q. Can low Vitamin D cause depression?
- A. Yes, low Vitamin D levels have been linked with depression, and some studies have shown that Vitamin D supplements can help with depression.
- Q. Can low Vitamin D cause hair loss?
- A. Yes, low Vitamin D levels have been associated with hair loss. However, more research is needed.
- Q. How much Vitamin D should I take?
- A. The amount of Vitamin D you need depends on various factors such as your age, health status, and goals. It is best to consult your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations.
- Q. Are there any natural sources of Vitamin D?
- A. Yes, some foods are rich in Vitamin D, such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and mushrooms. However, it is difficult to obtain enough Vitamin D through diet alone, and supplements are often needed.
- Q. Can too much sun exposure lead to too much Vitamin D production?
- A. Your body can only produce a limited amount of Vitamin D. Excess sun exposure does not lead to excess Vitamin D production but increases the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and immune function. Low Vitamin D levels can lead to various health issues, including weak bones, muscle weakness, and depression. The optimal level of Vitamin D is a matter of debate, but most agree that a blood level of at least 30 ng/mL is desirable for overall health. You can improve your Vitamin D status by getting more sunlight exposure, eating more Vitamin D-rich foods, and taking supplements as needed. If you have concerns about your Vitamin D levels, speak to your healthcare provider.
1) Holick MF. Vitamin D Deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3): 266-81.
2) Holick MF. The Vitamin D Deficiency Pandemic: a Forgotten Hormone Important for Health. Public Health Rev. 2010;32(1):267-83.
3) Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. 2011.