By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

With winter finally over, many people are
expressing their gratitude at the return of more sunlight and vitamin D. Especially when
you work indoors, you can go days without seeing sun in the winter, so it can be very
difficult to get enough vitamin D in your diet. After consulting a panel of doctors, dieticians,
and wellness experts, we found out what really happens when your levels are low. What is vitamin D? First off, what is vitamin D and why does
it matter? According to Dr. Scott Schreiber, a chiropractic
physician double-board certified in rehabilitation and clinical nutrition, vitamin D does much
more than we used to think. He told The List, “Traditionally, vitamin D was thought of as
a bone building vitamin, but current research has shown it to be involved in much, much
more. Every cell in the body has vitamin D receptors.” Sounds important, right? It is, which is what makes it so shocking
that many people aren’t getting enough. According to Dr. Schreiber, vitamin D deficiency
impacts over 80 percent of the population. So how might you know if you’re one of the
over 80 percent affected? Dr. Lisa Ashe, the medical director of the
Be Well Medical Group cautions that it isn’t always so easy to tell. She told us, “Many people have no symptoms or they are
so subtle that they’re unaware until they receive the results of blood testing at the
doctor.” Moody blues Dr. Schreiber also told us that vitamin D is responsible for activating genes that regulate
neurotransmitters, and that these directly affect brain function and development. It’s no surprise then that low vitamin D has
been linked to depression, particularly seasonal affective disorder that is experienced in
the winter months when there is less sunlight. Dr. Schreiber says, “There have been several studies showing that
as vitamin D levels decrease, due to less time outside, depression increases. The lower [vitamin D] goes, the worse [depression]
becomes.” Have no fear though, Dr. Schreiber said that
vitamin D supplementation has been shown to relieve depression symptoms. Digestion woes The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders states that Irritable
Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a digestive disorder that affects between 25 and 45 million people
in the United States, with 67 percent of those being female. What does diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal
pain have to do with vitamin D? Well, according to a study published in the
journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, high vitamin D supplementation can also reduce
the symptoms of IBS. You can add your digestive tract to the list
of things you never thought would be affected by how much sunlight you get. Sick day after day If you always seem to be sick, no matter what precautions you take, or your illnesses seem
to linger longer than they do in other people, you may have low vitamin D. Dr Schreiber says, “Vitamin D has been shown to increase the
ability of T cells to fight infection.” Claudia Matles, a wellness coach who often
sees clients low on vitamin D, agreed, adding that significant deficiency could play a role
in Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, asthma in children, cardiovascular disease, and even
multiple sclerosis and cancer. If you just can’t seem to kick that cold after
several weeks, ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels. Achy bones Medical director of The Crozier Clinic andMedical director of The Crozier Clinic and author of the best-selling book, Healing Once
Cell at a Time, Dr. Gordon Crozier is a leader in the field of integrative medicine. He told The List, that in addition to making
you more prone to infections and viruses, low vitamin D may cause bone and muscle pain,
chronic fatigue, and hair loss. He added that low levels of Vitamin D can
even mimic fibromyalgia symptoms. According to the Vitamin D Council, there
is mixed evidence about whether true fibromyalgia and low vitamin D may be linked causally. However, vitamin D has been used to treat
fibromyalgia pain and may help reduce symptoms. In a fog Varda Meyers Epstein has suffered from chronic vitamin D deficiency for 20 years and told
us that the biggest issue for her is brain fog. She says, “When it’s bad, my brain goes foggy and it
becomes a real struggle to follow a recipe or do my job.” To add insult to injury, forgetfulness is
also a symptom of brain fog, making it all the more difficult for her to remember to
take her vitamin D supplement. Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to
cognitive impairment in several studies, so what Epstein describes may apply to you too. She says, “It’s difficult to describe the brain fog. Like I’m underwater, or not quite awake. Like I need coffee, but no matter how much
I drink, I can’t wake up.” Energy down Registered Dietitian Gillean Barkyoumb told us that the most overlooked symptom of low
vitamin D is fatigue. She says, “Even modestly low levels of vitamin D can
have a negative impact on energy levels. We often blame tiredness on other things such
as demanding schedules rather than considering low vitamin D levels.” Luckily, this is a fairly easy fix. A recent study published in the journal of
Medicine showed that supplementing with vitamin D significantly decreased fatigue compared
to placebo, and that the greater the amount of vitamin D, the more improvement researchers
and participants saw. This may also explain why we have more energy
in the summer and feel a bit lazier in the winter. Who knew? Preggo? Oh no! Sonographer Nancy He who owns Baby Glimpse,
a 3D/4D ultrasound center in Australia, told The List she has witnessed complications in
pregnancy and in newborns because of low vitamin D. She says, “Unborn babies derive their vitamin D directly
from their mother’s reserve…For pregnant women vitamin D deficiency has been linked
to complications such as preeclampsia, low birth weight, and gestational diabetes.” She recommends that most pregnant women should
take Vitamin D supplements, after consulting with their doctor, of course. Who’s at risk? While all of the experts we spoke with emphasized
that low vitamin D is a common issue worldwide, there are some factors that can put you at
greater risk of low vitamin D levels. Since the body makes vitamin D when exposed
to sunlight, dietitian Gillean Barkyoumb told us that the following factors may contribute
to the problem. She says, “(You) are homebound, live in northern latitudes,
wear clothing that covers your skin, or have a job that limits sun exposure.” Dr. Ashe added that following a vegan diet
can also contribute to vitamin D deficiency. She explains that this kind of diet lacks
the types of food where vitamin D naturally occurs. Fish, fish oil, eggs, and milk are all vitamin
D-rich foods, but obviously, not welcome on a vegan diet. How to treat If you have low levels of vitamin D, you can treat it through diet and supplements (as
well as getting more sun exposure). Registered Dietitian Rachel Begun, who is
also a spokesperson for Sundown Naturals vitamins, told us it’s always best to maximize nutrient
levels through food first. She adds that some conditions like celiac
disease, Crohn’s disease, and cystic fibrosis can make it even more difficult to absorb
vitamin D from food. She says, “If diet isn’t enough, talk with your doctor
about whether it makes sense to take a vitamin D supplement and if so, at what dose.” While some may be able to get by feasting
on oily fish or taking an over-the-counter vitamin D supplement, others may require an
extra boost from your doctor with something a little more powerful. If the 80 percent can be more preventative
when it comes to our vitamin D levels, we can all have our day in the sun. Thanks for watching! Click The List icon to subscribe to our YouTube
channel. Plus check out all this cool stuff we know
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