Vitamin D deficiency: Two warning signs you need the sunshine vitamin

Lorraine: Dr Amir says spine could shrink if deficient in vitamin D

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During the winter months, the UK Government advises all adults to take a daily vitamin D supplement, as “the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D”. This suggests that even spending time outdoors in the winter is not enough to get the vitamin D you need, but why do you need it? Experts at the NHS explained: “Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.

“These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.”

Mounting research now suggests that vitamin D is important in protecting against a whole host of health issues.

To expand, WebMD warned that low vitamin D levels has been associated with:

  • Increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Cognitive impairment in older adults
  • Severe asthma in children
  • Cancer.

Two warning signs of a possible vitamin D deficiency are: bone pain and weakness.

These symptoms might be subtle, with many failing to realise they are affected by low vitamin D levels.

Topping up your vitamin D levels, by supplementation daily during the winter, may play a role in the prevention of diabetes, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis.

What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Experts at the NHS explained multiple sclerosis, colloquially known as “MS”, affects the spinal cord and brain.

The life-long condition can lead to “serious disability”, including problems controlling the bladder and difficultly walking.

Most commonly diagnosed in people in their 20s and 30s (although it can develop at any age), MS symptoms might include:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty walking
  • Vision problems, such as blurred vision
  • Problems controlling the bladder
  • Numbness or tingling in different parts of the body
  • Muscle stiffness and spasms
  • Problems with balance and co-ordination
  • Problems with thinking, learning and planning.

“Depending on the type of MS you have, your symptoms may come and go in phases or get steadily worse over time (progress),” the health body added.

Defined as an autoimmune condition, the body turns on itself and attacks the myelin sheath that protects the nerves.

The health body elaborated: “This damages and scars the sheath, and potentially the underlying nerves, meaning that messages travelling along the nerves become slowed or disrupted.

“Exactly what causes the immune system to act in this way is unclear, but most experts think a combination of genetic and environmental factors is involved.”

One proposed factor is a lack of sunshine and vitamin D, as MS “is more common in countries far from the equator”.

“[This] could mean that a lack of sunlight and low vitamin D levels may play a role in the condition.”

How do I top up vitamin D levels?

Aside from daily supplementation, vitamin D is also present in some foods.

Examples include:

  • Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel
  • Egg yolks.

How can I check my vitamin D levels?

Vitamin D levels can be checked via a blood test arranged by your doctor.

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