Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Fatigue?
Do you often feel exhausted despite getting enough sleep? Have you been unable to pinpoint the source of your fatigue? Does your fatigue seem to get worse in the winter and improve during the summer? Then it may be time to ask, can vitamin D deficiency cause fatigue?
Why is Vitamin D Important?
Often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that your body needs to build strong bones as well as for overall good health; it helps regulate the immune system and the neuromuscular system. This vitamin is so important that your body produces it by itself when your skin is exposed to sufficient sunlight. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions like a steroid hormone in the body, and every cell in your body has a receptor for it.
The two primary ways to get vitamin D are sunlight and proper nutrition. Vitamin D comes in two dietary forms, D2 and D3, with D3 being easier to absorb. Milk, fortified foods (such as breakfast cereals), and fatty fish (salmon, tuna and mackerel) are good sources of vitamin D, but it is hard to get enough of this nutrient through diet alone. And in the U.S., only people who live south of a line drawn from Los Angeles to Columbia, S.C., get enough sunlight year-round to support sufficient vitamin D production.
Roughly 42% of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D, and that percentage increases among Hispanics and African-Americans because high amounts of melanin in the skin reduces the body’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. Certain medical conditions can also contribute to vitamin D deficiency, such as kidney disease, celiac disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and obesity. The latest research links vitamin D deficiency to mood swings, depression, fatigue, and loss of bone and muscle strength.
Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Fatigue?
Because fatigue has many causes, vitamin D deficiency is often overlooked as a possibility, even though fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of low vitamin D. Numerous studies have found that low blood levels of vitamin D can cause fatigue that has a severe negative effect on a patient’s quality of life. (Blood tests are the only accurate way to determine vitamin D levels, with anything below 20 ng/ml being considered deficient.) A study in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences found that low vitamin D levels were prevalent among people experiencing fatigue, and increasing their vitamin D intake helped improve or resolve their symptoms.
The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are often subtle and easily mistaken for other disorders. In addition to fatigue, common symptoms include:
- Bone, back, joint, and muscle pain
- Bone loss or fractures
- Getting sick often
- Hair loss
- Impaired wound healing
- Mood changes
- Poor sleep
How Can I Raise My Vitamin D Levels?
There are three ways to boost your vitamin D levels:
- Get more sunshine – You should get 20-60 minutes of sun every day, depending on your skin tone and latitude. The more skin exposed, the more vitamin D your body produces.
- Dietary sources – Be sure to include salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and egg yolks in your diet. Wild-caught fish have higher levels of vitamin D, as do the eggs of free-range chickens.
- Supplements – Opt for vitamin D3 instead of vitamin D2, as D3 is twice as effective at boosting vitamin D levels in the body. Since vitamin D is fat-soluble, it is best taken in an oil-based soft gel capsule or with a meal that includes fat.
Current mainstream dosage guidelines for vitamin D are based solely on maintaining proper bone density and not on preventing chronic health conditions. For autoimmune management, doses of vitamin D can range from 5,000 to 10,000 IU per day. It is best to test your levels every three to six months to ensure you are taking the proper amount of vitamin D.
Anchor Wellness Center: Your Trusted Source for Functional Medicine
To learn more about how vitamin D deficiency can cause fatigue, call Anchor Wellness Center today at (832) 246-8437 and schedule an appointment with Dr. Minni Malhotra, MD, FAARM, ABAARM. Board Certified in Family Medicine as well as Board Certified with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Malhotra can tell you if your fatigue is caused by vitamin D deficiency and formulate a personalized treatment plan to get you back to optimal health.