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Are You Moody, Tired & Achy? Vitamin D Might Be the Culprit!

by Carrie Borzillo - October 13 , 2021

Photo Credit: by Tirachard Kumtanom,
Photo Credit: by Tirachard Kumtanom,

It’s that time of year when the warm fuzzy sweaters come out, the sun shines a little less, and those winter blues, or seasonal depression, might start to creep in. It’s also the time of year to pay attention to your vitamin D levels because sun exposure is the most important natural source of vitamin D. Short amounts of sun exposure throughout the day allows the body to produce all the vitamin D it needs for the day, so when you’re not in the sun as much, you need to find other ways to get some D.

The side effects of a vitamin D deficiency might surprise you. They range from depression or moodiness to feeling tired and achy all day to brain fog to hair loss. Studies show that approximately 1 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) people worldwide across all ethnicities and age groups have low vitamin D levels. That’s 41.6% of adults in the United States are deficient, with 69.2% in Hispanic adults and 82.1% in African American adults, according to recent data.

Let’s look at how to know if you’re at risk, what the symptoms are, and what to do about it…

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that the vitamin D we make and consume from foods and/or supplements is stored in the fat tissue for use later. Without enough D in your bloodstream, it’s hard to absorb the calcium you need for health bones, cell growth, and immune function. Direct sunlight helps trigger vitamin D production in your body.

Health Benefits of Vitamin D

There are many benefits of vitamin D, including helping with cancer prevention, depression, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, weight loss, and multiple sclerosis. But the main benefit of D is for bone health. Too little in your system can cause your body to withdraw calcium from your bones to maintain balance. If that happens, you are prone to such calcium and bone issues as rickets or osteoporosis. In children rickets manifests itself as improper bone development, while in adults it can cause bone and muscle pain and lead to osteoporosis, making you more at risk for bone fractures and breaks.

Vitamin D Deficiency Risk Factors

Anyone, even young healthy people who eat right, exercise regularly, and live a healthy lifestyle, can develop a vitamin D deficiency and not even know it. But there are certain contributing factors that might make it more likely. Among those at risk are…

● People who stay indoors too much

● Though all ethnicities and races can be affected, people with darker skin tones, who have a reduced ability to produce vitamin D from UV rays because of the melanin in their skin.

● Overweight or obese people

● People with existing liver or kidney issues, or who had gastric bypass surgery

● People who eat low-fat diets or who don't properly absorb fat

● People who use too much sunscreen. Of course, if your doctor recommends you use medical-grade sunscreen for a skin issue or if you are prone to skin cancer, then you should follow that doctor’s orders.

● People who don’t eat fish or dairy

● Those living far from the equator where there is less sun year-round

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

It’s not easy for most people to realize they have a deficiency. The best way to know if you have a deficiency is to get bloodwork done annually as part of your regular wellness exam with your general doctor. The doctor can see your exact levels and recommend how much more Vitamin D you need to get in your system daily, typically via taking a supplement and incorporating more vitamin D-rich foods into your diet.

Here are the most common signs of a vitamin D deficiency:

● Getting sick often

● Getting infections often

● Wounds not healing fast

● Feeling fatigued or tired too often

● Bone pain

● Back pain

● Muscle pain


● Moodiness

● Anxiety

● Brain fog

● Weight gain

● Hair loss

How To Get More Vitamin D

Blood test aside, the general recommendation for daily vitamin D, according to the Mayo Clinic, is this: 400 international units (IU) for children up to age 12 months, 600 IU for people ages 1 to 70 years, and 800 IU for people over 70 years. Before taking any supplement, consult your doctor.

To get D the most natural way, it’s recommended that people should get at least 5 to 30 minutes of sun three days a week during peak sunlight hours in order to get enough vitamin D going into their skin. Unless a doctor tells you otherwise, it’s also recommended to not use a high SPF sunscreen 24/7 during the fall and winter months when the sun is not as hot as it is in the summer months. But it is recommended to still wear sunscreen year-round to protect your skin from skin cancer, sun damage, and premature aging. The general rule is to use at least SPF 30 from October through April, and then bump it up to a higher SPF May through September.

To get more vitamin D in your diet, fish is your best option. Just three ounces of cooked salmon has about 570 IUs, while rainbow trout has even more with 645 IU. Most healthcare professionals recommend eating fish three times, or a total of 8 ounces of seafood based on a 2,000-calorie diet, a week as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

But the most surprising source of vitamin D is mushrooms. As with humans, wild mushrooms or mushrooms exposed to UV light can synthesize this vitamin when exposed to UV light. According to various sources, 1 cup of raw mushrooms, which you can sprinkle on salads or serve with dip with crudités, can have up to 1,110 IU. The wild varieties, such as morel and chanterelle mushrooms, are said to have more D in it because they’re grown outside.

Foods High In Vitamin D

Fatty Fish

● Salmon

● Tuna

● Mackerel

● Sardines

● Herring

● Tilapia

● Cod liver oil

Other Proteins

● Beef liver

● Egg yolks

● Pork chops

Common Foods Fortified with Vitamin D

● Whole milk

● Soy milk

● Orange Juice

● Certain cereals and oatmeal

● Tofu

● Yogurt


● Mushrooms


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