Vitamin D is commonly known as the sun vitamin, but its health benefits make it worth taking supplementally all year round. Some of its benefits include helping the body absorb calcium, regulating cell growth, and boosting the immune system. Since vitamin D plays such an important role in overall health, there are plenty of symptoms that may result from deficiency. From simple signs like fatigue and muscle weakness to more complex symptoms like autoimmune disease and liver problems, there are plenty of reasons to up your vitamin D intake. Read on to discover what health concerns may be related to this vital vitamin.
Those who frequently workout or are athletes may be thrown off guard if their endurance suddenly decreases noticeably. If there's no obvious explanation, such as a diet change or poor sleeping habits, it may be that the sneaky culprit is vitamin D deficiency.
Experts have found that one of vitamin D's many roles is contributing to energy levels. That's why some fitness gurus add vitamin D supplements to their protein shakes or smoothies. It can help ensure that your endurance is as optimal as possible.
One thing that can be easily overlooked in terms of vitamin D benefits is hair health. While certain nutrients are commonly associated with hair growth, like biotin and protein, there are a plethora of contributing factors, including vitamin D.
A study conducted at Cairo University found that hair loss in females ages 18 to 45 was linked to vitamin D deficiency. Research has also linked vitamin D deficiency to alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. Keeping your vitamin D levels high may help keep your locks healthy and help ward off threatening conditions.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, aka hypertension, affects millions of people in the United States each year, making it relatively common. Unfortunately, hypertension can contribute to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
A study review by Harvard University found that vitamin D deficiency can increase a person's risk of having high blood pressure. Based on their findings, it can be deduced that keeping your vitamin D levels where they should be could have a positive impact on blood pressure.
Another symptom that may result from vitamin D deficiency is bone pain. It can be difficult to distinguish bone pain from that of muscles or joints, but one distinction is that bone pain hits deeper. It also isn't as correlated to movement as the other two.
Furthermore, vitamin D deficiency can also impact your muscles and joints, so any of those areas are worth considering. Joint pain is also associated with rheumatoid arthritis, which a 2012 study linked to vitamin D deficiency. If you have unexplained aches and pains, vitamin D may be helpful in your recovery.
A major reason that vitamin D is related to bone pain is due to its role in helping the body absorb calcium. Since calcium plays a major role in bone strength, it's imperative to be sure that you not only consume enough but also that your body is equipped to utilize it.
That's why when someone gets a bone fracture, it's common for the doctor to also want to test their vitamin D levels. Having an adequate amount of vitamin D and calcium can help keep your bones stronger and less prone to fractures.
Wounds Taking Long To Heal
Since vitamin D plays a role in cell growth and new tissue formation, it's a vital nutrient when it comes to healing wounds. A 2012 study found a link between better healing and vitamin D intake when studying participants with leg ulcers.
If your wounds seem to take abnormally long to heal, vitamin D deficiency may have something to do with it. Since accidents happen all the time, it's worth keeping your vitamin D levels optimum so that when you do get hurt, your body is prepared to heal.
Frequent Sickness And Infections
Another way that vitamin D helps the body heal is by boosting the immune system. More specifically, the nutrient helps regulate immune function and ward off inflammation. A 2014 study found that vitamin D was related to participants' chances of developing pneumonia and the severity of symptoms.
While taking vitamin C is often thought of as the key way to ward off sicknesses, being healthy is a holistic process. When at higher risk of getting sick, consider boosting your vitamin D, as well.
Vitamin D not only plays an important role in keeping bones healthy but also helping muscles function. If you've been finding it unexplainably difficult to pull off your regular fitness regime, it may be that boosting your vitamin D intake could help.
Muscle weakness can be tied to tons of factors, like diet and sleep habits. However, if muscle weakness is combined with other symptoms on this list, it may be worth trying out a vitamin D supplement to see if anything changes.
Since vitamin D is related to bone and muscle health, it makes sense that the nutrient may help ward off back pain. Research shows that those suffering from back pain are often also vitamin D deficient.
Adversely, those with sufficient vitamin D levels are less likely to be subject to back pain. Since severe back pain can limit daily activities, anything that may help should be taken seriously. As we've seen, vitamin D can help mobility in various ways.
Given all of the previous symptoms mentioned, it follows that vitamin D deficiency can also contribute to weight gain. Between lowered endurance, muscle weakness, joint pain, bone fractures, and difficulty healing, there'd be a ton of obstacles in the way of working out without vitamin D.
A 2018 study found that vitamin D deficiency was related specifically to increased weight circumference. Another study found that boosting vitamin D helped participants lose weight in their waist and hips, and also contributed to an overall lower BMI.
Vitamin D doesn't jump impact your physical body; it can also have an effect on your mood! A 2019 research review concluded that those with vitamin D deficiency were more likely to suffer from depression due to its impact on brain receptors.
Since seasonal affective disorder is characterized by mood swings based on the weather, it can be tricky to know if that's the culprit or just vitamin D. The two may go hand in hand since vitamin D is present in sunlight.
Another unpleasant psychological condition that vitamin D may assist with is anxiety. A 2015 study found that participants suffering from anxiety disorders tended to have lower vitamin D levels than those who don't experience those conditions.
Researchers also found that increasing vitamin D can have a positive impact on mood. As with depression, it's possible that vitamin D can play an important role in overcoming certain mental health challenges. Getting enough of the vital nutrient may also lower people's risk of developing such conditions.
Being Overly Tired
A study conducted by Cooper University Hospital found that increasing vitamin D intake for five weeks had a positive impact on their participants' fatigue. Being tired is so commonplace that it can be difficult to tell if it's normal or not.
Fatigue can impact the overall quality of life and is often caused by more than one factor. Diet plays a huge role, though, since getting the right nutrition is key to fueling the body. Vitamin D's various functions make it a helpful part of combating excessive sleepiness.
Different phases of life can make it easy to become irritable more during certain times than others. But there are ways to combat crankiness, including taking more vitamin D! The nutrient can have a positive impact on serotonin production, helping to balance your mood.
Plus, the underlying reason for your irritability may be any number of the things on this list, which vitamin D can also aid. Whether it's exhaustion, pain, depression, sickness, or a combination of things, staying on top of your vitamin D intake may help.
In addition to helping you stay healthy overall through immune and cell support, vitamin D may also contribute to respiratory wellness. Studies have shown it is linked to the reduced likeliness of developing infections in the upper respiratory tract, especially in children.
A 2012 study also found that vitamin D intake helped reduce the impact of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in participants who were previously deficient. While vitamin D alone may not cure respiratory issues, research suggests it can help.
A 2013 study by Boston University found a connection between vitamin D levels and risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers surmise that it may be due to vitamin D's ability to combat inflammation and hypertension.
Studies have also shown that being vitamin D deficient can increase your risk of experiencing congestive heart failure. Since heart health is so important, consider taking vitamin D supplements or opting for more foods naturally high in or enriched with vitamin D.
Though vitamin D deficiency doesn't directly cause infertility, it may be related to a condition that does. Research indicates that not having enough vitamin D may increase your chance of developing polycystic ovary syndrome, which is a leading cause of infertility.
Multiple studies have also shown a connection between vitamin D and IVF, suggesting that the nutrient increases the likeliness of the procedure being successful. Plus, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to unwanted complications like gestational diabetes and preterm births.
Sweaty Head (For Babies)
One sign that an infant may be vitamin D deficient is if they have an unusually sweaty head. While it may seem like a random symptom nowadays, it used to be commonplace for doctors to ask parents if their baby exhibited this symptom.
Though babies can't take vitamin D pills as adults can, the mother can consume more vitamin D to further enrich her milk. It's possible that a nursing baby's vitamin D deficiency is also a symptom of the mother being low in this vital nutrient.
Fever That Doesn't Disappear
In most cases, fevers usually last between two to three days. Temperatures over 100°F often go down within this time. But if a fever continues to rise and fall over several days, it could be an early sign of cancer. Cancer Research UK claims that kidney, liver, ovarian, and lymphoma cancers may cause a persistent fever.
According to Dr. Tom Iarocci, cancer fevers are usually dubbed "fevers of unknown origin." These usually exceed 101°F and last for around three weeks without a doctor being able to diagnose it. At this point, doctors may check for blood cancers.
Developing An Autoimmune Disease
A 2017 study found that sufficient vitamin D intake may lower your risk of developing multiple sclerosis (aka MS). MS is just one of the various autoimmune diseases that research suggests is linked to vitamin D.
Others include type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn's disease. Since vitamin D contributes to immune health, research shows that lack of it may increase the risk of autoimmune diseases. Those who are predisposed to autoimmune disorders may want to take vitamin D supplements and check their levels.
Abnormal Back Pain
If back pain prevents feeling and walking, it could result from spinal cancer. This usually happens when other cancer cells move to the spine, according to Dr. Mike Chen of City of Hope. Patients with kidney, lung, prostate, or breast cancer have the highest risk.
According to City of Hope, cancerous back pain usually has no known cause (such as poor posture or muscle strain). The back pain often accompanies numbness in the arms or legs, and it sometimes results in difficulty controlling bladder functions.
Kidneys play an important role in cardiovascular health since they remove waste from your blood. One reason that vitamin D is linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease may be that it also helps promote kidney health.
Unfortunately, kidneys become less efficient at breaking down vitamin D over time. That's why it's suggested to take vitamin D alongside vitamin K2, as the latter can help the body process vitamin D more efficiently. Ultimately, nutrients work together, so having a well-rounded diet is paramount.
Difficulty swallowing is called dysphagia, and it's a common symptom of those who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In extreme cases, it’s also a sign of esophageal cancer. John Hopkins Medicine clarifies that if you have trouble swallowing, and it gets worse over time, you may want to see a doctor.
If you haven't been diagnosed with GERD or another digestive disorder that causes chronic heartburn, the doctor may check for those first. Esophageal cancer is often caused by substance abuse and stomach disorders. People with these conditions may want to see a doctor.
Skin Color Changing
If your skin color begins to change noticeably, don't ignore it. According to the American Cancer Society, skin color changes indicate problems with different parts of the body. For instance, yellowish skin may indicate liver problems. Bluish skin may display breathing issues, and frequent bruises may suggest a blood illness.
According to dermatologist Dr. Bruce Robinson, cancer is the rarest result of skin color changing. More common explanations are pregnancy, fungi, eczema, and other skin conditions. Even so, you may want to see a doctor if your skin drastically changes color.
Loss Of Appetite
According to the National Cancer Institute, severe appetite changes could be a sign of cancer. In many cases, patients in the late stages of the disease experience a loss of appetite because of chemotherapy. As an early sign of cancer, appetite loss could result from stomach, colon, or ovarian cancers putting pressure on your stomach.
How can you tell if you need a doctor? According to the American Cancer Society, you may want to see a specialist if you lose three pounds or more from appetite loss. If you haven't eaten for more than a day or struggle to keep food down, call a doctor.
Discoloration Under Your Fingernails
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs under the finger and toenails, due to excess sun exposure. It can be difficult to treat if it's not caught early on, so it’s important to consult your doctor if you see what looks like bruising underneath your nails.
There are several different types of nail-related melanoma, which account for 1.4 percent of all diagnosed melanoma cases, according to the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research. Don’t procrastinate on this one. If left untreated, melanoma can spread to other organs.
White Patches On Mouth Or Tongue
White patches can form anywhere on the mouth, including on the tongue, inside of cheeks, and within the throat. According to Cambridge University Hospitals, these spots form when the skin in the mouth gathers to heal an injury or infection. Cancer Research UK clarifies that these spots are not cancer, but if left untreated, they can develop into mouth cancer.
White patches, called leukoplakia, can form in the mouth from irritating substances. In a mild case, they'll go away on their own. If these spots accompany pain, or if they won’t go away, talk to a doctor.
Abnormally Intense Headaches That Don't Get Better
Most headaches go away after taking pain medication or a nap, but cancer-related headaches aren't easy to shake. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, cancerous headaches are usually a dull or harsh throb that don’t develop into a migraine. In the case of brain cancer, headaches often begin in the morning and improve throughout the day.
Cancer-related headaches often accompany other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, dizziness, and difficulty moving or speaking. Cancer.net explains that these symptoms could arise from cancer of the nose, brain, and throat.
Extreme Fatigue Without Explanation
Cancer-related fatigue, or cancer fatigue, may surface as a side effect of patients undergoing treatment. But extreme fatigue can also foreshadow cancer. Nita Ahuja, a surgical oncologist at John Hopkins, defines this fatigue as tiredness that doesn't get better with rest.
Because your body uses a lot of nutrients to fight cancer, fatigue can appear during the early stages, especially of leukemia and lymphoma. According to Cancer Network, fatigue usually disrupts a person’s life both mentally and physically. Fatigue can also be a symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome, so talk to a doctor if you struggle with life-altering tiredness.
Wounds Don't Heal
When wounds don't heal or scab over for weeks or months, they’re called chronic wounds. These pose many risks, including infection. But if your injury continues to scab (or not scab) over three months with no noticeable healing, you need to see a doctor, says Christi Cavaliere, the Cleveland Clinic Wound Healing Medical Director.
Cancer Research UK reports that chronic wounds are common symptoms of skin cancer. But according to Dr. Cavaliere, they are more likely the result of pressure ulcers, venous ulcers, or diabetic ulcers. Still, you’ll want to see a doctor for help.
Muscle weakness differs from fatigue in that it may only appear after exercise. In cancer patients, muscle weakness could come from chemo. According to Cancer.net, muscle weariness and pain can result from a tumor growing on a muscle or possibly touching muscles.
Muscle weakness is also a common sign of mesothelioma, according to the Mesothelioma Center. Some patients may not notice the symptom at first since it is also a common side effect of diabetes. If muscle weakness only gets worse over time, you may want to get a professional's opinion.
Unexplained Weight Loss
According to WebMD, two out of five cancer patients lose a significant amount of weight. While this usually stems from chemotherapy, patients can also lose weight in the early stages of cancer. Cancer Care explains that the body tries to fight cancer with substances called cytokines, which eat at muscle and fat.
The American Cancer Society states that unexplained weight loss is often the first sign of esophageal, lung, pancreas, and stomach cancer. If you lose over 5% of your body weight over six months (without a change of diet or exercise), you may want to consult a doctor.
Lumps In The Neck (Even Without Pain)
Lumps in the neck usually form when lymph nodes swell as they fight off infection. As an early sign of cancer, lumps can appear around the lymph nodes and the throat. The Moffitt Cancer Center explains that cancerous lumps usually appear when no other infection is present.
If you have an unusual lump on your neck with no apparent cause, you may want to visit a doctor. These lumps can be symptoms of mouth, throat, and thyroid cancer, according to WebMD. However, they could also indicate a viral or bacterial infection.
Having An Overactive Bladder
Overactive bladders, called OABs, may become apparent with age. But sudden, unexplainable OAB may be a sign of colon cancer. U.S. Pharmacist warns patients about "dry" OAB, in which nothing comes out despite the urge, and “wet” OAB in which urine does come out. If symptoms interrupt your daily life, talk to a professional.
The American Cancer Fund says that over 90% of bladder cancer patients are over the age of 50. If you can't distinguish between natural and cancerous OAB, ask your doctor. Cancerous OAB usually accompanies blood, straining, and pain as well.
When people sweat so much during the night that they wake up in wet sheets, they suffer from night sweats. This symptom is common in cancer survivors, women undergoing menopause, and different types of cancer. Researchers don't know why night sweats happen with certain cancers, although some suspect that it could be the body fighting off the infection.
According to the National Cancer Institute, night sweats can arise during leukemia, lymphoma, liver cancer, and bone cancer. The symptom could also stem from hormonal imbalances in both men and women, which may also require medication.
A Cough That You Can't Shake
Cold and fever patients can continue to cough weeks after their main symptoms subsided. But those with a chronic cough–which lasts for over eight weeks–may want to see a professional. Chronic coughs may be an early sign of lung cancer, which is most treatable in the early stages, according to Cancer.net.
Dr. Lynne Eldridge of Very Well Health adds the cancerous coughs usually appear alongside other symptoms. Shortness of breath, coughing up blood, unexplained weight loss, and chest pain may indicate cancer. If your cough seems unusually long or severe, consult a doctor.
Severe Chest Pain
Chest pain is a common symptom of colds or respiratory infections. In extreme cases, it could be a symptom of lung cancer. In this case, chest pain may grow worse when breathing deeply, laughing, or coughing says the Lung Cancer Foundation of America.
Having frequent respiratory infections that never seem to heal is also an indication of lung cancer. The American Lung Association adds that other types of pain may result from cancer, such as headaches, shoulder pain, and muscle soreness. Remember, though, that only a doctor can diagnose your pain.
Change In Stool Habits
Our stools and bowel movements frequently change with our diets. But if these changes last for an unusually long time, says the American Cancer Society, they could be a sign of a more severe disease. These changes include diarrhea, constipation, and consistency of your stool.
Changes in stool may indicate colon cancer if it accompanies abdominal pain, bleeding, fatigue, and weight loss. Medical News Today advises patients to see a doctor if the symptoms are persistent. Constipation can take a while to go away, though, so always talk to your doctor.
Excessive Hair Growth
Hirsutism is a condition in which hair grows excessively, even where it isn't supposed to. In women, hirsutism results in dark, thick hair on the face, chest, abdomen, or back. It is often caused by hormonal shifts, mainly the secretion of the male hormone, androgens. Hence, hirsutism could be a sign of adrenal cancer, according to Cleveland Clinic.
During adrenal cancer, tumors rest on the adrenal glands near the kidneys. If cancer is the cause, excessive hair loss may accompany weight shifts, weakness, high blood pressure, or depression. Otherwise, it could stem from another hormonal imbalance.
Moles Suddenly And Abnormally Change
According to dermatologist Laurie Kohen, it's normal for moles to change over time. But certain changes could indicate a risk of melanoma, or skin cancer. If a mole changes color, says Dr. Kohen, it may be a cause for concern. The same goes if a mole spontaneously starts bleeding.
The National Cancer Institute reports more symptoms to look out for. If a mole changes drastically in shape and texture, or if it feels hard and lumpy, you may want to visit a dermatologist. Moles that are dry, flaky, and start to itch also need to be checked.
Shortness Of Breath Over A Long Period
According to Cancer Network, over half the patients at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's emergency room complain about shortness of breath, or dyspnea. Sandra Henke, a thoracic oncology nurse, says that breathlessness is a symptom of lung cancer. But it doesn’t show up until the later stages of the disease.
Most patients are already diagnosed by the time they feel shortness of breath. If dyspnea results from cancer, then it usually joins other cancer symptoms. Still, 50% to 70% of cancer patients have dyspnea at some point, says Cancer Research UK.
A Croaky, Hoarse Voice That Doesn't Go Away
According to Cancer Research UK, having an unusually hoarse voice for over three weeks is a common sign of laryngeal cancer. A croaky voice could result from substance abuse, thyroid issues, allergies, or acid reflux. But in these instances, a hoarse voice wouldn't last for over three weeks.
The National Health Institute says that a prolonged croaky voice may indicate laryngeal cancer or perhaps laryngitis. Both should be examined by a doctor. This symptom could also result from lung cancer, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Mouth Wounds That Won't Heal
Many people get mouth sores or ulcers from irritation. Because the skin in the mouth renews every two weeks, these injuries usually heal quickly. If they don't heal after three weeks, beware. This could result in a larger illness, such as oral cancer, says Cancer Research UK.
The American Cancer Society adds that people should watch out for gums that look red, shiny, or swollen. This is usually a sign of the mouth fighting off an infection. If redness or sores don’t get better beyond 48 hours, you may want to see a doctor.
Abdominal Pain And Swelling
Stomach pain can happen for many reasons and is often hard to diagnose. However, a specific kind of stomach pain may indicate stomach cancer. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, stomach cancer pain usually occurs above the navel. Stomach swelling usually happens alongside the pain.
General surgeon Kevin El-Hayek of Cleveland Clinic says that the early signs of stomach cancer are often overlooked as general stomach issues. If your symptoms add up, he says, visit a doctor. Other signs include fatigue, loss of appetite, and unusual bowel or stool changes.
Bone pain usually occurs as a dull ache in the pelvis, ribs, legs, or arm regions. It is one of the first signs of metastatic cancer, according to Texas Oncology. At first, it may occur only at night or during exercise. Over time, joint pain may become worse.
When cancer cells spread to the bones, sometimes as a leftover result of other cancers, it is called metastasis, says the University of Rochester Medical Center. They explain that doctors can tell the difference between metastasis and other joint pain, so consult a doctor if you're concerned.
In some cases, rashes are a symptom of skin cancer or a rare blood cancer called mycosis fungoides. However, these rashes aren't normal. A member of the British Association of Dermatologists, Dr. Walayat Hussain, explained that these blistering rashes are severe. They can appear from the feet to the inside of the mouth, and the red patches may grow worse over time.
"This is a tricky subject to discuss without alarming people," Dr. Hussain told The Sun. But rest assured that you’ll know when something is wrong. Dr. Paul Raffer, who was diagnosed with mycosis fungoides in 2008, said that he felt his entire body itching.
Constant bloating can be a symptom of ovarian cancer. However, a study from a UK Charity found that only 34% of women seek medical help when they're regularly bloated. Dr. Monique Swain, an obstetrician and gynecologist, says that if bloating doesn’t disappear after diet changes, it’s time to speak up.
In the case of ovarian cancer, bloating may make people feel full after eating very little. Gynecologic oncologist Amina Ahmed says that stomach swelling may be visible, a symptom called abdominal distension. If bloating doesn’t go away despite habit or diet changes, talk to a doctor.
Swelling Of The Face And Neck
When your face and neck visibly swells, it may not relate to your face and neck at all. It could actually be a sign of lung cancer, according to LungCancer.net. The swelling happens when a tumor presses against a vein that sends blood to the head.
According to the National Cancer Institute, body swelling (or edema) could also result from other cancers or treatment procedures. Before you assume that the swelling is cancer, ask your doctor if any medications or dietary changes contribute to the symptom.
Wheezing Or Whistling While Breathing
While persistent coughing and shortness of breath are both symptoms of lung cancer, a more severe symptom may be wheezing. According to LungCancer.net, patients may wheeze to the point of making a slight whistling sound while breathing.
Dr. Charles Patrick Davis of eMedicine Health says that this symptom may also indicate asthma or a respiratory infection. Lung cancer may create other unusual symptoms, such as coughing up blood, low sodium and calcium, loss of appetite, and dizziness. When in doubt, consult your doctor.
Numbness And Tingling
Many people know the feeling of a limb "falling asleep" when the lack of blood flow causes a numb and tingling sensation. Sometimes, numbness results from neuropathy, or nerve damage, that's a side effect of chemotherapy. It could also stem from blood, spinal, prostate, and lung cancers.
According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, only 10% to 20% of cancer patients experience numbness. This numbness or tingling persists without an obvious cause, says the American Cancer Society. If a numb or tingling sensation doesn’t seem to stop, consult a professional.