Do you feel tired and occasionally feel achy? If you live a busy, active lifestyle, the answer to that is probably yes – some of the time. But if you’re feeling more tired than usual or experiencing other odd symptoms, a nutrient deficiency could be to blame.
Two potential causes are vitamin B-12 and vitamin D deficiencies. You may face an especially high risk of these deficiencies if you follow a vegan diet, because most vegan foods lack natural B-12 and vitamin D, though anyone could develop these deficiencies. If you’re experiencing symptoms like achiness and fatigue.
There are two forms of vitamin D: D2 and D3. Vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol, comes from fortified foods, plant foods, and over-the-counter supplements. Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, comes from fortified foods, animal foods (fatty fish, cod liver oil, eggs, and liver), supplements, and can be made internally when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Structurally, these two are not the same. Many believe that vitamin D should be classified as a hormone, with some calling it the forgotten neurosteroid. The health consequences of being deficient go far beyond rickets and what occurs with any other vitamin. And unlike other vitamins, it can be made by your body when exposed to sun and the active form in your body, called calcitrol, has similarities to other hormones (estrogen, cortisol, and testosterone).
Only 20% of our vitamin D is meant to come from our diet with the remaining 80% provided by our skin from UV-B exposure to the sun. There are currently two sets of guidelines for vitamin D intake.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
If you have vitamin D deficiency, it may lead to symptoms such as:
1.Frequent infections or illnesses
2.Fatigue and muscle weakness
3.Bone and joint pain
6.Slow wound healing
Causes of a deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can happen when a person:
1.does not consume enough vitamin D
2.is unable to absorb or metabolize the vitamin D
3.does not spend enough time in ultraviolet B (UVB) sunlight
Various factors can increase the risk of a deficiency – Diet, Lifestyle, Pollution, Absorption problems, Medications, Smoking, Obesity
In time, low levels of vitamin D can lead to:
1.Osteoporosis: The bones become thin or brittle. The first sign may be a bone breaking easily as a result of minor trauma. It often affects older people.
2.Osteomalacia: This can affect children. The bones become soft, resulting in bone deformities, short stature, dental problems, fragile bones, and pain when walking.
An individual’s specific need for vitamin D will depend on various factors, including their age, UVB exposure, diet, and health status.
If a blood test shows that a person has or is at risk of a vitamin D deficiency, the doctor is likely to advise them to increase their intake.
Recommendation the following intake each day:
0–12 months: 400 IU (10 micrograms [mcg])
1–70 years: 600 IU (15 mcg)
71 years and over: 800 IU (20 mcg)
However, it is not possible to measure how much vitamin D a person obtains from sunlight. Individuals should talk to their doctor about their vitamin D needs and how to increase their intake.
Some people may need to take supplements, but it is best to talk to a doctor before doing so, as some can have adverse effects. The doctor will also provide advice on a suitable dosage.
Good dietary sources of vitamin D include: oily fish, such as mackerel or salmon, beef liver, cheese, mushrooms, egg yolks, fortified foods, including some breakfast cereals, orange juice, milk, soy drinks, and margarine.
The best ways to prevent a vitamin D deficiency are to eat foods that are rich in this nutrient and to spend some time outside each day.
Some tips for avoiding a deficiency include:
1.Maintaining a healthy body weight: Cycling or walking can provide both exercise and exposure to sunlight.
2.Treating medical conditions: People with health conditions that affect the absorption of nutrients may find that treating the underlying condition helps boost their levels of certain nutrients, including vitamin D.
3.Being proactive about preventive health: People with a family history of osteoporosis or vitamin D deficiency may wish to consider speaking to their doctor about screening.
You can get vitamin B12 in animal foods, which have it naturally, or from items that have been fortified with it. Animal sources include dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, and poultry. If you’re looking for a food fortified with B12, check the product’s Nutrition Facts label.
You can also get vitamin B-12 deficiency if you follow a vegan diet (meaning you don’t eat any animal products, including meat, milk, cheese, and eggs) or you are a vegetarian who doesn’t eat enough eggs or dairy products to meet your vitamin B-12 needs. In both of those cases, you can add fortified foods to your diet or take supplements to meet this need.
Symptoms of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
If you have vitamin B-12 deficiency, you could become anemic. A mild deficiency may cause no symptoms. But if untreated, it may lead to symptoms such as:
1.Weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness
2.Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
4.A smooth tongue
5.Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas
6.Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking
8.Mental problems like depression, memory loss, or behavioral changes
If you have pernicious anemia or have trouble absorbing vitamin B-12, you’ll need shots of this vitamin at first. You may need to keep getting these shots, take high doses of a supplement by mouth, or get it nasally after that. If you don’t eat animal products, you have options. You can change your diet to include vitamin B-12-fortified grains, a supplement or B-12 injections, or a high-dose oral vitamin B-12 if you are deficient.
Older adults who have a vitamin B-12 deficiency will likely have to take a daily B-12 supplement or a multivitamin that contains B-12. For most people, treatment resolves the problem. But, any nerve damage that happened due to the deficiency could be permanent.
Most people can prevent vitamin B-12 deficiency by eating enough meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs.
If you don’t eat animal products, or you have a medical condition that limits how well your body absorbs nutrients, you can take vitamin B-12 in a multivitamin or other supplement and foods fortified with vitamin B-12. If you choose to take vitamin B-12 supplements, let your doctor know, so he or she can tell you how much you need, or make sure they won’t affect any medicines you’re taking.
While the symptoms described here could be signs that you’re missing vitamin B-12 and vitamin D, you should never diagnose nutrient deficiencies on your own. That persistent fatigue, for example, could be a B-12 deficiency – or it could be low iron levels, a thyroid issue or any number of health issues that make you feel chronically tired. Only your doctor can run the tests needed to diagnose a deficiency and suggest the right treatment – and if you try to self-treat with dietary supplements, you risk “treating” a condition you don’t have and ignoring one that you do. So schedule a doctor’s appointment, and focus on eating smart and sleeping well in the meantime.