Do you feel tired and achy during the winter months? Your symptoms may be a sign of a vitamin D deficiency. If you suspect you're vitamin D deficient, you can have your doctor perform a simple blood test to check your levels, says Dr. James Dowd, associate professor of medicine at Michigan State University. Bob talks with Dr. Dowd, author of The Vitamin D Cure, about the causes, symptoms and cures of vitamin D deficiency.
Lack of sun exposure: People who work indoors or live in northern climates where the sun shines very little in the winter often don't get important doses of vitamin D from the sun, Dr. Dowd says.
Race: Latinos and African-Americans are at a much higher risk of becoming vitamin D deficient because they have more melanin in their skin, Dr. Dowd says. "That's because melanin is a natural sunscreen and it blocks the type of sunlight that helps you make vitamin D, so your risk goes up the darker your skin is," he says.
Fatigue: "It can be a quite severe fatigue," Dr. Dowd says. In fact, those diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome may also suffer from lack of vitamin D, he says.
Body aches: "Bone pain, muscle pain, joint pain [are all signs]," he says. "[The pain] typically moves around—one day it's your back that bothers you, a week later it's your shoulders and the next day it is your feet and hands."
Difficulty controlling weight: Vitamin D plays a role in regulating weight, and Dr. Dowd says a deficiency may make it difficult to keep your weight in check.
Supplements: A daily multivitamin has about 400 units of vitamin D, but Dr. Dowd says you still need to take a straight vitamin D supplement on top of the multivitamin to reach normal levels. "Your average [100- to 200-] pound person is going to require probably between 2,000 and 4,000 units of vitamin D a day," he says.
Sun exposure: Eating lunch outdoors when possible or going for walk during a break to get sun exposure will help you achieve normal vitamin D levels, Dr. Dowd says. "Increase your sun exposure at midday between spring blossoms and fall colors," he says.
Eat vitamin D-rich foods: Dr. Dowd says green, leafy vegetables, fish from the ocean and sun-dried produce such as mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes are excellent sources of vitamin D.