How Long Does It Take To Recover From A Vitamin D Deficiency?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that aids with the growth and development of our bones and teeth. It also improves resistance to certain diseases because of the way in which it strengthens our immune system.
Our bodies produce vitamin D naturally when we are out in the sunlight but we can also get it from supplements and certain foods.
Vitamin D is essential for our mental health as well as our physical health as studies have shown that it can alleviate symptoms related to depression and anxiety
If we become vitamin D deficient, we might start to experience the side effects, such as bone pain, muscle weakness, depression, and fatigue.
In this blog post, we will take a closer look at this important vitamin and answer the question: How long does it take to recover from vitamin D deficiency?
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is both a nutrient that can be gained from supplements and food, and a hormone that our bodies naturally produce. This vitamin helps the body absorb and retain phosphorous and calcium, the two minerals that are essential for building bone strength.
Vitamin D can support our bodies in other ways. Studies have shown that it can:
- Reduce cancer cell growth
- Decrease the chances of heart disease
- Support our immune system
- Regulate our moods
- Reduce the risk of depression
As you will understand, your health could be at risk if you become vitamin D deficient. You could experience bone pain, fatigue, muscle weakness, and low moods. You will also increase the chances of falling prey to infections and illnesses because of weaknesses in your immune system.
So, for improved health and to increase your chances of happiness, you shouldn't go without your daily dose of Vitamin D.
Thankfully, it's relatively easy to get vitamin D as it is naturally produced by our skin when we spend time in the sun. We can also eat foods that contain this important vitamin and take supplements when the sun is hiding behind the clouds.
This isn't to say you shouldn't take supplements when it is sunny. As we discussed in our post on vitamin D in the summer, you might still need a top-up of this essential vitamin if you use sunblock too often or if you tend to cover up your skin.
So, are you getting enough vitamin D? The quantity you need depends on how old you are. If you're under 70 years of age, you need 15mcg of vitamin D a day. If you're over 70 or if you're currently pregnant, it is recommended that you get 20mcg of Vitamin D a day.
You can learn more by reading our guide to how much vitamin D you need.
What Can Cause Vitamin D Deficiency?
There are a number of reasons why you might become vitamin D deficient. These include the following.
You are more likely to become vitamin D deficient if you follow a strict vegan diet. This is because the vitamin is most commonly found in animal-based foods, such as fish, fish oil, red meats, and egg yolks. You might also experience vitamin B12 deficiency if you're a vegan.
It's still possible to get vitamin D as a vegan as this vitamin is contained in mushrooms, fortified cereals, fortified plant-based milk, and certain other fortified food products. As mentioned, you can also get vitamin D from supplements such as our own vitamin D drink and the sun.
Lack of sunlight
As the body produces vitamin D when we are out in the sun, we can become vitamin D deficient if we choose to spend most of our time indoors.
We are more likely to become vitamin D deficient in the winter as we are more likely to avoid going outdoors due to the cold weather. There is also a chance that the sun won't appear for very long during the dark winter days.
If you regularly cover your skin when outdoors, perhaps due to personal or religious reasons, there is also a chance that you won't get enough vitamin D.
Liver or kidney issues
In the human body, the skin, liver and kidney work together to convert vitamin D into its active form. Vitamin D deficiency can be present in those with liver or kidney disease as the organs are less able to produce the vitamin.
We can also become vitamin D deficient as we get older due to a reduced ability to process vitamin D in the liver and kidneys.
Medicines interfering with your body
Certain medications can lower vitamin D levels in the body. This is because they can affect the way the body absorbs and breaks down the vitamin.
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
- Anti-seizure medications
If you have a severe deficiency and you are on medication, you should check with your doctor to see whether or not there could be a connection.
Signs And Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency
It's helpful to know the signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency so you can take the appropriate steps if you recognise them in yourself.
These are some of the signs and symptoms you should look out for.
- Frequent infections or illnesses: Vitamin D supports your immune health. When you lack this vitamin, your immune system is less able to ward off the viruses and bacteria that can cause infections and illnesses.
- Bone and back pain: Vitamin D helps to maintain your bone health through the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. If you are low on vitamin D, there is an increased risk of pain as well as the risk of bone fractures.
- Fatigue: You may be fatigued for all kinds of reasons, from a lack of sleep to overwork. However, a lack of energy can also be a sign of vitamin D deficiency as studies have found an increase in energy when people take more vitamin D.
- Depression: We need vitamin D to make serotonin (the happy hormone), so if you are regularly suffering from low moods, it might be because you are vitamin D deficient.
- Weight gain: Vitamin D produces leptin, the hormone that inhibits hunger and reduces fat storage. If your appetite has increased and you are gaining weight, it may be because you don't have enough vitamin D to produce healthy levels of leptin.
Diagnosing Vitamin D Deficiency
If you suspect you are deficient in vitamin D, the following steps are advised.
- Speak to your doctor: Explain your symptoms to your doctor as they may be able to identify vitamin D deficiency from the information you give to them. They will give you a physical exam and run blood tests that will measure your levels of vitamin D.
- Follow a treatment plan: If your doctor diagnoses a vitamin D deficiency, they will advise treatment. You should follow this treatment until you have sufficient levels of vitamin D in your body. Your doctor will likely recommend vitamin D supplements, one of which is plant-based (D2) and the other animal-based (D3). You need a prescription for D2 supplements but D3 supplements can be purchased over the counter.
- Test your vitamin D levels at home: If you would like to keep tabs on your Vitamin D levels (before or after seeing a doctor), you can order a test kit from Amazon, Superdrug, and other online sources.
- Take steps to increase vitamin D: As well as taking the supplements recommended by your doctor, you should increase your vitamin D levels in other ways, such as by eating the right foods and spending time outdoors.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From Vitamin D Deficiency?
It can take a few weeks for your vitamin D levels to rise once you start taking supplements. Expect a 4-6 week recovery time if you don't have any underlying health issues that could slow down the recovery phase.
You may be able to speed up the recovery process by:
- Spending time in the sunshine
- Eating fortified foods
- Eating more mushrooms
- Using a UV lamp
Don't try to hurry up the process by taking more supplements than is recommended. If you increase your dosage over a long period of time, too much calcium will build up in your body, and this could lead to damage to your bones, kidney and heart.
Preventing Vitamin D Deficiency
You can prevent vitamin D deficiency by:
- Eating foods that contain vitamin D, such as egg yolks, red meat, and oily fish. These are the vitamin D sources for vegetarians.
- Spending time in the sun or by taking these steps to increase vitamin D on a cloudy day.
- Consuming supplements and vitamin D drinks.
For more advice, check out our article on how to boost your vitamin D levels.
If you're experiencing symptoms related to vitamin D deficiency, you should take the steps we advised, such as:
- Spending more time outdoors
- Eating the right foods
- Taking supplements
- Speaking to your doctor
If you're not experiencing these symptoms yet, you should also take these steps if you're likely to become vitamin D deficient because of your:
- Extended time spent indoors
You will benefit your health if you do increase your vitamin D levels so follow the steps we advised and seek professional support if you are currently feeling unwell.