Our last blog post, all about vitamin D week, highlights the importance of vitamin D, the fact that it is a global problem and how you can use indoor tanning to boost your vitamin D levels. What I thought I would do next is introduce you to some of the most common tell-tail symptoms or signs that you may be vitamin D deficient:
1. You feel down, depressed or blue
When you expose yourself to sunlight / UV light, your levels of serotonin increase. Serotonin is the brain hormone linked to mood elevation.
In 2006, scientists tested the effects of vitamin D on 80 elderly patients and found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more likely to be depressed than those who received healthy doses.
2.You are 50 years or older
As you get older your skin does not produce as much vitamin D in response to UV light exposure. Furthermore, your kidneys become less efficient at converting vitamin D into the form used by your body. Instead of spending more time indoors as you get older, you actually need to spending more time outdoors – a perfect excuse to book another holiday.
Tanning outside to boost vitamin D levels: Dr Holick, a vitamin D expert, recommends that you bath in the sun for approximately spend half the time it takes your skin to develop a minor tan, before you apply a high quality sun cream. Dr Holick also recommends that you always wear sun cream on your face as this is always exposed to sunlight.
3. You are overweight, obese or have a higher muscle mass
Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means that any body fat you have absorbs it. Hence, if you are overweight or obese you are going to need more vitamin D than a slimmer person. The same also holds for those have higher muscle mass.
4. Your bones ache
According to Dr. Holick, many people who see their doctor for aches and pains, especially in combination with fatigue, end up being misdiagnosed as having fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
“Many of these symptoms are classic signs of vitamin D deficiency osteomalacia, which is different from the vitamin D deficiency that causes osteoporosis in adults,” he says. “What’s happening is that the vitamin D deficiency causes a defect in putting calcium into the collagen matrix into your skeleton. As a result, you have throbbing, aching bone pain.”
5. Head Sweating
According to Dr. Holick, one of the first, classic signs of vitamin D deficiency is a sweaty head. Physicians used to ask new mothers about head sweating in their newborns for this very reason. Excessive sweating in newborns due to neuromuscular irritability is still described as a common, early symptom of vitamin D deficiency.
6. You Have Gut Trouble
As mentioned, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means if you have gastrointestinal condition that affects your ability to absorb fat, you may have lower absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D as well. This includes gut conditions like Crohn’s, celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and inflammatory bowel disease.
7. You Have Darker Skin
Your skin pigment acts as a natural sunscreen, so the more pigment you have, the more time you’ll need to spend in the sun to make adequate amounts of vitamin D.
African Americans are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, because if you have dark skin, you may need as much as 10 times more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D as a person with pale skin!
What should you do if you have any of these symptoms?
There are two ways you can find out if you have a vitamin D deficiency. You can go and see your GP and ask them to do a vitamin D test. Or, alternatively, if you want to avoid the waiting times and reduce the workload at your local clinic, you can order a test kit with the NHS online. It costs £28, you do it at home and you normally get the results within 5 days.
Using indoor tanning to increase your levels of vitamin D
Unfortunately for us in England, and particularly this time of year, there is often no sun to expose ourselves to. Several weeks or even months can pass without significant exposure. This lack of exposure and consequent vitamin D deficiency may be why individuals feel depressed this time of year. There are a lot of studies that are looking in to this link.
It is however possible to use indoor tanning to boost your levels of vitamin D. As with natural sunlight, making the vitamin D you need from a low-pressure (UVB) sunbed happens within minutes. This may be why regular tanners often report feeling ‘lifted’ or ‘energised’ after a tanning session. Furthermore, you do not even need to use a tanning bed for a long time to enable your body to produce vitamin D. In fact half the time it takes for your skin to start turn pink / tan should be enough.
If you do chose to use a sunbed we recommend applying the same common sense that you use when exposing yourself to natural sunlight. This includes preventing yourself from burning by limiting your exposure. However, instead of using a sun protection lotion, use a tanning lotion. By applying a tanning lotion, you are moisturising and hydrating the skin -this helps the UVB rays to penetrate deep enough to reach the vitamin D receptors.