What Happens When Your Vitamin D is Low? | Vein Clinics of America (2023)

Reviewed by: Dr. Satish Vayuvegula

Vitamin deficiency is what happens when your body lacks certain vitamins to keep your body working at its best. Out of all of the vitamins it needs, though, vitamin D is a curious one. For starters, vitamin D is absolutely essential to your overall health. It is what allows your body to absorb calcium and ensure that your bones are healthy.

This essential vitamin keeps your bones strong from the beginning stages of your life, up until old age. Children who lack enough vitamin D are at risk of having soft bones, and adults who do not have sufficient vitamin D in their systems suffer from fragile bones, more commonly known as osteoporosis.

And, many people struggle with this problem — 42% of adults in the United States do not get enough vitamin D.

What Happens When Your Vitamin D is Low? | Vein Clinics of America (1)

So how exactly do you determine if you are vitamin D deficient?

If you fall into one of the groups below, then you will want to call up your doctor and schedule a consultation and blood test.

People most likely to be vitamin D deficient

1. Vegans and vegetarians

One of the main sources of vitamin D aside from the sun is by eating animal products.

(Video) Why Now May Be The Time To Boost Your Vitamin D And How To Tell If YOur Levels Are Too Low

But, if you are a vegan or a vegetarian, this obviously poses a problem. Milk and yogurt are filled with vitamin D as well, but those are not options for vegans.

So, what can vegetarians and vegans do to ensure they are getting the vitamin D they need?

There are other sources of vitamin D out there, though they aren’t quite as potent as meat and eggs. You can find vitamin D in things such as:

  • oatmeal
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • almond milk
  • orange juice
  • cereal

As a vegan or vegetarian, it is wise to keep close track of your vitamin D intake and consider taking supplements if your blood test shows you aren’t getting enough.

2. Those who suffer from depression

Though doctors aren’t sure of the true reason for the connection, studies have found that people who suffer from low levels of vitamin D are twice as likely to suffer from depression.

It is possible that this is due to the fact that serotonin, the hormone in your brain that helps with your mood, rises when people spend more time in bright light and falls when sun exposure decreases. Thus, if you’re not spending enough time in the sun and your vitamin D levels drop low, your brain is triggered to experience a corresponding drop in mood.

If you happen to live in a place that does not have the option of the sun as much as others, it’s important that you take a supplement to make up for it. Research has shown that women who suffered from depression showed an increase in their levels of happiness when their intake of vitamin D was increased.

What Happens When Your Vitamin D is Low? | Vein Clinics of America (2)

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3. People taking certain medication

The side effects of medication are no stranger to anyone who owns a television. The ads for medication that come across our screens bring along with them a whole slew of side effects. One such side effect is a decrease in your body’s ability to absorb and metabolize vitamin D.

The medications that seem to cause this vitamin deficiency the most are:

  • Drugs that lower cholesterol
  • Drugs for weight-loss
  • Corticosteroid medications

If you’re taking any of the above medications, you likely suffer from vitamin D deficiency.

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4. Those who suffer from chronic headaches

In a 2017 study, it was found that the people who had the lowest vitamin D levels were twice as likely to have chronic headaches.

Though the connection between chronic headaches and vitamin D deficiency are not by any means clear, it is thought that this vitamin may play a major role in fighting inflammation that, left untreated, can cause migraines.

Similarly, brain fog is something you may experience from a lack of vitamin D.

When your levels of vitamin D are not high enough, according to a number of studies, brain fog sets in. It may not be extremely noticeable, but you will likely feel as if you’re still partially asleep or in some serious need of caffeine.

(Video) The Side Effects of Vitamin D Come From a Magnesium Deficiency

By upping your vitamin D intake, chances are good your brain fog will disappear and you will feel more clear-headed and able to focus.

5. Suffers from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Did you know that up to 70% of people with IBD are lacking the proper amount of vitamin D in their bodies?

This is because inflammatory bowel disease causes your body to struggle immensely with properly absorbing fat. And, since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it would make sense that if you have IBD and aren’t able to properly take in fat, then you will be deficient in this vitamin.

Remember that under the category IBD falls a number of gastrointestinal problems such as:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

6. Those working a 9-5

Most people who work a 9-5 job in an office are not spending much time in the sun.

Because they’re stuck indoors during most daylight hours, office workers are not able to get the natural vitamin from the sun that they need, and thus are highly likely to be vitamin D deficient.

What Happens When Your Vitamin D is Low? | Vein Clinics of America (3)

7. Those who are over 55 years old

As people age, they become less mobile. Getting outside seems more difficult, and thus less of an occurrence. However, that means that people who are more elderly are not getting the exposure to the sun they need in order to get their daily vitamin D.

(Video) Risks of Low Vitamin D & How to Prevent it

In addition, skin that is aging struggles more with efficiently synthesizing this vitamin, so any vitamins that you’re getting from the sun may not be put to their best use in older adults.

Kidneys also decline in efficiency as people age, and as a result, cause older adults to struggle with converting this vitamin into its usable form.

8. People with a BMI of 30 or more

The higher your body mass index (BMI), the harder it is for vitamins to circulate throughout your body, vitamin D in particular.

If you weigh in with a BMI of 30 or more, chances are good that this vitamin is struggling to properly circulate in your body. You’ll likely need to turn to supplements to help until you’re able to lose some weight and bring your BMI down.

9. Those suffering from chronic joint and muscle pain

Feeling constant pain in your joints and muscles may be a result of not having enough vitamin D. If you’ve been diagnosed with something such as arthritis, look into your vitamin levels to see if you’re getting enough.

For those who are active and find themselves with pain after running or other exercises that last for days, that’s a red flag that you are probably deficient in this vitamin.

10. People with vein health issues

When your body does not have enough vitamin D, your blood vessels will likely suffer. Vitamin D helps to keep your arteries and blood vessels loose enough and relaxed enough to support proper blood flow. Thus, when vitamin D levels are low, your veins will struggle to do their job properly, and vein issues may arise.

As you can see, when your body is low on vitamin D, far more than your tan suffers. Vitamin D is, without a doubt, a vital nutrient that your body needs in order to properly function.

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Interested in finding more ways to live a healthier lifestyle? Explore our collection of food and diet topics.

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FAQs

What happens if your vitamin D is critically low? ›

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a loss of bone density, which can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures (broken bones). Severe vitamin D deficiency can also lead to other diseases. In children, it can cause rickets. Rickets is a rare disease that causes the bones to become soft and bend.

Is low vitamin D an emergency? ›

When rickets is very severe, it can cause low levels of calcium in the blood. This can lead to muscle cramps, fits and breathing difficulties. These need urgent hospital treatment. Rarely, an extremely low vitamin D level can cause weakness of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).

What can you do for extremely low vitamin D levels? ›

Vitamin D deficiency is usually treated with supplements, but you may need a doctor's advice to get the right dosage. Increasing your sun exposure and eating more vitamin D-rich foods, such as fatty fish and fortified dairy products, can also help.

Is low vitamin D something to worry about? ›

It's a serious bone problem causing bowed legs. Dr. Ropte says low vitamin D levels in children are also associated with allergies, asthma and eczema. In adults, it can lead to osteoporosis (weak/brittle bones) or osteopenia (soft bones).

Does vitamin D affect sleep? ›

Growing evidence has demonstrated that vitamin D has a role in sleep regulation [12]. Specifically, vitamin D deficiency (VDD) can increase risk of sleep disorders and is associated with sleep difficulties, shorter sleep duration, and nocturnal awakenings in children and adults [13,14,15].

What causes vitamin D to drop? ›

Vitamin D deficiency is most commonly caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight. Some disorders can also cause the deficiency. The most common cause is lack of exposure to sunlight, usually when the diet is deficient in vitamin D, but certain disorders can also cause the deficiency.

Can you be hospitalized for low vitamin D? ›

The odds ratio of being hospitalized if having severe vitamin D deficiency was 4.57 (95% CI 1.83, 11.4) (p = 0.001).

How long does it take to recover from vitamin D deficiency? ›

Official answer. Generally, it takes a few weeks of taking daily vitamin D supplements for vitamin D levels in the body to rise. Each 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 taken daily is expected to raise blood levels of 25(OD)D by 10 ng/ml after a few weeks.

Which fruit is rich in vitamin D? ›

Top 8 Vitamin D Fruits, Vegetables And Foods You Need To Know About
  • Orange juice.
  • Eggs.
  • Salmon.
  • Milk.
  • Tofu.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Cod liver oil.
  • Raw Oysters.
14 Feb 2020

Does low vitamin D make you tired? ›

Yes, if you're not getting enough vitamin D you will likely experience low energy and feel tired. An observational study, this one in 200 female nurses, found that only 9.5% of them had normal vitamin D levels, while 89% were found to have vitamin D deficiency.

Does lack of vitamin D cause weight gain? ›

A vitamin D deficiency is unlikely to cause weight gain. However, it may cause other health problems or unpleasant symptoms, which are worth avoiding. You can maintain adequate vitamin D levels through a combination of limited sun exposure, a vitamin-D-rich diet, and taking vitamin D supplements.

What are the signs you need vitamin D? ›

Symptoms when vitamin D is low
  • Fatigue.
  • Not sleeping well.
  • Bone pain or achiness.
  • Depression or feelings of sadness.
  • Hair loss.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Getting sick more easily.
19 Jul 2022

Does vitamin D give you energy? ›

Vitamin D is vital for making our muscles work efficiently and boosting energy levels, new research from Newcastle University has shown.

Should vitamin D be taken morning or night? ›

While the best timing has not been established, scientific data to confirm anecdotal reports that supplementing at night may interfere with sleep is unavailable. Current research suggests you can fit vitamin D into your routine whenever you prefer.

Can lack of vitamin D cause leg pain? ›

Humans with vitamin D deficiency exhibit muscle pain in muscles at multiple locations. However, the strongest association between vitamin D deficiency and pain is reported to occur in leg muscles (Heidari et al., 2010).

Is low vitamin D painful? ›

When vitamin D levels are low and the body isn't able to properly absorb calcium and phosphorus, there is an increased risk of bone pain, bone fractures, muscle pain and muscle weakness. In older adults, severe vitamin D deficiency (levels less than 10 ng/mL) may also contribute to an increased risk of falls.

How quickly does vitamin D raise? ›

How long does it take to increase Vitamin D levels? Vitamin D levels increase gradually and it's important to keep levels topped up daily. Sunshine will raise levels of active Vitamin D within about 8 hours – depending on the strength of the sun and your level of absorption.

How can I check my vitamin D levels at home? ›

"The overwhelming majority are self-collected blood tests including at-home finger prick options like imaware." Everlywell, Drop, and myLAB Box are other brands that offer at-home vitamin D tests. Each relies on a finger prick blood sample.

Are bananas good for D? ›

Packed With Nutrients

Along with potassium, vitamins B6 and C, fiber, and magnesium, bananas also have small amounts of health-boosting vitamin D, vitamin K, folate, choline, calcium, iron, phosphorous, copper, manganese, and selenium.

Do bananas vitamin D? ›

Nope, no vitamin D here. But bananas do contain plenty of magnesium. And guess what? Among the many reasons you need magnesium is that once your vitamin D is in your bloodstream, the magnesium puts it to work, making magnesium a must-have in order for you to access the many benefits of vitamin D.

Which vegetable is high in vitamin D? ›

Other than fortified foods, mushrooms are the only sufficient non-animal source of vitamin D. Like humans, mushrooms can synthesize vitamin D when exposed to UV light ( 22 ).

Can low vitamin D cause back pain? ›

Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency can cause or worsen neck and back pain and muscle spasm.

Does vitamin D reduce belly fat? ›

Besides boosting mood and promoting calcium absorption, recent studies have shown that vitamin D may also aid in weight loss. For people with extra belly fat, a vitamin D supplement may be beneficial.

Does vitamin D affect appetite? ›

The experts concluded that an extra calcium and vitamin-D have an appetite-suppressing effect. Meaning, no more hunger hangs. Therefore, consider adding vitamin-D supplements to your diet, especially if you're trying to lose weight. It is recommended to maintain a healthy food diet that is rich in vitamin-D.

What level of vitamin D deficiency is severe? ›

Definition of vitamin D deficiency

A cutoff of <25 or <30 nmol/L (or 10/12 ng/ml) increases the risk of osteomalacia and nutritional rickets dramatically, and therefore is considered to determine severe vitamin D deficiency [13,14,15,16].

At what level is vitamin D considered critical? ›

Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency

Although there is no consensus on vitamin D levels required for optimal health -- and it likely differs depending on age and health conditions -- a concentration of less than 20 nanograms per milliliter is generally considered inadequate, requiring treatment.

How long does it take to recover from low vitamin D? ›

Official answer. Generally, it takes a few weeks of taking daily vitamin D supplements for vitamin D levels in the body to rise. Each 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 taken daily is expected to raise blood levels of 25(OD)D by 10 ng/ml after a few weeks.

What symptoms does low vitamin D cause? ›

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include:
  • Fatigue.
  • Not sleeping well.
  • Bone pain or achiness.
  • Depression or feelings of sadness.
  • Hair loss.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Getting sick more easily.
19 Jul 2022

Is low vitamin D disability? ›

Although this disorder can be effectively treated, it can also be quite debilitating and can therefore qualify you for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. A Vitamin D deficiency or the body's inability to metabolize Vitamin D is what causes Osteomalacia.

Can low vitamin D make you dizzy? ›

Background: Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is linked to vitamin D deficiency.

Can vitamin D deficiency get worse? ›

As in your niece's situation, vitamin D deficiency is often diagnosed with a blood test, because a lack of vitamin D typically doesn't cause any obvious signs or symptoms until the deficiency is severe. If left untreated over time, vitamin D deficiency can lead to serious bone disorders.

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