health

Tired, sore and rundown? You might be low in vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency runs in my family.

I have been diagnosed as being “critically low” in vitamin D, as have my son and my dad. My sisters have started taking a supplement ‘just in case’ and I tell everyone who will listen to request a vitamin D test on their next blood test – because it really is the forgotten vitamin when it comes to keeping an eye on our overall health.

In my family, the problem seems to be that we don’t properly absorb vitamin D from the sun, even if we stay outdoors for ages. However lack of vitamin D absorption from the sun is more widespread than most people realise. We have become so good at protecting ourselves from the sun that somewhere along the line we forgot that some exposure is actually good for us.

The possible effects of lower vitamin D levels are far reaching and quite often specific to the individual – making it hard to diagnose to begin with. However, in my history and my families experience, the list is very very long.

1. Soreness.

There is a theory that low levels of vitamin D can leave you feeling sore or with chronic, general pain. As a result more doctors are testing women in particular for low levels of vitamin D to ensure they are getting the amount they need. Getting older is bad enough without feeling achy all the time, especially when you have increased your exercise because you want to look as fit and as toned as possible on your birthday. Hey, it’s my motivation and I’m sticking to it.

vitamin d deficiency
"Getting older is bad enough without feeling achy all the time, especially when you have increased your exercise because you want to look as fit and as toned as possible on your birthday." Image via iStock.

2. Aching joints.

I remember a comedian doing a funny bit once about how you know you’re getting old when you groan whenever you move, which prompted me to try and stop doing just that. It’s just that as I’ve gotten a bit older my life-long weak knee and ankle play up more and more. No more step aerobics for me (thank goodness).

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It is thought that low levels of vitamin D can contribute to aching joints and it can be hard to detect the cause because sometimes your aching joints can be explained by something else - except it’s often the case that they feel worse due to your low level of vitamin D.

3. Bone health.

My dad has osteoporosis from smoking. He got the flu last year, fell out of bed due to dizziness from the temperature and broke his hip. It almost killed him and I was terrified. The surgery and the recovery were hard. He now eats cheese every day for morning tea and he and I take the same vitamin D supplements too.

We talk about bone health all the time because of how badly it has affected him. He not only ruined his bones from smoking but we also had the family problem of low vitamin D levels. He was so happy to hear that we all take our vitamin D supplements. Bone health is everything.

"Bone health is everything." Image via iStock.

4. Lethargy.

In my case, I found that my low levels of vitamin D sometimes presented as flu-like symptoms. I don’t know about you - but I am way too busy for flu-like-anything. There are some vitamin D rich foods you can eat that can make a small contribution to your levels, or go for a walk in the sun for 20 minutes. Not a bad way to spend you afternoon if you have the time. The foods are fatty fish, mushrooms, cheese and eggs. Omelette anyone?

I know from personal experience that when I don’t take my vitamin D for a few days I feel generally unwell so I am militant about it now. Every morning I take slow release iron, vitamin D and a hair, skin and nail combo.

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5. Bruising.

There are a few vitamins that are thought to prevent easy bruising, such as C, D and E. I used to bruise really badly and then I’d never remember how I got the bruises. It was normally from quickly cleaning the house or rushing through something and bumping my leg or arm.

Then I’d get this horrific looking bruise and people would exclaim, “How did you do that?!?” and I’d just say I couldn’t remember. I have noticed that since I became vigilant about taking my vitamin D every morning I haven’t had any of those horror-movie bruises anymore.

" I have noticed that since I became vigilant about taking my vitamin D every morning I haven’t had any of those horror-movie bruises anymore." Image via iStock.

6. Strength.

I am doing really well with my new exercise program and every couple of days I feel stronger. Remember, I can do 20 push ups now. Woo hoo. Because as we age our muscles and bones deplete. So annoying, but the right kind of exercise can help to maintain overall strength.

Here’s what I’m doing – I do the Michelle Bridges workout DVDS Project Ripped and Project Extreme twice a week, jog twice a week and work out on our cross trainer twice a week. Recent findings have concluded that the best way to maintain strength as we age is to take vitamin D and do strength training. It seems I’m one step ahead.

So make a cup of tea, grab a Tim Tam, take a deep breath and do something about the way you feel.

Are your vitamin D levels low? 

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