Vitamin D deficiency is a common cause of numerous health problems. Many are aware that Vitamin D plays an essential role in Calcium and Phosphate absorption. Still, only a few know that Vitamin D deficiency can cause neurological symptoms, which sometimes can be life-threatening.
Let’s discuss this topic further.
The Role Of Vitamin D In Our Body
Vitamin D is a steroid pro-hormone that our body needs for many functions. The role of vitamin D in our body is best characterized as enabling calcium absorption and regulating the calcium levels in our blood. The active form of vitamin D, 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D, helps maintain normal blood calcium and phosphorus levels.
It also helps regulate the parathyroid hormone, which is responsible for maintaining the right balance of minerals in our bones and blood. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to low blood calcium levels and even osteoporosis. Researchers are still exploring all the ways that vitamin D helps maintain good health, but it is clear that this nutrient plays a critical role in many essential bodily functions.
Did You Know? Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it can be stored in our body for long periods of time. This is why vitamin D deficiency is often not diagnosed until it has already caused serious health problems.
To know more about fat soluble and water soluble vitamins, read Vitamins How They Work And Their Sources.
How Do We Obtain Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is available in nature in two inactive forms.
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)
The main source of Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is sunlight, which is formed in the skin after exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. Alternatively, you can expect the same function from artificial UV rays like those found in tanning beds. The body can also convert plant-based vitamin D2 to the active form of vitamin D (25 OH D), but this process is not very efficient.
Vitamin D3 is found in a few foods, such as fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and eel. Egg yolks, cheese, and mushrooms also contain small amounts of vitamin D3. You can also get this form of Vitamin from supplements.
Vitamin D2 is found in a few foods, such as mushrooms and fortified foods like cereals, bread, and some plant-based milk. You can also get this form of Vitamin from supplements.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
According to the Fact Sheet of Vitamin D published at NLH, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 IU/day for people aged 1-70 years and 800 IU/day for people over 70 years. However, these levels may not be sufficient for people with dark skin, those who don’t get enough sun exposure, and those who have a condition that impairs vitamin D absorption.
Some researchers believe that the RDA should be increased to 1000-4000 IU/day for people at risk for vitamin D deficiency. However, according to the Vitamin D fact sheet mentioned above, the highest safe limit is 4000 IU/day. More than that may lead to adverse health effects.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is a global problem. A journal about vitamin D deficiency published at NLH states that about 1 billion of the global population is vitamin D deficient. This is prevalent in all age groups irrespective of gender, country, or race.
What Are The Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency?
There are many potential symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Bone pain
- Poor bone health
- Increased risk of fractures
- Impaired wound healing
- Increased risk of infections
- Memory loss
As you can see, vitamin D deficiency can cause a wide range of symptoms, many of which are neurological in nature. This is because vitamin D plays a vital role in the health of the nervous system.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
There are several reasons why someone might be vitamin D deficient. The most common cause is simply not getting enough sun exposure. This can be due to spending too much time indoors, wearing sunscreen all the time, living in a place with little sun, or having a job that keeps you indoors most of the day. Other causes of vitamin D deficiency include:
Malabsorption disorders: Disorders that prevent the body from absorbing vitamin D from the diet or supplements can lead to deficiency. Conditions that can cause malabsorption include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and cystic fibrosis.
Kidney disease: Kidney disease can reduce the body’s ability to convert vitamin D to its active form.
Liver disease: Liver disease can also reduce the body’s ability to convert vitamin D to its active form.
Obesity: Obesity can cause vitamin D deficiency because the Vitamin is stored in fat tissue and not easily accessed by the body.
Pregnancy: Pregnant women are at risk of vitamin D deficiency because the Vitamin is needed for the developing baby.
Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding women are also at risk of vitamin D deficiency because the Vitamin is passed to the baby through breast milk.
Who Is At Risk For Vitamin D Deficiency?
Though most people can get enough vitamin D from sun exposure, there are some people who are at risk for deficiency. This includes;
People with dark skin
People with dark skin are susceptible to vitamin D deficiency because the pigment in their skin blocks out the sun’s rays.
People who don’t get much sun exposure
This includes people who spend most of their time indoors, people who wear sunscreen all the time, people who live in a place with little sun, and people who have a job that keeps them indoors most of the day.
People with the condition that impairs vitamin D absorption
Conditions that can cause this include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and cystic fibrosis.
Pregnant women are at risk of vitamin D deficiency because the Vitamin is needed for the developing baby.
Breastfeeding women are also at risk of vitamin D deficiency because the Vitamin is passed to the baby through breast milk.
Older adults are at risk of vitamin D deficiency because the body’s ability to convert vitamin D to its active form declines with age.
Vegans and Vegetarians
Vegans and vegetarians are at risk of vitamin D deficiency because the main dietary source of vitamin D is animal products they do not consume.
Note: These people especially need vitamin D supplementation to keep their health in check.
Diagnosis Of Vitamin D Deficiency
To diagnose vitamin D deficiency, your doctor will order a blood test to measure the level of vitamin D in your blood. Your blood test results will help your doctor determine if you are deficient in vitamin D and, if so, how severe the deficiency is.
Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Neuropathy Symptoms?
Yes. Vitamin D deficiency can cause neuropathy symptoms because the Vitamin is essential for nerve health. Without enough vitamin D, the nerves can become damaged and cause a wide range of neurological symptoms.
The Relation Between Vitamin D And The Central Nervous System
The brain needs a variety of neurosteroids to develop and function properly. These molecules are often identified as one of many common substances, including thyroid hormones, glucocorticoids, and androgens. However, in recent studies about Vitamin D: Brain and Behavior
on NLM confirms that vitamin D is one of these neurosteroids throughout the brain and spinal fluid.
Vitamin D work in the brain as metabolites and Vitamin D receptor.
The vitamin D metabolites 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25 OH D), 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, and 24,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and are present in cerebral spinal fluid. This is comparable to many previously identified neurosteroids.
These vitamin D metabolites are abundant in the substantia nigra and hypothalamus. These two brain regions are in charge of motor functions and connect the nerve and endocrine systems. The presence of these metabolite derivatives in these locations shows that these structures can produce these compounds from vitamin D.
Vitamin D Receptor
Vitamin D receptor proteins (VDR) are found in the brain, specifically in the cerebellum, thalamus, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, and hippocampus. The substantia nigra, one of the key sites of dopamine synthesis, has the highest density of Vitamin D receptors (VDR).
Another significant portion of the receptors is found in the hypothalamus (supra optic and paraventricular nuclei) and the prefrontal cortex’s external granule cell layer. Vitamin D receptors are also found in slightly lower densities in the hippocampus (CA1 and CA2) areas.
How Does Vitamin D Affect Your Brain?
As vitamin D is essential for the development of bones, it is also believed to play a role in brain development. Low vitamin D levels have been linked with decreased levels of neurotrophic factors, which are vitamin D receptor proteins responsible for the growth and survival of neurons. This could suggest that a lack of vitamin D may lead to problems with brain development.
Additionally, vitamin D has been shown to act as a neuroprotectant, as described in the NLH review study about New clues about vitamin D functions in the nervous system, meaning it can help protect neurons from damage or death. This could be important in preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
More research is needed to determine the full extent of vitamin D’s role in the brain, but these findings suggest that it is an important nutrient for brain health.
Neurological Disorders Associated With Vitamin D Deficiency
Hypovitaminosis D (Vitamin D Deficiency) is associated with several neurological disorders.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A number of studies have looked at the link between vitamin D and Dementia. A meta-analysis of Vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease found that people with low levels of vitamin D were more likely to develop Dementia and cognitive decline, especially those with severe deficiency. Another study about Vitamin D in Alzheimer’s Disease published at NLM found that people with Alzheimer’s disease had lower levels of vitamin D receptors.
While more research is needed to determine whether vitamin D supplementation can halt or delay the progression of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and Dementia, these studies suggest that there may be a link between vitamin D deficiency and Dementia.
Evidence suggests that vitamin D plays a role in the development of multiple sclerosis (MS). A systematic review about Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis published at NIH states that low vitamin D levels affect the risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis and also modify the disease activity in Multiple Sclerosis patients. The same study suggests that Vitamin D supplementation may help to prevent relapse in people with MS.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. Several studies highlighted a link between vitamin D and Parkinson’s disease, a journal about the Role of Vitamin D in Parkinson’s Disease published at NIH states. The same journal further suggests Vitamin D supplements as a potential therapeutic approach to help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Epilepsy And Seizures
Seizures are sudden changes in brain activity that can cause convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. Epilepsy is a neurological illness that causes recurrent seizures. A study about the relation between Vitamin D and Epilepsy published in NIH states that low vitamin D levels are common in people with epilepsy and that vitamin D supplementation may help to reduce seizure frequency.
While more research is required to determine if vitamin D supplements help in epilepsy and seizures, existing clinical trials had positive results in Phase 1 and Phase 2, according to a journal published at NIH.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that alters a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. A number of studies have looked at the link between vitamin D and Schizophrenia. Vitamin D is thought to be involved in the formation of the brain during pregnancy in this condition.
A clinical review about Vitamin D in Schizophrenia reveals that Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in Schizophrenia patients, especially those who have severe symptoms.
Since Schizophrenia is hard to cure mental illness, more research is needed to determine if vitamin D supplementation can help people with this condition.
Other Health Risks Of Vitamin D Deficiency
Other than Neurological disorders, Vitamin D Deficiency is also linked with other health risks. A few of them are listed below-
- Respiratory Illnesses
- Prostate Cancer
- Severe Erectile Disfunction
- Heart Disease
- Breast Cancer
How Can I Treat Vitamin D Deficiency?
You can treat vitamin D deficiency in 3 main ways.
- Vitamin D Rich Foods
- Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D Rich Foods
You can obtain Vitamin D from a few natural foods like fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese. Mushrooms are also known to have Vitamin D, but the amount depends on how they’re grown.
But, these foods alone are not enough to get the proper amounts of Vitamin D that you need.
Alternatively, fortified foods like milk, soy milk, orange juice, and cereals provide good sources of Vitamin D. These foods have added vitamin D, which is not found in natural foods.
There’s a reason for this Vitamin named Sunshine Vitamin. Your skin produces vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight. But, the amount of vitamin D that you make depends on a few things like-
- The time of day
- The season
- Where you live
- How dark your skin is
- How much skin is exposed
Sunscreens can also reduce the amount of vitamin D that your skin makes.
However, experts do not suggest too much exposure to sunlight as it may increase the risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin D Supplements
You may need to take a supplement if you don’t obtain enough vitamin D from sunlight or food.
Your doctor will prescribe you how much vitamin D you require and which type of supplement is best for you.
If you are 50 or older, you should get the majority of your vitamin D from a supplement because it is difficult to absorb enough from diet and sunlight alone.
You should also take a supplement if you have dark skin, are obese, or don’t get much sunlight exposure.
You can get vitamin D supplements as pills, capsules, liquids, or injections. You can also get them as a shot. Here is a list of the highest-ranking nervous system supplement that contains Vitamin D.
Tip: If it is a kid that has Vitamin D deficiency, you know how hard it is to give them medicines. In that case, you can try The Highest Rated Vitamin D Gummies, and your kid will love it.
You can buy vitamin D supplements without a prescription at most pharmacies and some grocery stores. However, consult your doctor first.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From Vitamin D Deficiency?
According to the Hospital of Special Surgery, it will take around four to six weeks for the body to replenish its stores of vitamin D.
But, it depends on the severity of the deficiency and the amount of supplement you’re taking. People with a severe deficiency may need higher doses.
It’s important to continue taking supplements until your doctor tells you to stop.
Check your vitamin D levels every few months to be sure you’re not deficient again.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked with neurological symptoms like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Schizophrenia, and more. This is because active forms of Vitamin D [25-hydroxyvitamin D(25 OH D) and 1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D (calcitriol)] work as neurosteroids and help in the growth and development of the nervous system.
Vitamin D is also linked with other health risks like respiratory illnesses, osteoporosis, depression, diabetes, prostate cancer, severe erectile dysfunction, heart disease, and breast cancer.
You can treat Vitamin D deficiency by taking Vitamin D-rich foods, spending time in the sunlight, and taking Vitamin D supplements. However, before taking any supplements, consult with your doctor.
Check your vitamin D levels every few months to be sure you’re not deficient again.
How Can I Recover From Vitamin D Deficiency Fast?
The best way to recover from Vitamin D deficiency fast is to supplement with Vitamin D supplements. Additionally, you can do a sun bath for around 10-15 minutes every day and eat vitamin D-rich foods. However, we advise you to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
Can Vitamin D Deficiency Affect Brain Function?
Yes. As explained above, vitamin D plays an important role in the growth and development of the nervous system. Additionally, active forms of Vitamin D help to protect neurons from damage and also improve cognitive function and memory.