Vitamin D Deficiency: Symptoms and Treatment

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Editor’s Note: In need of a quality vitamin D supplement? Click here to explore top-rated vitamin D products at Tiger Fitness.

Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids (a broken ring steroid) that is responsible for improving intestinal absorption of zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and iron in the body. Several vitamers, or forms of vitamin D exist. These include:

  • Vitamin D1 – A mixture of Vitamin D2 and lumisterol.
  • Vitamin D2 – Known as ergocalciferol, it is made from ergosterol.
  • Vitamin D3 – Known as cholecalciferol, it is made from 7-dehydrocholesterol in human skin.
  • Vitamin D4 – Known as 22-dihydroergocalciferol.
  • Vitamin D5 – Known as sitocalciferol, it is made from 7-dehydrositosterol.

The two major forms of vitamin D are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3, collectively known as calciferol.

Related: 10 Vitamin D Foods You Should Be Eating Now

Vitamin D either enters the human body through food intake, or can be produced naturally through exposure to the sun.

Osteomalacia, also known as rickets, is a softening of bones caused by a vitamin D deficiency. While this extreme form of vitamin D deficiency is a rare condition, general vitamin D deficiency is very common in adult and children.

Vitamin D

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005-2006 defined vitamin D deficiency as a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration of less than or equal to 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L). [1] This survey found that 41.6% of adults had a vitamin D deficiency. Rates were more prevalent in overweight individuals, those lacking a college education, and individuals with poor health.

Individuals who do not drink milk or have hypertension tend to experience higher rates of vitamin D deficiency.

The highest rate of vitamin D deficiency, 82.1%, was seen in blacks. Hispanics came in at a rate of 69.2%. [1]

A vitamin D deficiency is linked to numerous risk factors that are tied in with some of the leading causes of death in America. For this reason a deficiency should be taken seriously. Some of these conditions and problems include: [2]

  • Advancement of cancer, including prostate, breast, colon, and ovarian. [3]
  • Increase risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Cognitive-related issues in adults.
  • Muscle aches and muscle weakness. [4]
  • Osteoporosis, with an increase in bone fragility and decrease in bone mineral density.
  • Erectile dysfunction. [5]
  • Depression.

It should also be mentioned that a sunscreen of SPF 8 or greater is theorized to inhibit 95% or more of the vitamin D production done via the skin through sun exposure. [6] In reality, sunscreen application has been revealed to have a negligible impact on the skin’s ability to generate vitamin D. [7][8]

Those with a vitamin D deficiency may experience the following symptoms, or have the following conditions or body/age characteristics.

  • You feel down. Those with very low vitamin D levels are 11 times more likely to experience depression. [9] Sun exposure causes an increase in the rise of serotonin levels, which is the brain hormone that is connected to mood.
  • You are over the age of 50. As you age, your skin’s ability to produce vitamin D decreases. Also, with age your kidneys become less efficient at converting vitamin D into a usable form.
  • Your skin is darker. Dark-sinned individuals need 10 times the amount of sun exposure to generate the same amount of vitamin D.
  • You’re obese or overweight. Vitamin D is fat soluble. Body fat acts as a collection point, or sink, for vitamin D.  Those with more fat require a larger amount of vitamin D.
  • You carry extra muscle mass. There appears to be a tie-in between overall weight and the amount of vitamin D your body requires.
  • Aching bones. This symptom of vitamin D deficiency is often misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.
  • A sweaty head. A classic, and often the first sign of vitamin D deficiency is a sweaty head. Physicians used to ask mothers if their newborn children had this condition to assess possible vitamin D issues.
  • Stomach issues. A vitamin D deficiency may lead to conditions like Chron’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and gluten sensitivity.

Vitamin D Deficiency Treatment

To treat a vitamin D deficiency you need to focus on a 3-pronged attack. Choose foods that are naturally high in vitamin D, spend more time in the sun each week, and consider using a vitamin D supplement.

The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily 800 IU of vitamin D for adults over the age of 70, The RDA recommends 600 IU for all individuals through the age of 70. The safe upper limit of vitamin D consumption is 4000 IU per day. Doctors have been known to prescribe more than this to combat a deficiency.

Vitamin D

Click here to find a vitamin D supplement that’s right for you.

The following foods are high in vitamin D. Considering adding some of these choices to your weekly meal plan:

  • Salmon, tuna, and tilapia
  • Portabello and maitake mushrooms
  • Lite silken tofu and soy beans
  • Butter
  • Vitamin D fortified milk
  • Pork and spare ribs
  • Turkey and pork sausage
  • Eggs
  • Spinach, kale, and collards
  • Okra
  • White beans
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese

If you’re in need of a quality vitamin D supplement, click here to look at the top-rated options.


1) “Prevalence and Correlates of Vitamin D Deficiency in US Adults. – PubMed – NCBI.”National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 July 2016.
2) Grant WB, Holick MF (June 2005). “Benefits and requirements of vitamin D for optimal health: a review” (PDF). Alternative Medicine Review 10 (2): 94–111. PMID 15989379.
3) Cherniack; Levis; Troen (2008). “Hypovitaminosis D: a widespread epidemic”. Geriatrics. Retrieved 14 April 2015.
4) “Vitamin D deficiency in adults”. Australian Prescriber (33): 103–6. 2010.
5) Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Erectile Dysfunction, Study Says, Counsel & Heal: Physical Wellness Data on >3,400 men in the United States aged 20 and above without heart disease showed 30% deficient in vitamin D (<20 nanograms per milliliter of blood) and 16% had erectile dysfunction.
6) Sayre RM, Dowdy JC (2007). “Darkness at Noon: Sunscreens and Vitamin D3”. Photochemistry and Photobiology 83 (2): 459–63. doi:10.1562/2006-06-29-RC-956. PMID 17115796.
7) Marks R, Foley PA, Jolley D, Knight KR, Harrison J, Thompson SC (1995). “The Effect of Regular Sunscreen Use on Vitamin D Levels in an Australian Population”. Archives of Dermatology 131 (4): 415–21. doi:10.1001/archderm.1995.01690160043006. PMID 7726582.
8) Farrerons J, Barnadas M, Rodríguez J, Renau A, Yoldi B, López-Navidad A, Moragas J (1998). “Clinically prescribed sunscreen (sun protection factor 15) does not decrease serum vitamin D concentration sufficiently either to induce changes in parathyroid function or in metabolic markers”. British Journal of Dermatology 139 (3): 422–7. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2133.1998.02405.x. PMID 9767286.
9) American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry December 2006; 14(12): 1032-1040.

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Name: Steve Shaw

Bio: I don’t believe in magic training systems or rep ranges. My philosophy is simple: remain consistent, use the best possible exercises, focus upon progression and enter the gym looking to maximize each set. When you maximize each set, you maximize progress. Easy, obvious, insanely effective.