Muscle pain can affect anyone from athletes to outdoor enthusiasts to stay-at-home moms. Strains, tears and pulled muscles are not only painful, they can cause muscle weakness and reduced performance.
Recent studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to many ailments, including muscle injury. Understanding how vitamin D works and how it can help keep your body healthy is important so that you can avoid any serious injury or ailment.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is found in many foods, including fish, eggs, milk, and oysters. Being exposed to the sun for as little as 10 minutes also helps the body produce vitamin D and can help prevent vitamin D deficiency.
There are several different forms of vitamin D and two of these forms are important to humans: Vitamin D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 is made by plants and vitamin D3 is produced by our skin when it is exposed to the sun. Both vitamin types can be added to foods and these foods are usually labeled “fortified with Vitamin D.”
What Does Vitamin D Do?
Vitamin D helps your body maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorus and also helps the body absorb calcium, which is important in maintaining bone health and development. Using vitamin D with calcium can help prevent bone brittleness and fractures as well. Vitamin D has also been shown to help protect against osteoporosis, high blood pressure and cancer.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to many serious issues such as:
- Rickets: Children with low vitamin D can suffer from rickets, which impedes growth of the bones and causes the bones to be soft, weak and deformed. Rickets is also affected by calcium or phosphorus deficiencies as well. Ensuring that children have proper vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus intake can help prevent the development of this disease.
- Osteomalacia: Osteomalacia is a disease that can form in adults who suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Like rickets, people suffering from this disease will suffer from the softening of bones, bent spine, muscle weakness and frail bones.
- Mental Health Disorders: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to several mental health disorders such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and depression.
- Cancer: People suffering from vitamin D deficiency can be at an increased risk for cancer. Breast cancer, colon cancer and ovarian cancer have all been linked to vitamin D deficiency.
- Increased Chance of Muscle Injury: In a recent study, vitamin D has been shown to help maintain muscle strength, muscle mass and function. People suffering from vitamin D deficiency can be at an increased risk of tears, strains and pulls.
Who is at Risk and What Can You Do to Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency
The elderly and obese people may be at high risk for developing a vitamin D deficiency, as well as people who have limited sun exposure and babies who are exclusively breast-fed. People suffering from cystic fibrosis (mucus build-up in the lungs) or inflammatory bowel disease are also at an increased risk from suffering from vitamin D deficiency.
People who follow a strict vegetarian (or vegan) diet can be at an increased risk of suffering from vitamin D deficiency because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheese, fortified milk, and beef liver.
People with dark skin can be at increased risk due to the pigment melanin reducing the skin’s ability to make vitamin D. Also, if your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D, you will be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Certain medical issues, such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, can affect your intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the food you eat.
Being out in the sun can help promote natural vitamin D production in the body, as well as eating foods that are high in vitamin D. Many drinks such as juices and milk can be fortified with vitamin D as well. If maintaining a proper diet and going outside aren’t viable options, vitamin D supplements can also be taken.
The recommended daily doses for vitamin D, as listed on the Health Canada website, are as follows:
- Birth to 12 months: 400 IU
- Children 1-8 years: 600 IU
- Children and adults 9-70 years: 600 IU
- Adults 71 years and older: 800 IU
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women: 600 IU
4000 IU/day is considered the upper tolerable limit for this vitamin for adults (less for children), and you may see the effects of toxicity above these levels.