Love, Wellness

I thought I was just tired – but the doctor revealed something totally different

I am at risk for vitamin D deficiency, and you probably are, too.

It’s my first semester of college.

I find myself more tired than I was in high school, but that’s just because I’m getting less sleep and am more stressed, right? I ignore it. I come home for winter break where my mom complains I’m sleeping too much. But she always says that. I brush her off saying that I’m just catching up on an entire semester’s worth of missed sleep. Naturally, she doesn’t buy it, and I’m happy she didn’t either. As a dietitian, my mom saw my constant exhaustion as a sign of vitamin D deficiency.

I gave into her requests to get bloodwork done, and what do you know? Mother knows best.

Vitamin D deficiency is just what it sounds like. Your body is lacking the right amounts of vitamin D, a nutrient necessary for promoting calcium absorption, supporting cell and bone growth, and reducing inflammation. A lack of appropriate vitamin D may then lead to bone and muscle weakness, abnormal fatigue, and difficulty in thinking clearly. For me, the deficiency showed up as sluggishness I could dismiss as procrastination combined with an incredible ability to sleep for hours and hours.

[bctt tweet=”For me, the deficiency showed up as sluggishness I could dismiss as procrastination.” username=”wearethetempest”]

So you see these symptoms can be easily blamed on other things, are not that noticeable, and might not even be present in some people. So why is it still important to check if you’re deficient?

If you let it go untreated, vitamin D deficiency can lead to much bigger problems like bone fragility (which can then turn into osteoporosis) and increased risk for colon, prostate, and breast cancers. There is also evidence supporting its role in diabetes, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis just to name a few disorders. It’s a good idea to test for your vitamin levels even if you think there is nothing wrong, particularly if you are at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

Who exactly is at risk? After I figured out I was deficient, I started noticing friends in college complaining about the same problems I had.

These friends were namely women of color who also wore hijab. They fell under three of the risk categories. Since our main source of vitamin D is sunlight, people who don’t spend much time in the sun (aka college students) are more at risk. Those who dress modestly are limiting their skin’s absorption of sunlight even more. Finally, people with dark skin are more at risk since increased melanin reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. Other groups at risk include vegans and people who are lactose intolerant since they might not be getting enough dietary sources of vitamin D.

[bctt tweet=”These friends were namely women of color who wore hijab.” username=”wearethetempest”]

After my doctor gave me my blood results, she prescribed me a mega dose of vitamin D to take once a week for a month and a half. After the fourth week, I noticed myself having more energy, being more motivated, and needing less sleep. She then told me that after this period, in order to maintain my vitamin D levels, I should take an over-the-counter supplement. My friends and I can attest to the power of these supplements. Once more-than-frequent nappers and zombie college students, we became, not quite energy machines, but much more productive zombie college students.

Once more-than-frequent nappers and zombie college students, we became, not quite energy machines, but much more productive zombied college students.

Along with supplements, professionals recommend getting more sunlight. So spend more time embracing the outdoors. Walk more, get a table outside, open your window, and do homework on the quad of your campus. Small things like that may add up. If getting more sunlight is not possible or the sun is too weak in the winter, try eating more foods with vitamin D. Fatty fish, cheese, and eggs are good sources, but you should also look out for vitamin D fortified milk, cereal, orange juice, and yogurt.

If you’ve found yourself to be extra tired lately, don’t wave it off for months like I did. Take time to look after your body, and I promise it’ll lead to a more productive and happier version of yourself.