Vitamin D is well known for being an essential nutrient. Consuming vitamin D foods can help you maintain good muscle, nerve and bone health. Insufficient vitamin D is often associated with bone or muscle problems and sometimes correlates with respiratory issues.
Trouble breathing isn't a typical symptom of vitamin D deficiency. However, there has been an association with low vitamin D and lung function problems, such as breathing difficulties or respiratory conditions.
Vitamin D and Your Health
- Maintain good muscle, nerve and bone health.
- Maintain immune system function.
- Modulate cell growth.
- Reduce inflammation.
- Prevent certain health issues, like osteoporosis and rickets.
Adults generally need to consume 15 micrograms of vitamin D each day. Older adults age 70 or older need a bit more: 20 micrograms per day.
You can get vitamin D from the sun, but most people also get it from vitamin D foods. These include mushrooms; fatty fish, like salmon, tuna and mackerel; and dairy products. Fortified dairy alternatives, like soy or almond milk, can also be healthy vitamin D foods.
Unfortunately, many people don't consume enough vitamin D each day. The NIH says that older adults and people with malabsorption disorders, dark skin or limited sun exposure are at particular risk for vitamin D deficiency. People who don't consume milk or seafood products are also likely to have low levels of vitamin D.
Read more: Foods With High Vitamin D
Vitamin D and Lung Function
Vitamin D deficiency is commonly associated with bone or muscle problems. Rickets, bone pain and muscle weakness are all common symptoms of this deficiency.
Read more: 9 Ways to Help Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency
However, insufficient amounts of this nutrient may also lead to other health problems, like fatigue or weight gain. According to a May 2014 study in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, vitamin D deficiency might even be associated with neurological issues, which range from conditions like schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis to restless leg syndrome.
Recent studies have also found that there's an association between vitamin D deficiency, breathing difficulties and lung conditions. A January 2018 study published in the Resipirology Journal reports that low levels of vitamin D were associated with certain lung conditions, like asthma and bronchitis. Wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and vitamin D deficiency were associated, too.
Other studies, like an April 2013 study in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation and a June 2018 study in BMC Pediatrics, report that there's also an association between vitamin D deficiency, breathing difficulties and sleep disorders. Vitamin D was specifically associated with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and other causes of sleep-disordered breathing.
It's important to recognize that these conditions aren't exclusively caused by vitamin D deficiency. However, vitamin D deficiency has the potential to increase your risk or worsen these conditions.
In general, studies like the one published in the Respiratory Journal, have found that higher vitamin D serum levels correlate with higher levels of lung function. If you think that you might be vitamin D deficient or that getting more vitamin D could improve your breathing, talk to your doctor or dietitian. They can help you determine whether you're low on vitamin D and may even recommend a supplement.
- Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment: "Possible Association Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Restless Legs Syndrome"
- Respirology: "Vitamin D and Respiratory Health in the Busselton Healthy Ageing Study"
- Journal of Endocrinological Investigation: "Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome and Its Association With Vitamin D Deficiency"
- BMC Pediatrics: "Is There an Association Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Adenotonsillar Hypertrophy in Children With Sleep-Disordered Breathing?"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"