Vitamin D Deficiency
The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D, or the “Sunshine Vitamin,” is essential for healthy bones. The best ways to absorb vitamin D in your system is through your skin. The body naturally produces vitamin D in the presence of sunlight, but overexposure of sunlight should be avoided as it can lead to skin ageing and can even cause cancer. Thus, it is necessary to supplement our natural production of vitamin D with the right diet and supplements.
On the whole, everyone should take vitamin D daily in the right amounts. Certain groups, however, require extra amounts of vitamin D for the normal growth and sustenance:
- Breastfed infants
- Individuals with dark skin
- Individuals with certain conditions, such as liver diseases, cystic fibrosis and Crohn’s disease
- Individuals who have obesity or have had gastric bypass surgery
What are the sources of vitamin D?
- This vitamin can be made by the body on exposure to sunlight
- Fatty fish, fish liver oil
- Egg yolk
What are the benefits of vitamin D?
Vitamin D has many benefits. Its main role is to promote the absorption of calcium in the gut . Calcium is needed to maintain healthy bones and teeth.
- In addition to keeping our bones strong, it also keeps the muscles healthy.
- Vitamin D helps to boost the body’s immunity and protects from frequent infections.
- It reduces inflammation in the body and hence protects from diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Vitamin D also promotes good heart health by helping in regulating blood pressure.
Which people are more prone to vitamin D deficiency?
- These days, with the use of sunscreens and indoor work cultures, vitamin D deficiency has become very common.
- People living at high altitudes are more prone to vitamin D deficiency as there are reduced amounts of UV-B at heights. UV-B is needed for vitamin D production by the body.
- People who live indoors: this includes elderly people and those with health issues who prefer being indoors.
- People with darker skin tones need more sunlight exposure to make adequate amounts of vitamin D.
- A poor diet without the essential ingredients that contain vitamin D make a person more prone to deficiency.
- Older people tend to produce less vitamin D.
- Obesity also interferes with the internal production of vitamin D.
- People with kidney and liver disease also have low vitamin D levels.
- People who have a gut disorder causing reduced absorption of nutrients from the diet
- Some medicines can decrease the absorption of vitamin D. These include some medicines used for treating seizures and tuberculosis.
How can I know if I have vitamin D deficiency?
- It’s not easy to detect vitamin D deficiency. Some people with low levels of vitamin D have no symptom or take many years to show signs of its deficiency.
- Deficiency of vitamin D in children causes rickets, in which there is deformity of the legs
- In adults, vitamin D deficiency causes a condition called osteomalacia, in which there is weakness of the bones and a tendency towards easy fractures.
- Lack of vitamin D can cause muscle and bone pains, fractures and deformities of the arm, spine or legs, especially in children.
- Low vitamin D levels can cause repeated infections.
- People with deficiency of vitamin D can lead to cognitive disabilities, including feeling low and tired, inability to concentrate or remember.
- Repeated infections can also occur.
- There can be increased chances of heart disease or diabetes.
- Increased chances of developing diseases called autoimmune diseases due to a reduced inflammatory response in the body. These include certain thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and others.
Are there any tests to know vitamin D levels?
Yes. The best way to diagnose vitamin D deficiency is to get tested for it. Serum levels of less than 12 nanograms per ml is considered to be diagnostic of vitamin D deficiency, but the level might vary depending on the type of testing equipment. So, it’s best to check with the testing lab for its normal values.
How is vitamin D deficiency treated?
- Vitamin D deficiency is treated with supplements that would be prescribed by your doctor, depending on your vitamin D levels. Generally, for adults, the recommended daily allowance is 600 IU. The doctor will closely monitor your vitamin D levels, as excess vitamin D gets stored in the body and can actually be toxic.
What lifestyle changes can help in maintaining vitamin D levels?
There are some lifestyle changes that can help in building up the body’s vitamin D levels
- Having a diet rich in vitamin D. These include fish, cheese and egg yolk and meat.
- Exposing yourself to sunlight for 15-20 minutes every day
- Take supplementary vitamins, including vitamin D if necessary