What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in a few foods. It has the properties of both a hormone and a vitamin and is necessary for mineral homeostasis and proper formation of bone.
Vitamin D is both a nutrient we eat and a hormone our bodies make. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that has long been known to help the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus. Laboratory studies show that vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections, and reduce inflammation.
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets ( a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities).
Why is it Important?
If you shun the sun, suffer from milk allergies, or adhere to a strict vegan diet, you may be at a risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency means that you don’t have enough vitamin D in your body.It is so unique because your skin produces it by using sunlight.
Vitamin D is essential for several reasons, including maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Your body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium. Vitamin D can be stored in your body fat until it is needed. The main job of vitamin D is to keep the right amount of calcium and phosphorus in your blood.
These are the two nutrients that work together to make your bones strong. Without enough calcium and phosphorus being absorbed in your body, your bones would become brittle and break easily.
This vitamin has many functions including:
- Prevent bone fracture
- Improve your mood
- Improve your lung function
- Reduce the risk of cancer, especially prostate cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer
- Protect against heart disease and high blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of diabetes
- Increases muscle mass and strength
- Regulate the immune system
Benefits of Vitamin D
- Improves bone health
Vitamin D plays an important role in the health of your bones. That’s because it increases the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from your diet.
- Lower your risk of certain cancers
Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels may have some benefits for preventing cancer. It may be wise to focus on maintaining adequate vitamin D levels through lifestyle choices that are known to reduce the risk of cancer.
- Reduces depression
Several experts have explored the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and depression. One study found that those suffering from depression noticed an improvement in their symptoms after taking a vitamin D supplement.
- May decrease risk of cardiovascular diseases
Evidence is growing that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure and chronic blood pressure, and chronic blood vessel inflammation associated with the hardening of arteries.
- Reduces rheumatoid arthritis
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to increased disease, inflammation, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Protects against diabetes
In the elderly, vitamin D may protect against type 2 diabetes with its link to insulin action, beta-cell function, and inflammation.
- Reduced risk of flu
A 2018 review of existing research suggested that some studies had found that vitamin D had a protective effect against the influenza virus. However, the authors also looked at other studies where the effects of Vitamin D were not clear on flu and flu risk.
- Healthy pregnancy
A 2019 review suggests that pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin D may have a greater risk of developing preeclampsia and giving birth preterm. Doctors also associate poor vitamin D status with gestational diabetes and bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women.
How does Sunlight give us Vitamin D?
There is a good reason why vitamin D is called ‘the sunshine vitamin’
When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol. The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, providing the energy for vitamin D synthesis to occur.
People do not need to get a tan or burn to get vitamin D from the sun. The body will make all the vitamin D it needs for a day in about half the time it takes the skin to burn.
Many factors affect how much vitamin D a person gets from the sun, such as:
- Skin color- Pale color skin makes vitamin D more quickly than darker colored skins.
- Time of day– The skin produces more vitamin D when in the sun during the middle of the day. When spending prolonged time in the sun, wear sunscreen, and stay hydrated.
- Amount of skin exposed to the sun- The more skin a person exposes, the more vitamin D the body will make. Exposing the back, allows the body to produce more vitamin D than just the hands and face.
Causes Of Vitamin D Deficiency
You can become deficient in vitamin D for several reasons:
- A sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) can reduce the body’s ability to synthesize the vitamin by 95% or more. Covering the skin with clothing can inhibit vitamin D production also.
- You don’t get enough vitamin D in your diet
- Your livers or kidneys cannot convert vitamin D to its active form in the body
- Intestinal malabsorption problems, often associated with aging.
- You take medicines that interfere with your body’s ability to convert or absorb vitamin D
- People with kidney or liver disease
- Individuals with various digestive disorders
- People who are lactose intolerant
Symptoms of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an extremely important vitamin that has powerful effects on several systems throughout your body.
- Muscle pain
- Bone and back pain
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Hair loss
- Wounds and injuries taking along to heal
- Being affected by frequent bacterial and viral infections
- Bone loss
- Respiratory problems
- Weight gain
Sources of Vitamin D
- Salmon Salmon
- Cereal and oatmeal
- Cow’s milk
- Canned tuna
- Soy milk
- White beans.
- Cod liver oil
- Orange juice
Taken in appropriate doses, vitamin D is generally considered safe. However, takıng too much vitamin D can be harmful. Children age 9 years and older, adults, and pregnant and breast-feeding women who take more than 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D might experience the following:
- Nausea Vomiting
- Poor appetite Constipation
- Confusion Disorientation
- Heart rhythm problems
- Kidney damage
Diagnosis of Deficiency of Vitamin D
- Blood tests
- Sometimes x-rays
Doctors suspect vitamin D deficiency in the following people:
- People who report an inadequate diet or inadequate exposure to sunlight Newborns tetany (a type of muscle spasms)
- Children with signs of rickets
- Older adults, especially those with decreased bone density (for example, with osteoporosis) or broken bones Blood tests to measure vitamin D can confirm the deficiency. It measures the levels of calcium and phosphate. It also measures the levels of other substances to rule out other causes of decreased bone density. They may also take X-rays. The characteristic changes in the bone may be seen on x-rays before symptoms become noticeable. The diagnosis of rickets or osteomalacia due to vitamin D deficiency is based
If an individual is suspected of having had long-term vitamin d deficiency, doctors will look for physical characteristics that are indicators of a long-term vitamin D deficiency. Physical signs that a person may be affected by long-term vitamin D deficiency include: 8 Widening of the ends of the bones
- Skeletal deformities including bow legs and expanded rib-cage
- Slow tooth development and/or early dental caries In diagnosing vitamin D deficiency, a healthcare professional will also assess a person’s medical history, diet and lifestyle to ascertain whether they have a history of health problems that could be related to vitamin D deficiency.
People at risk of Vitamin D Deficiency
Some people will not get enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure. The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that you take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if you: • are not often outdoors – for example if you’re frail or housebound
- are in an institution like a care home
- usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors If you have dark skin – for example you have an African American, African- the Caribbean, or South Asian background – you may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight. You should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.
- have other diseases like celiac disease
The amount of vitamin D that is needed to correct a deficiency will depend on the severity of the deficiency and your individual medical conditions. The time of year will also impact your needs. For example, if you are on the low end of adequate blood levels and heading into the winter months you would need a bit more than if you were heading into the summer months if you spend time out in the sun. The goal for everyone is to get your stores to a safe level and prevent them from dropping with a maintenance plan. Vitamin D3 is the best choice for supplements. Vitamin D2 supplements do not raise your levels the same amount as D3 and, in some cases, they have been shown to decrease levels over long-term use. You can take these supplements on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
You should get at least 600 IU to 800 IU Vitamin D per day. It’s a matter of preference and, most importantly, which one you will be more likely to take. You can also consume egg yolk and Vitamin D rich foods. When you are deficient, you should get blood tests after two to three months of taking the supplement to be sure that your levels are going up. Work with your doctors to find the optimal plan for you.