There was a time when doctors recommend patients to take vitamin D for the sake of healthy bones. Turns out, it has a far bigger role to play in our wellbeing. It is just important for our muscles and nervous system as it is for our bones. And despite its importance, the number of people suffering from Vitamin D deficiency is alarming.
A cumulative study of many surveys conducted over the past ten years shows that vitamin D deficiency is a global health concern. In the US alone, 75% people suffer from it. Are you one of them? Your doctor can prescribe a test to see if you are deficient in vitamin D. If you aren’t, you need to make sure you are getting enough to avoid any future instances of deficiency.
Why Is Vitamin D So Important?
Our body needs many nutrients to function properly. Mineral and vitamins are the essential nutrients we need. Vitamin D is essential for teeth and bones because it helps the absorption of calcium and phosphate in our body. Without enough vitamin D, all your calcium and phosphate intake is virtually useless.
So, the most basic function of Vitamin D is to keep our bones strong and prevent issues such as osteoporosis. Moreover, our brain needs Vitamin D for healthy cognitive function. It plays a key role in helping our nerves carry signals back and forth. Lack of vitamin D has been associated with slow cognitive functions in the elderly. Last, vitamin D is also essential for a healthy immune system.
Scientists believe that our existing knowledge regarding vitamin D and its importance barely scratches the surface. There are still other benefits to be discovered. However, whatever we know at the moment suffices to establish that vitamin D is, in fact, one of the most essential nutrients.
Where Do We Get Vitamin D?
There is a reason Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin.” For starters, the sun is the biggest source of vitamin D. When we go out in the sun, our skin produces vitamin D by absorbing the UVB rays. However, scientists are still confused as to how much of sunshine is required for a healthy absorption of vitamin D without aggravating the risk of skin cancer.
Food is the secondary source of vitamin D. If you don’t get enough sun exposure due to any reason, you can take supplements to keep it on an optimal level. Dairy products are the best natural source of vitamin D but unfortunately, they may still not eliminate the need for sunshine. It is why most dairy products are now fortified with additional vitamin D. Oily fishes with a higher amount of fatty acids, such as tuna and salmon, also contain vitamin D. Some grains have a small amount of vitamin D and you can find fortified varieties as well.
What is Vitamin D Deficiency?
While vitamin D deficiency is a serious health issue, there is still a debate over the recommended levels and deficiency. Back when vitamin D was only associated with bone density and strength, 20ng/ ml was considered the minimum required amount for our body.
Now that the scientists are discovering more roles it plays in our body, many believe that 30 ng/ml should be the bare minimum and anything less than that should be considered a deficiency. By this definition, your daily intake should be around 1500 to 2000 IU according to the Endocrine Society. Food and Nutrition Board, however, recommends a daily intake of 600 IU for an average adult.
Whether or not you are getting enough vitamin D becomes clear when you experience the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency?
The fact that the sun is the only biggest source of vitamin D is the biggest reason behind the prevailing deficiency. We are slowly moving towards a lifestyle that doesn’t involve too many outdoor activities. Our sun time is marginally limited.
In summer, when the UVB rays are in abundance, most people prefer staying indoors due to our increasing dependence on air conditioning. We run errands in our air-conditioned cars and video games have taken over the actual sport.
However, lifestyle is just one factor that keeps us away from UVB rays. There are other factors that can affect a person’s ability to produce enough vitamin D.
- Skin Color – The more melanin one has in their skin, the better it blocks the UVB rays. While it prevents several skin problems, it also limits vitamin D production.
- Location – It is a known fact that the region closer to the equator gets more UVB rays than the region that is further away from the equator.
- Diet – Vitamin D is most abundantly found in animal sources. Therefore, people who follow a vegan diet are likely to be vitamin D deficient.
- Age – Our body’s ability to convert Vitamin D into its active form diminishes with age. Vitamin D deficiency is, therefore, more common in seniors.
- Obesity – Fat cells absorb vitamin D from the blood, leading to lower vitamin D levels in the body.
- Other Diseases – Many diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease can hinder the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D from food.
If you check any of the boxes, look for symptoms to detect vitamin D deficiency before it causes serious health issues.
What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?
Vitamin D is crucial for well-being and its deficiency can affect our overall health. There are many signs and symptoms that point towards a deficiency.
In kids, it can cause rickets, a condition where bones become soft and bent. It can have dire effects on a child’s physical growth. Other than that, common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Weak Immune System
- Constant Fatigue
- Joints and Back Pain
- Chronic Bone Pain
- Muscular Pain
- Hair Loss
Persistent lack of vitamin D in your body can lead to severe loss of bone density and issues such as osteoporosis.
There surely is. While it is not possible to have too much vitamin D from the sun or food, supplements can often lead to a higher than the recommended level. This is often referred to as vitamin D toxicity or in medical terms, hypervitaminosis D.
Scientists agree that vitamin D intake should never exceed 4000 IU per day. Excessive consumption can lead to health complications such as nausea, constipation, loss of appetite, and heart-related problems. It is because it can increase calcium build up in blood.
Excess vitamin D can compromise your bone health. It lowers the vitamin K level in the blood, the vitamin responsible for keeping calcium inside our bones and out of the blood.
The Final Word
Taking care of our body isn’t limited to aesthetics. We invest so much on body contouring and fat reduction treatments that can make us look good, but we often forget that it is just as important to take care of our body from the inside. We need to focus on our body’s nutritional requirements to prevent any kind of deficiency. Vitamin D is one those crucial nutrients vital for our wellbeing. It keeps us healthy so we can feel younger from within. If you feel your vitamin D intake isn’t sufficient, consult a doctor before it becomes a serious health concern.
James Crook is a passionate health and fitness blogger. Currently, he is working with Centra Care –Urgent Care Tampa. Follow @jamescrook911 for more updates.