Known as the “Sunshine Vitamin”, Vitamin D is an extremely important having powerful effects on systems throughout your body. Vitamin D can be found in different sources such as sunlight, dairy foods, and certain vegetables. It is difficult for most of us to get enough of it without being intentional.
Unlike other Vitamins, Vitamin D functions as a hormone, and every single cell in your body has a receptor for it. Every human body makes it from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to sunlight. It also occurs naturally in a few foods including some fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks and fortified dairy and grain products. (Insider, 2020)
Vitamin D deficiency is very common. It’s estimated that about 1 billion people worldwide have low levels of the Vitamin in their bodies. According to a 2011 study, 41.6% of adults in the US are deficient. This number goes up to 69.2% in Hispanics and 82.1% in African-Americans.(Healthline, 2020)
Vitamin D Supports
- Our bone health by enabling the absorption of calcium
- Muscle health
- Our immune system
- Blood pressure and supporting cardiovascular health
- Reducing inflammation in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
A Vitamin D deficiency usually does not produce visible symptoms, or at times it takes years to appear clearly which increases the risk of long-term health problems.
In time, low levels of Vitamin D can lead to bones becoming thin or brittle. The first sign could be a bone-breaking easily as a result of minor trauma, often affecting older people, and it is known as Osteoporosis.
Children’s bones can become soft, resulting in bone deformities, short stature, dental problems, fragile bones, and pain when walking. This is called Osteomalacia.
Researchers are still looking into other symptoms or conditions, such as depression, bone pain, and weakness, which could result from low Vitamin D levels. (WebMD, 2020)
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can occur in any human body for a number of reasons, mostly from not consuming the recommended level. This can happen when following a strict vegan diet, as most of the natural sources of Vitamin D are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, fortified milk, and beef liver.
Minimal exposure to sunlight is another reason not many know about. The body makes Vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, so the risk of deficiency is high if you are homebound, live in northern latitudes, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure.
Skin color plays a part in Vitamin D absorption. The pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make Vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Many studies have shown that older adults with darker skin were diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency.
As people age, their kidneys are less able to convert Vitamin D to its active form, which can increase the risk of deficiency. In fact, certain medical problems, such as cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease, can also cause your digestive system’s ability to absorb Vitamin D from the food you eat.
Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of Vitamin D. (Medical News, 2020)
How to Test for Vitamin D Deficiency
The most accurate way to measure Vitamin D in your body is the 25-hydroxy Vitamin D blood test ordered by your physician and performed by a lab.
Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency
Treatment for Vitamin D deficiency involves an attentive diet along with supplements. There is no consensus on Vitamin D levels required for optimal health as requirements differ depending on age and health conditions.
There is now breaking talk from the science community that Vitamin D has an affect on preventing and lessening symptoms of COVID-19. While not a solution recommended by the CDC, it is getting global attention and discussion. (Hancocks, 2020) We have only begun to recognize the health benefits associated with Vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is common and not usually detected until it has already affected our body. If you think you may have a deficiency, it’s important that you speak to your doctor and get tested. Fortunately, a Vitamin D deficiency can be easy to fix resulting in big benefits for your health and well-being.
Vitamin D Deficiency: 6 Causes, Common Symptoms & Health Risks. 28 July 2020, www.webmd.com/diet/guide/Vitamin-d-deficiency
Spritzler, Franziska. “8 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 23 July 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/Vitamin-d-deficiency-symptoms
“Vitamin D Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318060 .
Kennedy, Madeline. “What Is Vitamin D Deficiency? How Less Sun Can Make You Vulnerable to Infection.” Insider, Insider, 28 Sept. 2020, www.insider.com/what-is-Vitamin-d-deficiency
Barrie, Leslie, et al. “10 Illnesses Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency: Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, www.everydayhealth.com/news/illnesses-linked-Vitamin-d-deficiency/
Hancocks, N. (2020, December 21). Experts send Vitamin D and Covid-19 open letter to world’s governments. Retrieved December 22, 2020, from https://www.nutraingredients.com/Article/2020/12/21/Experts-send-Vitamin-D-and-Covid-19-open-letter-to-world-s-governments