Vitamin D also known as sunshine vitamin is a vital nutrient to your body. It is essential for strong bones as it helps the body in using calcium. Vitamin D deficiency weakens the immune system, leads to weak bones as well as has an effect on hormones in your body. Not having enough exposure to sunlight or milk allergies or adhering to a strict vegan diet puts you at a risk of this deficiency.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency
It can lead to serious consequences. Not having enough vitamin D can cause rickets in kids whereas in adults, osteomalacia. Apart from these, vitamin D deficiency can lead to numerous other diseases and disorders. Skeletal diseases, cancer, metabolic disorders, autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular diseases are few conditions which arise due to this deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiencies always don’t cause symptoms until levels get very low or have been low for some time. This makes the condition difficult to diagnose.
A number of reasons contribute to vitamin D deficiency which are as follows:
Not enough consumption of recommended levels of vitamin D
If you follow a strict vegan diet, chances of having low levels of vitamin D is high because most of the vitamin D rich foods are animal based like eggs, fish, beef liver and fortified milk.
Pigment melanin is responsible for the dark skin. Melanin reduces the ability of the skin to make vitamin D using sunlight.
Not enough exposure to sunlight
Sun is the main source of vitamin D. It promotes the synthesis of vitamin D from the cholesterol in the skin. Not having exposure to sunlight causes this condition.
Kidneys inability to convert vitamin D to its active form
Due to age, the ability of kidneys to convert vitamin D to its active form decreases and thus increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency.
People with a BMI of 30 or above have low levels of vitamin D. The reason being that the fat cells extract vitamin D from the blood and alter its release into circulation.
Inadequate absorption of vitamin D by digestive tract
Certain health conditions related to the digestive tract decreases the ability of your intestine to absorb vitamin D from the food.
Diagnosing Vitamin D Deficiency
A doctor will order a blood test to check for serum concentration of 25(OH)D. A level of 20 nanograms/milliliter to 50 ng/mL is considered adequate for healthy people. A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates vitamin D deficiency.
Treatment for this condition usually involves taking more vitamin D through diet and supplements. The amount of vitamin D intake depends on how low your levels are. The office of dietary supplements recommends the following dietary allowances for eating foods that contain vitamin D as well as taking supplements:
- 400 IU : ages 0 to 12 months
- 600 IU : ages 1 to 70 years (including pregnancy and lactating)
- 800 IU : ages 70 and older
Some measures can be taken to maintain required levels of vitamin D which are as follows:
- For 15 minutes each day, step out in the sun without sunscreen
- Take multivitamin supplements everyday with vitamin D
- Taking foods regularly which are rich in vitamin D
- Eating foods fortified with vitamin D like cereals, milk and orange juice.