Vitamin D is one of many vitamins our bodies need to stay healthy.
This vitamin has many functions, including:
- Maintaining bone strength: Having healthy bones protects you from various diseases, including rickets.
- Calcium absorption: Vitamin D, along with calcium, helps build and keep bones strong and healthy.
- Working with the parathyroid glands.
What are the negative health effects of vitamin D deficiency?
Getting enough vitamin D may also play a role in helping to maintain your health by protecting against the following conditions and possibly helping to treat them. These situations can include:
- Heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Infections and immune system disorders.
- Some types of cancer, such as colon, prostate, and breast cancer.
- Multiple sclerosis.
What are the sources of vitamin D?
You can get vitamin D in a number of ways, including:
- Exposure to sunlight. Usually 15-20 minutes three days a week is sufficient.
- Through the foods you eat.
- Through nutritional supplements.
What is the relationship of sunlight to getting enough vitamin D?
There are many health benefits of sunlight. Vitamin D is produced and activated when your skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, or rather to the ultraviolet (UV-B) rays that the sun emits, and the darker your skin, the greater the need for exposure to the sun.
What causes vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by certain medical conditions, such as:
- Cystic fibrosis and Crohn’s disease – these diseases do not allow the intestine to absorb enough vitamin D through supplementation.
- Weight-loss operations. These surgeries that reduce stomach size and/or bypass a portion of the small intestine make it very difficult to ingest adequate amounts of certain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. These individuals need close monitoring by their doctors and need to continue taking vitamin D and other supplements throughout their lives.
- Obesity: Fat cells keep vitamin D isolated so that it is not released, so Vitamin D deficiency is more likely in obese people. Obesity often makes it necessary to take larger doses of vitamin D supplements to reach and maintain normal vitamin D levels.
- Kidney and liver disease: These diseases reduce the amount of enzyme needed to change vitamin D into the active form used in the body. The deficiency of this enzyme leads to a decrease in the level of active vitamin D in the body.
What other factors can lead to vitamin D deficiency?
- Age: The skin’s ability to produce vitamin D decreases with age.
- Mobility: People who stay at home or are rarely outside (for example, people in nursing homes and other facilities) are unable to go out and be exposed to sunlight as a source of Vitamin D.
- Skin color: Dark-colored skin is less able to make vitamin D than fair-colored skin.
- Human breast milk: Breast milk contains only a small amount of vitamin D. Therefore young children may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency. This is especially true for babies who are only breastfed.
Can medications cause vitamin D deficiency?
Yes, vitamin D levels can be lowered with some medications. These include:
- Cholesterol-lowering medicines (such as cholestyramine and colestipol).
- Medicines to control seizures (such as phenobarbital and phenytoin).
- Tuberculosis medicine (rifampin).
- Weight loss drug (orlistat).
What are the signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?
Severe vitamin D deficiency causes infantile rickets, which in children appears as incorrect growth patterns, muscle weakness, bone pain, and joint deformities. This is very rare. However, children who are vitamin D deficient can also have muscle weakness or muscle soreness and pain.
Vitamin D deficiency is not completely obvious in adults. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Fatigue and exhaustion.
- Bone pain.
- Muscle weakness, muscle pain, or muscle cramps.
- Mood changes such as depression.
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