Vitamin D Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Vitamin D Deficiency

About Vitamin D and Its Sources

Sunlight is vital to our lives and body because lack of it causes among other things, vitamin D deficiency. This is because sunlight is the direct source of vitamin D. This is the exact reason why vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is essential as it helps the body utilize calcium and phosphate from the diet which the body uses to build strong, healthy bones.

Types Of Vitamin D

There are just two types of vitamin D – vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) which is obtained from plant foods, fortified foods and supplements; and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) which is obtained from the fortified dairy, some fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks and liver. However, the body cannot extract the vitamin D directly from these foods like other vitamins. It is only prepared by the body itself when the skin is exposed to sunlight.

What Is Vitamin D Deficiency?

When the body is not converting sufficient vitamin D, it results in vitamin D deficiency. Insufficient vitamin D in the body causes rickets, a disease which causes soft bones and skeletal deformities.

You may be at risk of having vitamin D deficiency if you are not exposed to the sun for many reasons like the nature of your job if you live in northern latitudes, if you wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons or if you are just homebound.

Persons who have milk allergies are also at risk, as well as people who adhere to a strict vegan diet because they are not consuming the recommended levels of the vitamin for a protracted period of time. Also, most natural sources of vitamin D are animal-based including beef liver, fish and fish oils, egg yolks and fortified milk.

According to the Journal of Nutrition published in 2006 “Vitamin D insufficiency is more prevalent among African Americans [dark skinned people]…this is primarily due to the fact that pigmentation reduces vitamin D production in the skin”. People who are obese, overweight and older people also tend to have lower levels of vitamin D.

Certain medical conditions like Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and cystic fibrosis can affect your intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D.

What Are The Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency?

You may have vitamin D deficiency if you are experiencing pain in your bones and muscle weakness. But for the majority of people, these are subtle symptoms. Yet, even without symptoms, insufficient vitamin D can pose health risks including severe asthma in children; increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease; mental impairment in older adults and even cancer.

What Are The Treatments Of Vitamin D Deficiency?

Obviously, the treatment involves getting more vitamin D either through diet or supplements or in most cases both.

The recommended Vitamin D dietary allowance guideline issued by the Institute of Medicine is 600 international units (IU) for persons aged 1-70. Adults older than 70 years require 800 IU for optimized bone health. The recommended safe upper limit is 4,000 IU, however, to correct a vitamin D deficiency doctors may prescribe more than 4,000 IU.

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