Vitamin D Deficiency- What Does It Mean & How Does It Impact Your Health?

vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D helps in the regulation of phosphate and calcium in our bodies. These essential nutrients keep our muscles, teeth and bone healthy. Vitamin D deficiency affects our body in several ways. For instance, it can lead to deformities in the bone for children like rickets and in adults, it can be the leading cause of osteomalacia (bone pain).

We should ensure we get sufficient but not too much of Vitamin D daily.  Now, the question is, why do we need Vitamin D?

An Insight Into The “Sunshine Vitamin”

Vitamin D is popularly known as the “sunshine vitamin” as it is produced in the skin when exposed to sunshine. It is a fat-soluble vitamin and belongs to the family of compounds of vitamins D-1, D-2 and D-3.

Vitamin D can be derived through specific supplements and food to ensure you get adequate amounts of it in the blood. This vitamin has multiple functions and the most vital of them all are the regulation of phosphorus and calcium along with the control of the normal functions of your immune system.

Causes Of Vitamin D Deficiency

 You should get a sufficient amount of vitamin D for normal growth and healthy development of teeth and bones. It helps you boost your resistance against specific diseases like specific cancers, infections in the immune system, multiple sclerosis and more.

Specific medical conditions can cause Vitamin D deficiency. They are as follows –

  • Cystic Fibrosis, Crohn’s Disease & Celiac Disease– These diseases do not permit the intestines in the body to absorb sufficient Vitamin D via supplements 
  • Surgeries For Weight Loss– Surgeries for weight loss reduce the size of your stomach and the procedure often bypasses some region of the body’s small intestines. This makes it challenging for the body to consume adequate amounts of specific vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

Individuals who undergo surgeries for weight loss must be carefully observed and monitored by their doctors. They must take Vitamin D and additional supplements for life in order to stay active and healthy.

  • Obesity– A Body Mass Index or BMI of over 30 is linked to reduced levels of Vitamin D. The fat cells in your body keep Vitamin D isolated to prevent its release. Obese people are most likely to suffer from Vitamin D deficiency and it is prudent for them to consume a larger dose of vitamin supplements for maintaining their normal Vitamin D levels.
  • Diseases in the liver and kidney– Diseases in the kidney and the liver reduce the amounts of an enzyme required for changing vitamin D to a form used by your body. The lack of this enzyme results in insufficient levels of Vitamin D in the body.
  • Medications– Specific medications like laxatives, steroids, drugs that control seizures, etc cause Vitamin D deficiency.
  • Age – The ability to produce Vitamin D reduces with age
  • Mobility– Homebound people or those that rarely go outside are prone to Vitamin D deficiency
  • Color of your skin– Dark colored skin has a reduced ability to produce vitamin D than fair skin
  • Breast milk– Human breast milk has small amounts of Vitamin D. Even formulas for babies and infants contain a lesser amount of Vitamin D.

 Common Signs & Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency

Healthcare specialists state Vitamin D in your body helps you to absorb calcium for the promotion of bone growth. As mentioned above, insufficient Vitamin D causes soft bones in children (rickets) and mishappen bones in grown- ups (osteomalacia). Vitamin D is also needed for other vital functions in your body.

Studies and research have discovered Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to weight gain, depression, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon and other maladies. These studies show people with higher levels of Vitamin D in their bodies have reduced risks of diseases, however, these studies do not prove Vitamin D deficiency causes disease or Vitamin D supplements reduce risk.

Severe deficiency of Vitamin D in children causes rickets that show up in the form of incorrect growth, muscle weakness, bone pain and joint deformities. This, however, is quite rare today. However, children with inadequate vitamin D will have muscle pain, soreness and weakness.

Vitamin D deficiency in adults, is not quite obvious. Its signs and frequent symptoms may include-

  • Pain in the bones
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle soreness, cramps and aches
  • Mood changes like depression

How Can You Diagnose Vitamin D Deficiency?

The levels of Vitamin D in your body can be diagnosed with a blood test. There are two types of tests that your doctor may prescribe to ascertain the levels of Vitamin D in your body. The most popular tests are the-

  1. 25-Hydrooxyvitamin D Called 25 (OH) D in short, and
  2. Calcidiol 25-Hydroxycholecalcifoerol

For these tests, the healthcare technician will use a needle to draw blood from the vein. For this test, you do not have to fast or otherwise prepare for it in advance.

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Sources For Vitamin D Besides Controlled Sunlight For 15-20 Minutes Daily

There are some foods that naturally have Vitamin D and this is why some of them are fortified, meaning that Vitamin D has been added to them. They are-

  • Egg yolk
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Cereal (fortified)
  • Yoghurt (fortified)
  • Orange juice (fortified)
  • Milk (fortified)

In additional to the above, there are Vitamin D supplements available in the market for you to consume subject to the instructions of your doctor. The right amount of Vitamin D needed for your body will depend upon your age and the results of the blood test taken for the same. In short, speak to your doctor for your individual needs.

Note, that if you use a sunscreen or stand behind a window, vitamin D will not be produced in your skin. At the same time, you must remember that too much of sunlight increases the risks of skin cancer and ages your skin. Healthcare specialists recommend consuming the appropriate dose of Vitamin D supplements as it is much safer than direct sunlight exposure for 15 to 20 minutes daily.

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