Categories: Healthy Life

What is vitamin D deficiency: causes, symptoms, food, and treatment

What is Vitamin D deficiency?

If you are not getting enough Vitamin D in the body, either due to a lack of sunlight or due to a poor diet, you develop a vitamin D deficiency. Your skin is capable of producing Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, however, if you live in a cold country with limited access to the sun or have a sedentary indoor lifestyle it may cause low vitamin D levels. Fair-skinned individuals can convert more sunshine into vitamin D, those with more melanin in the skin are less efficient in producing vitamin D.

Why is Vitamin D necessary for the body?

Vitamin D is essential to the body as it helps:

Keeps Bones Healthy:

Vitamin D is essential in having healthy and strong bones. Without enough Vitamin D you may develop rickets, a disease in which your bones become brittle.

Helps Calcium Absorption:

Without vitamin D your body cannot process calcium effectively from your diet. When your bones are unable to absorb enough calcium you may develop osteoporosis, a condition where your bone becomes porous and loses density increases the risk of injury even in minor falls or accidents.

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms

Low Immunity:

Vitamin D is essential in keeping your immune system strong and able to ward off the bacterial or viral infection. Low Vitamin D can lead to infections such as colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

Weak Bones and Back Pain

Studies have found that many who suffer from Vitamin D deficiency also suffer from chronic back pain. They also experience pain in the legs, ribs or joints.

Mood Swings:

Low blood levels of vitamin D were also correlated with depression especially in the older demographic. This is especially the case in colder countries where people suffer from seasonal depression in the winter months.

Hair Loss:

Severe hair loss, especially in women, has been linked to low Vitamin D levels. Alopecia areata a disease where patients lose clumps of hair has been linked to a lack of Vitamin D.

Inflammation:

Vitamin D plays a role in controlling inflammation in your body. It is essential in fighting off infection and helping your wounds heal. Lack of vitamin D can cause improper healing of your wound.

Vitamin D deficiency causes

Poor Diet:

If you follow a strict vegan diet, chances are you may be suffering from low Vitamin D levels. You may need to take vitamin D tablets or vitamin D supplements as most of the natural food sources of vitamin D are non-vegetarian such as fish oil, beef liver, and milk.

Sedentary Lifestyle:

Your body makes use of sunlight to produce vitamin D in the body. However, if you are mostly indoors or live in a cold country you may be at risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency.

Dark Skin:

Melanin in your skin reduces its ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight. Hence if you are dark and have relocated to a country with less sunlight you may need to take Vitamin D3 or Vit D orally.

Treatment for lack of Vitamin D

Your need for vitamin D depends on a variety of factors including your sunlight exposure, your diet and your bill of health. If any of these factors lead to a lack of Vitamin D your doctor will recommend that you take Vit D supplements to ensure you meet the recommended guidelines.

Here are the recommended levels of Vitamin D as per your age.

  • Infants (0-12 months) – 400 IU
  • Children to Adults (1-70 years) – 600 IU
  • Aged (71+) – 800 IU

Lifestyle changes to get more Vitamin D

Spend Time in the Sun:

It is recommended to spend at least 10 – 15 minutes in the sun every day. Adopt a hobby or a sport like cycling, running, rowing, or football that gets you out in the sun every day. This can help you get your daily dose of Vitamin D.

Ensure your Office Space has Ample Sunlight:

You spend up to 8 hours every day at your office. If it’s cramped and dimly lit, you’ll likely develop low Vitamin D symptoms. So ensure that your office has access to sunlight and is well ventilated.

Dietary changes for Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D is found in two main dietary forms cholecalciferol or Vitamin D3 found in fatty fish and egg yolks and as Vitamin D2 ergocalciferol found in certain mushrooms and plants. Here’s how you can increase your intake of vitamin D through your diet:

  • Consume a healthy amount of Fish (Cod, Salmon, Tuna)
  • Have eggs for breakfast
  • Incorporate fortified foods into your diet
  • Have beef liver
  • Incorporate cheese and milk into your diet

Do Vitamin D supplements work?

Getting enough Vitamin D in your diet is difficult as there are very few sources of Vitamin D in a dietary form. This coupled with increasingly sedentary lifestyles means that more and more people suffer from lack of Vitamin D or low Vitamin D levels.

If you feel that you aren’t getting enough Vitamin D through your diet and sunlight, consult with a doctor about supplementation. However, taking too much Vitamin D can produce a lot of calcium in your bones and can even damage the kidneys and heart. Taking more than 100 mcg of Vitamin D can be harmful so it is essential to be careful about your dosages.

If you have any underlying medical conditions which may impact your ability to consume supplements you must ensure you take advice from your doctor before starting any kind of supplementation regimen.

Dr. Birjis Shaikh, Consultant Internal Medicine, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Ahmedabad

Narayana Health

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