Vitamin D also known as ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ is critical for healthy bones and overall health. It’s an important factor in making sure the muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well and that the body can fight infection.
The important functions of Vitamin D
- Regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, and facilitating normal immune system function
- For development of bones and teeth
- It improves resistance against certain diseases
Benefits of Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D manages calcium in your blood, bones and gut and helps cells all over your body to communicate properly
- Flights diseases
- Reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis
- Decreases the chance of developing heart disease
- Helps to reduce the likelihood of developing the flu
- Reduces Depression
Who is at a Risk of being Vitamin D deficient
The body can make its own Vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight. This makes Vitamin D quite unique among other vitamins as our body can’t make other vitamins. You need to get other vitamins from the foods we eat. For example, we get vitamin C from fruits and vegetables we eat.
Though you can get Vitamin D from supplements and a very small amount comes from a few foods we eat but primarily our body gets Vitamin D from Sunlight.
People who may be at a high risk for vitamin D deficiency include those who are elderly or obese, those with limited sun exposure, and babies who are exclusively breastfed. People who have conditions such as cystic fibrosis (mucus build-up in the lungs) or inflammatory bowel disease are also at risk for Vitamin D deficiency.
Some of the reasons for Vitamin D deficiency are
- Geographic Location
Our bodies produce more Vitamin D when they’re exposed to sunshine, so we’re more at risk for the deficiency rickets if we live in an area with little sunlight. We’re also at a higher risk if we work indoors during daylight hours. Many lifestyle and environmental factors can affect our ability to get sufficient amounts of Vitamin D through the sun alone. These factors include
- Being in an area with high pollution
- Using sunscreen
- Spending more time indoors
- Living in big cities where buildings block sunlight
These factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency in an increasing number of people. That’s why it’s important to get some of your vitamin D from sources besides sunlight.
“People are spending less time outside and, when they do go out, they’re typically wearing sunscreen, which essentially nullifies the body’s ability to produce vitamin D,” said Kim Pfotenhauer, DO, assistant professor at Touro University and a researcher on this study. “While we want people to protect themselves against skin cancer, there are healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure that can be very helpful in boosting Vitamin D.”
There is a higher risk of low Vitamin D
- If the diet doesn’t include fish, eggs, or milk.
- Incase someone has trouble digesting milk or has an allergy to milk sugar (lactose)
- Infants who are only fed breast milk can become deficient in vitamin D . Breast milk doesn’t contain enough vitamin D to prevent Rickets
- Skin color
Children of African, Pacific Islander, and Middle Eastern descent are at the highest risk low Vitamin D as they have dark skin. Dark skin doesn’t react as strongly to sunlight as lighter skin does, so it produces less vitamin D.
Risks due to deficiency of Vitamin D
- In children, Vitamin D deficiency causes Rickets, which is a softening or weakening of the bones.
- In adults, vitamin D deficiency causes weak bones and muscles there is a risk of developing bone abnormalities such as soft bones (osteomalacia) or fragile bones (osteoporosis).
- Besides the above Vitamin D may also protect, high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases.
Symptoms of deficiency
The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency in adults include
- tiredness, aches and pains, and a general sense of not feeling well
- severe bone or muscle pain or weakness that may cause difficulty climbing stairs or getting up from the floor or a low chair, or cause you to walk with a waddling gait
- stress fractures, especially in your legs, pelvis, and hips
Doctors can diagnose a vitamin D deficiency by performing a simple blood test. In case of deficiency, the doctor may order X-rays to check the strength of the bones or the bone density test
Natural sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is found in many foods, including fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil. The sun also adds to the body’s daily production of vitamin D, and as little as 10 minutes of exposure is thought to prevent deficiency
Few foods contain vitamin D naturally. Some foods are fortified. This means that vitamin D has been added. Foods that contain vitamin D include
- egg yolk
- cod liver oil
- milk (fortified)
- cereal (fortified)
- yogurt (fortified)
- orange juice (fortified)