It seems like everyday we learn more and more about the health benefits of vitamin D. Vitamin D is really a hormone and a hormone is a chemical that is made in one part of the body and exported to other parts of the body where it controls and regulates certain cells and organs. Though vitamin D can be obtained in the diet it is also made in the skin in response to sun exposure. Vitamin D exerts effects throughout the body, and therefore vitamin D deficiency symptoms are many.
What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency?
There are many reasons why someone might be vitamin D deficient. Some vitamin D is obtained through the diet and anything that interferes with absorption of vitamin D from the gastrointestinal tract can lead to vitamin D deficiency. Also certain drugs like antacids and cholesterol lowering drugs can reduce vitamin D absorption. Since vitamin D is also made in the skin, limited sun exposure will have lower vitamin D levels. In addition, the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D decreases after the age of 50 or so. Also, vitamin D needs to be converted into an active form requiring a healthy liver and kidneys so disorders of the liver and/or kidneys can lead to vitamin deficiency.
Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms and Signs
- In children vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets where the bones become soft and bend leading to a host of orthopedic problems.
- Adult bones can become soft in the presence of vitamin D deficiency also know as osteomalacia.
- Vitamin D deficiency is associated with bone and muscle pain.
- In older adults vitamin D deficiency contributes to the development of osteoporosis and fractures.
- Vitamin D deficiency is now associated with decreased insulin sensitivity contributing to poor blood sugar control.
- Depression is linked to insulin resistance associated with vitamin deficiency.
- Optimal level of vitamin enhances immune system function reducing the risk of some cancers.
- Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of high blood pressure.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is associated with vitamin D deficiency.
- Low vitamin D is linked to multiple sclerosis which is more common in more temperate climates (less sun light).
Best Sources of Vitamin D
The best source of vitamin D is the sun. Usually ten to fifteen minutes of bright sunlight will be enough to improve vitamin D synthesis without increasing the risk of skin cancer. Vitamin D is not found naturally in too many foods, but those that are rich in it include mackerel, salmon, sardine, shrimp, cod, halibut, tuna, alfalfa, liver, egg yolk, sweet potatoes and vitamin D fortified cereals and milk. So be sure to regularily consume these vitamin D foods.
Optimal Vitamin D Levels
Though vitamin D levels above 30 nanomoles/liter have been traditionally considered normal there is increasing evidence that levels above 60 nanomoles/liter are more optimal and help to prevent cancer. The nice thing is vitamin D levels are easy to measure taking the guessing out of how much vitamin D supplement one should take. It’s simple – take enough vitamin D to get levels in the 60 nanomole/liter range.
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