What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D belongs to a group of fat-soluble open ring steroids, which are responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium (which is one of the main building blocks of our skeletons), magnesium, and phosphate. Vitamin D also plays role in our nervous, muscle, and immune systems.
Why is Vitamin D needed and how can we get it?
There are three ways to get Vitamin D: Via diet, via supplements and via skin. Only a few foods contain vitamin D. The major natural source of the vitamin D is through synthesis of cholecalciferol in the skin from cholesterol by a chemical reaction that is dependent on sun exposure (specifically UVB radiation). Our bodies, therefore, form Vitamin D naturally after exposure to sunlight. The only problem though, is that too much an exposure by the sun leads to aging of skin and cancer (in some cases), which is why most people prefer to get it from sources other than this.
What is vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency means that you are not getting enough vitamin D to stay healthy. It is also termed as Hypovitaminosis D. Other terms associated with this are Vitamin D Insufficiency (when Vitamin D is not that low but not that high either) and Vitamin D Sufficiency (when Vitamin D is just the perfect amount needed by the body)
How much vitamin D does one need?
The amount of Vitamin D anyone needs on average of one day depends on their age. Below we are mentioning the recommended amounts in international units (IU):
Birth to 12 months: 400 IUChildren 1-13 years: 600 IUTeens 14-18 years: 600 IUAdults 19-70 years: 600 IUAdults 71 years and older: 800 IUPregnant and breastfeeding women: 600 IU
People at high risk of vitamin D deficiency may need more than what is stated above. One should check with their doctor to know how much they need.
Some causes of Vitamin D deficiency:
Anyone can become deficient in vitamin D for different reasons, top of which are as follows:
They don't get enough vitamin D in their diet.They get enough Vitamin D from diet, but they don't absorb enough of it from food (a malabsorption problem).Less exposure to sunlight due to staying indoors or living in areas which don’t allow sunlight.Liver or kidneys unable to convert vitamin D to its active form in the body due to some intrinsic problem.Medication that interferes with body's ability to convert or absorb vitamin D.
People at risk of vitamin D deficiency:
Some people are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency:
Those with: Dark skin, or disorders such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease, obesity, osteoporosis, chronic kidney or liver disease, hyperparathyroidism, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, histoplasmosis, or other granulomatous diseases, those with lymphomas, or who have had gastric bypass surgery, or people who take medicines that affect vitamin D metabolism, such as cholestyramine (a cholesterol drug), anti-seizure drugs, glucocorticoids, antifungal drugs, and HIV/AIDS medicines.Breastfed/nursed infants, because human milk is a poor source of vitamin D. Older adults, because their skin doesn't make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight as efficiently as when they were young, and their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form.
One should talk to their doctor or nutritionist if they suspect themselves at risk of vitamin D deficiency. There is a blood test which can measure how much vitamin D is in the body. For starters, one should get that and the rest can follow.
Problems that Vitamin D deficiency causes:
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a loss of bone density, which can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures. Severe vitamin D deficiency can also lead to other diseases. In children, it can cause rickets (bones become soft and tend to bend). In adults, severe vitamin D deficiency leads to osteomalacia (bones weaken, so do muscles and they start to pain).
Ways to get more Vitamin D:
There are a few foods that naturally have some vitamin D, which are as follows:
egg yolks cheese, Mushrooms Beef liverFatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
Other than these, vitamin D can be obtained from fortified foods. Foods that often have added vitamin D include:
Orange juice, Breakfast cereals ,Other dairy products, such as yogurt
Vitamin D is in many multivitamins too. Vitamin D supplements are available in both pills, for adults and a liquid form for babies.
If someone has a vitamin D deficiency, the best treatment is to start with supplements. As stated before, having a professional opinion on this comes before anything else, so one should check with their health care provider about how much they need, how often they need, and for how long.
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