All about Vitamin D
All about Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin stored in the body’s fatty tissue. Vitamin D is different from other essential vitamins because our own bodies can manufacture it with sunlight exposure.
It’s also called the “Sunshine Vitamin”.
Functions of Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus and aid in cell to cell communication throughout the body. Calcium and phosphate are two minerals that are essential for normal bone formation.
Throughout childhood, your body uses these minerals to produce bones. If you do not get enough calcium, or if your body does not absorb enough calcium from your diet, bone production and bone tissues may suffer.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis in adults or rickets in children besides many other problems that might arise.
List of other functions:
Aids the immune system - vitamin D may be an important way to arm the immune system against disorders like the common cold.
MS risk – it may reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is much less common the nearer you get to the tropics, where there is much more sunlight.
Maintaining cognitive functions – vitamin D may play a key role in helping the brain keep working well in later life.
Healthy body weight – vitamin D probably plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body weight.
Asthma symptoms and frequency – It can reduce the severity and frequency of asthma symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis – It has been shown to reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women.
Protects from radiation damage - A form of vitamin D could be one of our body’s main protections against damage from low levels of radiation.
Vitamin D and cancer risk - Various studies have shown that people with adequate levels of vitamin D have a significantly lower risk of developing cancer, compared to those whose levels are low.
T.B. recovery - High vitamin D doses can help people recover from tuberculosis more rapidly.
Heart attack risk - Low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of heart attack and early death.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can occur for a number of reasons:
You don’t consume the recommended levels of the vitamin over time. This is likely if you follow a strict vegetarian diet, because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheese, fortified milk, and beef liver.
Your exposure to sunlight is limited. Because the body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, you may be at risk of deficiency if you are homebound, live in northern latitudes, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure.
You have dark skin. The pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure.
Your kidneys cannot convert vitamin D to its active form. As people age their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing their risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D. Certain medical problems, including Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease, can affect your intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the food you eat.
You are obese. Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.
Food Sources of Vit D
The body makes vitamin D when the skin is directly exposed to the sun. That is why it is often called the “sunshine” vitamin. Most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs this way.
Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. As a result, many foods are fortified with vitamin D. Fortified means that vitamins have been added to the food.
Fatty fish (such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel) are among the best sources of vitamin D.
Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks provide small amounts.
Mushrooms provide some vitamin D. The vitamin D content is also being boosted by exposure to some commercially available mushrooms to ultraviolent light.
Some milk is fortified with Vit D. It should be noted that foods made from milk, such as cheese and ice cream, are usually not fortified.
Vitamin D is added to many breakfast cereals and to some brands of soy beverages, orange juice, yogurt, and margarine. Check the nutrition fact panel on the food label.
It can be very hard to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone. As a result, some people may need to take a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D found in supplements and fortified foods comes in two different forms:
• D2 (ergocalciferol)
• D3 (cholecalciferol)
Too much vitamin D can make the intestines absorb too much calcium. This may cause high levels of calcium in the blood. High blood calcium can lead to:
• Calcium deposits in soft tissues such as the heart and lungs.
• Confusion and disorientation.
• Damage to the kidneys.
• Kidney stones.
• Nausea, vomiting, constipation, poor appetite, weakness, and weight loss.
Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine three times weekly is enough to produce the body’s requirement of vitamin D. The sun needs to shine on the skin of your face, arms, back, or legs (without sunscreen). Because exposure to sunlight is a risk for skin cancer, you should use sunscreen after a few minutes in the sun.
The following factors may reduce your body’s vitamin D synthesis:
If you live far from the equator, your sunlight exposure will be less during many months of the year.
If your body cannot produce enough vitamin D because of insufficient sunlight exposure you will need to obtain it from supplements and dietary sources.
Vitamin D levels in females in winter - Women with arthritis, diabetes and some other chronic conditions are much more susceptible to reductions in vitamin D levels during the winter months; these patients should maintain adequate levels of vitamin D during the winter season.
In general, people over age 50 need higher amounts of vitamin D than younger people.
Most of the time small nagging pains and problems could be due to deficiency of Vit D.
A simple blood test can help you tell the level of Vit D in your blood and a doctor will be able to guide you with the supplementation process depending on your Vit D levels.
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