Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins your body needs for proper bone and muscle development. This vitamin also plays a huge role in boosting your immune system.
Commonly known as the sunshine vitamin, it’s primarily produced by the skin after it’s exposed to sunlight (don’t confuse this with hyperpigmentation).
The vitamin is also found in a variety of foods including fatty fish, liver, dairy products and egg yolk. You can also take vitamin D supplements to ensure that there are adequate amounts of the vitamin within your body.
People who avoid or rarely expose their skin to the sun, strict vegetarians and people that are allergic to food sources rich in vitamin D risk vitamin D deficiency. These however aren’t the only causes for vitamin D deficiency.
Other causes for vitamin D deficiency
As mentioned, your body will produce vitamin D when skin is exposed to the sun’s rays. However, your skin might actually hinder vitamin D production.
Studies indicate that dark skinned people usually find it difficult producing this vitamin. Sunscreen can also limit vitamin D production on the skin.
Existing health conditions such as cystic fibrosis, kidney disease and Crohn’s Disease can also lead to vitamin D deficiency.
Once the vitamin is produced in the body, it must be absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to the different parts of the body. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with any of these conditions, your body might not be able to absorb vitamin D into the blood stream.
Diagnosis and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can be diagnosed through a simple blood test. If the test indicates low vitamin D levels in the blood, your doctor might order an x ray which will check the strength and density of your bones.
But before diagnosis, your doctor might look for the following symptoms.
– Chronic fatigue and depression which are caused by lack of adequate serotonin. This hormone helps to improve mood.
– Painful and brittle bones and teeth. Vitamin D plays a huge role in regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body. These minerals help in the development of strong bones and a healthy nervous system respectively.
– Muscle pain and weakness. The sunshine vitamin has been found to promote muscle development as well as the development of a healthy nervous system. Lack of adequate amounts of this vitamin can lead to muscle weakness and pain.
– Poor immune system. Vitamin D helps to promote a healthy immune system. People with vitamin D deficiency therefore fall sick more often.
What are the health risks of vitamin D deficiency?
Besides having brittle bones and teeth, studies have discovered several health risks associated with vitamin D deficiency. They include the following.
1. Obesity and diabetes. Studies show that people taking vitamin D supplements were able to lose more unwanted body fat compared to people with vitamin D deficiency.
2. Heart disease. Another study showed that people taking daily vitamin D supplements had reduced risk of getting heart disease.
3. Cancer. People with vitamin D deficiency were found to be at higher risk of developing certain cancers including prostrate, breast and colon cancer.
How do you ensure you have adequate vitamin D levels in your body?
The easiest way to boost vitamin D levels is to get it from natural sources (adequate sunshine and eating vitamin D foods). In very severe cases, your doctor might prescribe supplements.