What is Vitamin D Deficiency?
Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, it is a hormone-like, fat-soluble vitamin that the body produces when it is in direct contact with sunlight. It acts as sunscreen which is important for protection from melanoma and rapid aging of the skin, it blocks these rays. So while we do make it naturally, it is recommended to take supplements.
It is vital to the intestinal absorption of many minerals and vitamins that we need to stay healthy and a lack of vitamin D can have dire consequences on the bones, immune system, and heart health. Every single cell in your body relies on vitamin D in order to function normally
It is approximated that 10 percent of American adults are vitamin D deficient, however, deficiencies affect all ages at all stages of life. A deficiency is characterized by the following symptoms; Weak muscles, bone pain, inability to think clearly, fatigue, the frequency of bone injuries, excess sweating and soft bones.
Features of vitamin D
There are two forms of vitamin D found in foods.
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol): found in some mushrooms.
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol): found in oily fish, fish liver oil, and egg yolks.
It can be found in many different types of foods and also in form of the supplement as drops and tablets. Below are some of the sources of this vitamin.
Egg Yolks – Egg yolks have a bad reputation for being high in cholesterol, and they are, but with High-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol which is also known as the “good” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is considered good because of its relationship with LDL cholesterol (the low-density protein which is considered the “bad” cholesterol). Eggs yolks are much higher in vitamins than egg whites.
Oysters – One serving of these oysters contain almost 90 percent of the recommended daily requirement of iron. Iron is vital to the process of the generation of red blood cells. The increase of oxygenated blood in the body provides the bodies organs with fuel to keep the functioning at optimal levels.
Sardines – Macular degeneration is a disease that affects the eyes. It is most prominent in the elderly. The more it progresses the higher the chance of permanent damage to the retina. The fish oil in fatty [fish increases the body’s immune cell count which builds up a stronger immune system.
Mushroom – The potassium in mushrooms works as a vasodilator (something that widens the blood vessels which allows more blood to pass through) and relaxes tension within blood vessels. This results in lowered blood pressure.
Orange Juice – This juice contains fiber which regulates bowel movements and can lower cholesterol levels.
Infant Formula – While breastfeeding is preferable some mothers are unable to (low milk supply, baby not latching etc.) and are thus unable to pass on antibodies and nutrition to their babies. Infant formula is enriched with the minerals and vitamins babies need to grow and thrive. Infant formula can also reduce allergies in babies.
This vitamin fights Seasonal Depression Seasonal Affective disorder (SAD or also known as the winter blues) this is when a person’s mood and temperament is affected by the weather or the lack of sunlight during the winter months in colder countries. Colder and darker weather affects the mood as the production of serotonin (a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that maintains mood balance) is linked to the amount of sunlight a person gets. Symptoms of SAD include; Weight gain, Feeling depressed, Feeling lethargic, Anxiety, Becoming quickly irritated, Having difficulty concentrating, A decreased libido and An increased intake of food among others
- It Can Ensure A Healthy Pregnancy. An expectant mother with a vitamin D deficiency in her first trimester is at risk of having a baby with extremely low birth weight.
- It Supports Healthy Lung Function. Vitamin D deficiencies have a physical effect on the shape of the lungs. A study found that vitamin D deficiencies can change the volume of the lungs and the lung development.
- Vitamin D Aids Calcium Absorption in the body. Calcium is important for proper heart, muscle and nerve function as well as blood clotting. As we age our body’s ability to create vitamin D from sunlight exposure and to properly absorb calcium begin to decrease. When our body does not have enough vitamin D it cannot produce a hormone called calcitriol which regulates calcium levels in the body. The body then takes calcium stored within the skeleton. This weakens the existing bones and prevents new bone formation.
- A serious vitamin D deficiency is likely to result in the development of rickets in young children and can also be responsible for osteomalacia (when bones soften due to a lack of calcium or vitamin D) in adults.
- Vitamin D Supports The Brain And Nervous System. Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating the health of the brain and nervous system both during its development and throughout the rest of a human’s life.
- Vitamin D Promotes Weight Loss. This vitamin is a fat-soluble vitamin which is stored within the fat cells in our bodies.
- Vitamin D receptors tell the body whether it should store or burn the fat people consume. When a person provides these receptors with more vitamin D it promotes the burning of fats over storing it. If receptors in the brain do not get enough vitamin a person tends to feel hungrier which can lead to excess snacking.
- Being unable to lose weight could be a sign of a vitamin d deficiency.
- Vitamin D Fights Diseases – it is actually a prohormone that aids the body to be able to convert it into a hormone. When the body is depleted of vitamin D a person is at risk of developing heart disease, muscle weakness, and some cancers.
- This vitamin is vital for Healthy Infants and Toddlers. Development of rickets is the potential danger for babies and toddlers that are deficient. Babies that are at highest risk of developing rickets are babies who have a darker skin tone, those born premature, who are being or have been breastfed and babies whose mothers have low levels..
- Vitamin D is essential for normal body development and growth. When a baby is deficient it does not have the correct biological material to build healthy teeth and bones and will most likely have retarded bone growth. A few signs that your baby or young child has rickets are; Weakened muscles, Projection of the breastbone, Pain and discomfort in the legs, pelvis and or spine, Thickened ankles and wrists, abnormal leg shaped such as knocked knees or bowed legs, Slow growth.
- Can Ease Various Skin Issues. Vitamin D receptors in the cells are directly linked to cell differentiation (when a cell becomes specialized in performing a certain function) and cell proliferation (a process which increases cell numbers). These receptors are also linked to healthy immune function, this is important because a weak immune system cannot fight cell-damaging free radicals, and free radicals can cause major damage to skin cells.
- Vitamin D Improves Symptoms Of Tuberculosis. Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease of the respiratory system that can also have an impact on the brain, spine, and kidneys. Although symptoms do not always occur they include; Phlegm build up in the lungs, Sudden weight loss, A cough that has persisted for more than three weeks, Loss of appetite, Night sweats, A fever and or chills, Coughing up mucus and or blood, Persistent fatigue etc.
- It Influences Gene Expression – Vitamin D is involved in the process of gene expression, which is where certain functions of cells are turned off or turned on.
- It Can Ease Multiple Sclerosis – Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system targets and damages the myelin sheath that protects the nerve fibers in the spinal cord and brain (the central nervous system) that causes a problem with the communication between the brain and body. MS could eventually cause permanent damage.
Disadvantages of Vitamin D Deficiency
- It weakens the immune system
- Increase in cardiovascular diseases.
- Vitamin D promotes bone disorders since it weakens the bones.
- It increases the chances of getting diabetes.
Leads people to become overweight.
How to Use Vitamin D
This vitamin can be found in many foods; therefore a person can choose those foods so as to increase their vitamin D levels. Also, people may opt to purchase the supplements that are sold at the stores so as to replenish their bodies quickly. The vitamin supplement can come in form of a tablet which is swallowed with some water.
Prices vary depending on the guidelines a user may decide will be suitable for them and their needs. It is recommended that one uses the links provided in order to get what one may want.
How much vitamin D you need depends on many factors. These include age, race, latitude, season, sun exposure, clothing and more. If you live somewhere where there is sun year-round, then you may not need extra vitamin D as long as you make sure to get enough sun. The only way to know if you actually need to take a vitamin D supplement is to have your blood levels measured.
Sol Ruiz heads our Research Digest department. He graduated from the New York University where he obtained his Master’s Degree in Public Health.