Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava
Vitamin D: An Introduction
Your body needs vitamins for normal growth and development. Vitamin D, also referred to as calciferol, assists during this process of physiological development by absorbing calcium to promote bone health and growth. However, despite the name, vitamin D isn’t a vitamin but a prohormone that also plays a significant role in the development of testosterone.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient, which if lacking, can make you suffer from rickets (more common in children), heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, some types of cancers (colon, prostate, and breast cancer), and multiple sclerosis (abnormal hardening of tissues). If the amount of vitamin D present is more than required, it can cause hypercalcemia (development of excess calcium in your blood) and lead to the formation of calcium stones in the kidneys.
Eating a balanced diet can help you in maintaining good levels of vitamins and minerals. Although your body does not create several vitamins, vitamin D is both a nutrient you can eat and a hormone your body makes.
However, most people are vitamin D deficient and tend to have lesser amounts of this vital nutrient than they ideally should have. This article will take you through the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment/management of vitamin D deficiency, as well as give you some easy-to-do tips to increase the amount of vitamin D.
Benefits of vitamin D intake
- Promotes bone health: Vitamin D promotes bone health by regulating and maintaining the calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood.
- Boosts immunity: An appropriate amount of vitamin D boosts your immunity and reduces the risk of getting affected by flu or cold.
- Promotes the health of infants: Some infants may be at high risk of lacking vitamin D due to less exposure to the sun or improper diet, which can cause rickets. Giving them sufficient amounts of vitamin D can help prevent this complication.
- Healthy pregnancy: Vitamin D plays a very vital role in keeping pregnant women and their fetuses healthy. Lack of vitamin D can lead to diabetes and bacterial vaginosis in the mother and may increase the risk of food allergy in newborns.
Ideal dosage counts for vitamin D intake
Units to measure vitamin D intake are micrograms (mcg) or international units (IU). Experts recommend consuming vitamin D in the following volumes, based on age:
- 0 – 12 months – 400 IU (10 mcg)/day
- 1 – 18 years- 600 IU (15 mcg)/day
- Up to 70 years- 600 IU (15 mcg)/day
- above 70 years- 800 IU (20 mcg)/day
- pregnant women- 600 IU (mcg)/day
Causes of vitamin D deficiency
- Following an unhealthy diet that lacks important vitamins and minerals
- Inadequate exposure to sunlight
- Malabsorption issue- problem in absorbing vitamins from food
- Medicines that affect your ability to absorb vitamins
- Liver or kidney illness can also obstruct the formation or absorption of vitamin D
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency
- Getting sick often due to cold or flu
- Getting tired easily
- Pain in the teeth, bones, joints, lower back, and muscles
- Feeling depressed
- Delayed wound healing and easy bruising
- Loss of bones
- Increased hair loss and a slow rate of hair growth
Excess of vitamin D is a rare condition. It occurs when you take high doses of supplements that are rich in this nutrient. You may experience the following symptoms if the level of vitamin D is high:
- Repeated episodes of headache and nausea
- Unwillingness to eat
- Dry mouth
- Vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea
Diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency
The diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency is usually done through a blood test. It confirms whether you lack vitamin D, have an excess of it, or the level is perfectly normal. This information will help you take preventive measures to manage the condition efficiently.
Vitamin D complications do not require any surgical treatment and you can prevent them by following easy-to-follow0 lifestyle routines. These include:
- Exposure to sunlight: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and also called the sunshine vitamin. This is because your skin builds vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Experts suggest that if you expose yourself to sunlight regularly for at least 30 minutes a day, it can improve the amount of vitamin D in your body.
- Foods to increase vitamin D: Fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, mushrooms, cheese, and fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, and cereal
Vitamin D deficiency is a common condition. But, If left untreated, it can give rise to severe illnesses like rickets, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. However, if you experience the symptoms, the condition can be easily managed by getting an early diagnosis and following the above-mentioned methods to improve the level of vitamin D.
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