Recently I have come across many individuals with vitamin D deficiency and therefore felt the need to inform people in the simplest way to take necessary action. In recent years, there is renewed interest in this vitamin because new data suggest that its benefits are beyond just healthy bones. It has been linked to the treatment and pathogenesis of various disease such as cancer, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness and diabetes. A lot of research is still under way to understand its link to these conditions. Nevertheless, one needs to be aware.
Undoubtedly, various types of cancer and infections will happen even under optimal vitamin D but the risk will be lower. So, in case anyone is diagnosed with deficiency or insufficiency, it should not be taken very lightly.
Vitamin D is a fat- soluble vitamin which is very important for various functions of the body and for strong and healthy bones. Most of this vitamin can be synthesized by the body with sufficient exposure to the sun since its precursor is present in our skin. A very small amount also comes from some of the foods that we eat. Vitamin D from food and skin synthesis is in an inactive form. It needs to be further converted to its active form in the liver and kidney.
Vitamin D deficiency has now been recognized as a pandemic which means it is prevalent all over the world. Earlier vitamin D deficiency was detected because of either rickets in children or osteomalacia in adults. Now it can be detected by a simple blood test. Almost all general overall test packages in most laboratories will include this test. The test then determines whether the patient has vitamin deficiency or insufficiency even though there might be no evidence of any disease. According to available data, some of the reasons for this widespread deficiency or insufficiency could be not enough exposure to the sun, use of sunscreen (which for other health reasons is good but one need not put sunscreen all the time. Certain amount of exposure is important as mentioned below), digestive tract problems such as Celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and improper nutrition.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency
Some of the signs of vitamin D deficiency are:
1. Children are often found to have walked late or prefer to sit for prolonged periods.
2. Adults can experience chronic muscle pains.
In severe deficiency:
1. One can see bowing of legs in children.
2. In adults, periosteal bone pain (Periosteum is the membrane which covers the surface of the bone) which is diagnosed by physical examination.
Under very rare circumstances vitamin D toxicity can occur. This can only happen due to improper supplementation wherein too much vitamin D has been taken orally. Some of the symptoms are dehydration, vomiting, kidney damage.
Some of the good sources of Vitamin D are as follows:
Image courtesy of (Fish: markuso; Milk: alex_ugalek; Egg: Photouten; Cheese: Serge Bertasius Photography) at freedigitalphotos.net
1. Fatty fish
2. Foods fortified with Vitamin D such as some brands of milk and some cereals in India. Check the labels while buying. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has set up a panel to draft guidelines on fortification of many other food items so as to address deficiencies and malnutrition problems.
4. Egg yolk
5. Cod liver oil
6. Wild mushrooms or those treated with UV light.
A reasonable amount of exposure to the sun helps in the synthesis of vitamin D in the body. According to studies, the optimal time to absorb sunlight is between 11:00 am- 2:00 pm. For people with light skin about 15-20 mins and for people with dark skin about 30-40 mins in the sun.
So, get yourself tested and if you are detected with deficiency or insufficiency then, proper supplementation, a wholesome diet, and a little bit of sunshine would restore the vitamin D levels in the body.Please do not self diagnose and self medicate. Visit a doctor and a dietician/nutritionist for proper guidance.