Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin D Deficiency, Symptoms & Treatment

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We must have heard and read that vitamins and minerals are really important for our body but most of us have never made a conscious effort to understand why these are important, what do they do to our body, how can we include more of these to our diet?

Vitamins & Minerals are the most crucial micronutrients that our body requires. A lot of micronutrients enter our body through what we eat during the day.

These are essential nutrients that our body needs for its functioning and they perform hundreds of vital roles in the body like formation of blood, bones, teeth etc.  They are the ones which boost your immunity.

Though all the vitamins are really essential for our body but Vitamin D is something which needs special attention.

According to research 80%-90% people in India are Vitamin D deficient which is a very large number and can’t be ignored at all. This deficiency is common across all age groups. It also includes 84.2% people who are suffering from type 2 diabetes and 82.6% of high BP so they are at more risk.

84% of pregnant women are also suffering from the same which may also have an affect on their new born baby.

This is really an important vitamin which is ignored by most of us and the reason could be lack of awareness. It is really major for our bones, muscles, immune system etc. Deficiency of Vitamin D is really common not only in India but across the world.

Vitamin D is also known as “sunshine vitamin” because you get it most by sunlight.

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

  • Your bones become thin & weak and you have a risk of fracture as well because vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium and we know how important calcium is for our bones.
  • We must have read in the schools that the deficiency can cause rickets in small children which is again a skeletal disease.
  • Adults experience osteomalacia and osteoporosis in which you experience pain in your bones, muscle weakness, body pain, etc. and you have a higher risk of hip bone fracture in older age as well.
  • The deficiency of the same affects your immune system as well and your body is likely to get affected by viruses and infections. If you get sick often then a low level of Vitamin D could be one of the reasons.   
  • Some studies have stated that low levels of Vitamin D are associated with cancer and heart attack as well.
  • There are few more symptoms shown in the studies like weakness, fatigue, lower energy level, depression, hair loss, delay in wound healing, etc.

Causes of Vitamin D deficiency

  • Our indoor lifestyle causes less exposure to the sun and this is the biggest reason for the deficiency of vitamin D.
  • Pollution also affects vitamin D synthesis in our skin which happens through UV rays.
  • The next is our food habits; we don’t focus on consuming vitamin D rich foods.
  • Sunscreen also stops vitamin D synthesis in our skin.
  • Dark skin people need more time to absorb vitamin D in their skin from sunlight which the majority of people are not aware of.

There are a lot of scientific studies conducted on the importance of Vitamin D

According to a study conducted by Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006, it reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis and heart disease.

In 2010, as per American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it reduces the risk of flu as well. The research also shows that it plays an important role in regulating your mood and protecting you from depression.

It was published in British Journal of nutrition in March 2009 that it helps in weight loss. People who were taking Vitamin-D and calcium supplements daily were able to lose more weight. The scientists said the extra calcium and vitamin D had an appetite-suppressing effect.

Apart from this, it is important for your bone health, muscles, and immune system.

So now the question is how much vitamin D is required by an individual for the optimal health.

How much Vitamin D is required?

For children and adults, the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) which is equal to 15 mcg (micrograms). The amount is slightly higher for elderly adults, i.e. 800 IU (20 mcg).

Now how will you get the sufficient amount of vitamin D and which are the sources of vitamin D to be considered.

Sources of Vitamin D

 So below are some sources which can provide you the same.

·   The most important source of vitamin D is Sunlight which you can get absolutely free. Researchers have suggested taking 10-30 minutes of sun exposure twice or thrice a week is sufficient by revealing large parts of your body like arms, legs, back and face to sunlight. But time duration depends on multiple factors like skin color, how many body parts are getting direct sunlight, weather, pollution, smog etc.

Also the best time to get sunlight is mid-day when UV rays are at peak and probably your body would be requiring sunlight for less time but make sure your skin doesn’t burn.

Besides sunlight where else can you fulfill the requirement of the same. There are plenty of foods from one can get Vitamin D. Let’s look at which foods are rich in vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3.

Vitamin D Rich Foods

Vitamin D mainly comes in 2 dietary forms namely Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) which is found in mushrooms and some plants and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) which is found in animal-sourced foods, such as eggs and fish oil, and produced by your skin when exposed to sunlight.

You can add cod liver oil, fish, salmon, tuna, mushroom, soy, almond, whole egg etc.

Let’s look at the quantity of Vitamin D in the above foods which can help you decide how much to consume.

  • 1 Tablespoon of Cod Liver Oil gives 1360 IU (34mcg)
  • 85 gram cooked Salmon: 570 IU (14.2mcg)
  •   ½ Cup white raw mushrooms exposed to sunlight: 366 IU (9.2mcg)
  •   1 Cup Soy, almond and oats milk, vitamin D fortified: 100-144 IU (2.5-3.6 mcg)
  •   1 whole large egg: 44 IU (1.1 mcg)
  • Natural Cow or buffalo milk doesn’t contain vitamin D but Vitamin D fortified 1 cup milk has 120 IU (2.9 mcg)

In case, if you are not able to fulfill the required amount of vitamin then you can add Vitamin D supplements with doctor’s recommendation only.

Conclusion 

Vitamin D is really essential not only for your bones but for overall health as well. The time we are facing right now (Covid-19) has really taught us the importance of immunity and vitamin D plays a major role in supporting your immunity. Make sure you add vitamin D-rich foods to your diet and also get proper sun exposure for optimal health.

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