Vitamin D – stronger bones, stronger health

By Dr. Snezhana Cheshelkoska, GP/Pediatrician

Yes, we stay at home, but we all need sunshine. If you avoid the sun, suffer from milk allergies, or are on a strict vegan diet, you may be at risk for Vitamin D deficiency.

The “sunshine vitamin” is a hot topic right now. You probably think your body has enough Vitamin D, but that may not be the case. Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is now a global health problem: latest surveys say that about 1 billion people worldwide have low levels of Vitamin D.

Why is Vitamin D important?

This vitamin is essential for strong bones because it helps the body in producing calcium. Traditionally, Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets – a disorder that causes children to have weak and soft bones and skeletal deformities. Today’s research has shown the much greater importance of Vitamin D. This vitamin has many more functions.

Keeping bones strong: Having healthy bones protects you from various conditions. You need Vitamin D so that calcium and phosphorus can build bones. In the adult, having soft bones leads to osteomalacia.

Absorbing calcium: Vitamin D, along with calcium, helps build bones and keep bones strong and healthy. Weak bones lead to osteoporosis, the loss of bone density, which can further lead to fractures.

Enough Vitamin D may also play a role in helping to keep you healthy by protecting against the following conditions (and possibly helping to treat them):

  • Heart disease and high blood pressure, 
  • Diabetes, 
  • Some types of cancer, such as colon, prostate, and breast cancers
  • Multiple sclerosis. 

Where can we find Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. It also occurs naturally in a few foods – including some fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks – and fortified dairy and grain products. 

Who is at risk?

Vitamin D deficiency can occur for several reasons:

  • Having dark skin
  • Being elderly
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not eating much fish or dairy
  • Living far from the equator or staying indoors
  • Usage of laxatives, steroids, and weight-loss drugs
  • Specific medical conditions such as Cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and Celiac disease do not allow the intestines to absorb enough Vitamin D through supplements

What are the symptoms?

You may not recognize them easily, so this list might help.

  • Getting sick or infected often
    One of Vitamin D’s most important role is in keeping your immune system strong, so you’re able to fight off viruses and bacteria that cause illness.
  • Fatigue and tiredness
    Excessive fatigue and tiredness may be a sign of Vitamin D deficiency.
  • Bone and back pain
    As mentioned before, Vitamin D improves the body’s absorption of calcium. Stronger bones mean less bone pain.
  • Depression
    Low Vitamin D levels can cause a bad mood, even depression.
  • Wound healing
    Slow healing of wounds after surgery on injury may be a sign that Vitamin D levels are low.
  • Hair loss
    Besides stress, hair loss is often attributed to low Vitamin D levels, especially in women.
  • Muscle pain
    The causes of muscle pain are often difficult to find. Studies have shown that there is a link between chronic pain and low blood levels of Vitamin D.

Fortunately, Vitamin D deficiency is usually easy to fix.

Only 20% of our Vitamin D comes from our diet, and the remaining 80% is provided by our skin from exposure to the sun. If you suspect that you have vitamin D deficiency, you should consult your doctor. The doctor will order a blood test for Vitamin D and depends on the result, will start treatment with vitamin D supplements. The amount of vitamin D that is needed to correct a deficiency will depend on the severity of the deficiency and your medical conditions. 

Find out more regarding the association between low levels of Vitamin D and high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

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