Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin naturally produced by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for the body’s calcium absorption, which helps keep bones strong and healthy. It also helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus. Unfortunately, most people don’t get enough sunlight to create enough vitamin D in their bodies leading to vitamin D deficiency.
How Does the Body Get Vitamin D?
The sun is the primary source of vitamin D in our bodies. When exposed to sunlight, our skin naturally produces vitamin D3, which helps the body absorb calcium and maintain a healthy bone structure. In addition to sunlight, some foods contain vitamin D. Fruits like cantaloupe and orange juice are fortified with vitamin D during processing. Other foods that contain small amounts of natural vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel
- Mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet light (portobello mushrooms)
How Does the Body Use Vitamin D?
The body uses vitamin D in a variety of ways, including the following:
- Vitamin D helps maintain normal blood glucose levels and aids in calcium absorption
- It also aids in the development of bone, muscle, and nerve cells
- Vitamin D is essential for immune function and helps reduce inflammation
What are Normal Vitamin D Levels?
According to the Vitamin D Council, most people with normal vitamin D levels will have serum 25(OH)D levels between 40 ng/mL and 100 ng/mL. Between 30 ng/mL and 40 ng/mL is considered deficient, while levels below 30 ng/mL are severely deficient.
How Do You Measure Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is tested using a blood test. The test called 25-hydroxyvitamin D measures the amount of vitamin D in your blood and helps to determine whether you have too little or too much.
What is a Vitamin D Deficiency?
It is a condition in which the body does not have enough vitamin D to meet its needs. A lack of vitamin D causes by diet or sunlight or a problem absorbing vitamin D from food or supplements.
How Can I Know if My Vitamin D Level is Low?
The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can vary depending on the severity of the deficiency. Some of the symptoms include,
- Aches and pains
- Feeling tired all the time
- Sore muscles and joints
- Fatigue or drowsiness
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor about getting tested.
Who is at Risk?
Vitamin D deficiency affects people of all ages, but some groups are more likely to experience it than others. For example,
- Children and adolescents who do not receive enough sun exposure are at an increased risk for developing the condition.
- Older adults may also be at risk because the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D decreases with age.
- In addition, those who do not consume enough food sources (such as milk or fish) that contain vitamin D are also at risk for developing this condition.
What are the Risk Factors?
It has been linked to osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, depression, autoimmune diseases such as asthma and multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
How is it Treated?
If you are deficient in vitamin D, you should talk to your doctor about taking a supplement. The doctor might prescribe a daily vitamin D supplement, which would be best for preventing future health problems related to the deficiency. The recommended dose differs for everyone, so consult an expert physician about what’s best for you.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to several health issues, including chronic pain, depression, fatigue, and more. It is estimated that 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D. So if you suspect that you have low levels of vitamin D, you should look into it and consider consulting an endocrinologist to ensure optimal health.