Vitamin D deficiency seemed to have been conquered since most food manufacturers started fortifying foods with this essential nutrient. This research was, however, only based on the fact that Rickets is no longer prevalent in the population, at least in the developed nations. However, Rickets is only the tip of the vitamin D deficiency iceberg; we are still a long way from completely conquering vitamin D deficiency completely. In fact; if statistics are to be believed, majority of the populations in both, developing and developed countries, are deficient in Vitamin D. Here are the key steps to understanding Vitamin D deficiency and how to deal with it.
1. Understand what the sunshine vitamin does
Vitamin D is needed for strong muscles, bones, heart, immunity and proper calcium absorption. Our body can actually make vitamin D on its own, but only when it is exposed to sunshine adequately. Human body, when it makes or acquires this vitamin, turns it into a hormone or an activated form called calcitrol. The body then uses such activated Vitamin D to fight infections, improve muscle function, perform blood circulation, in brain development as well as for anti carcinogenic action.
2. Most of us are deficient in vitamin D
You should know that you suffer from vitamin D deficiency if you are not getting adequate sunshine or taking supplements. Here are some other risk factors for vitamin D deficiency:
- People having darker skin tones.
- People who are housebound.
- People who wear a lot of sunblock or sunscreen and those who cover their body with clothes.
- People in far North regions
- Older people
- Infants who are breastfed but not given vitamin D supplements
- Pregnant women
- Obese people
3. How to know if you have vitamin D deficiency
Talk to your doctor about possible deficiency in this vitamin. Your doctor might order a 25 (OH) D level test and the result will be a number in units of ng/ml. If this number is between 40-80 ng/ml, then you have sufficient levels. If it is between 0-30 ng/ml, you are deficient.
4. How to overcome Vitamin D deficiency
As already stated, you need to expose your skin to Ultraviolet B rays for just 5 minutes to make Vitamin D naturally. You need not tan or burn in order to make this vitamin. The other option is supplementation. Vitamin D3 is the best form of supplement available today and it comes in different forms such as powder, capsules or tablets. It does not make a difference as to how you take this supplement or at what time of the day.
5. Making Vitamin D naturally through sunlight exposure
UVB exposure for 15 minutes for a fair skinned person can help one make large amounts of vitamin D3. Now that summer is almost here, you can go to the beach and expose the whole body for 5-10 minutes to the sun without using a sunscreen or sunblock. However, avoid exposure beyond this time as it can make your skin is susceptible to skin cancer. In just a little amount of time, the body can make up to 10,000 to 25,000 International Units of vitamin D. It is best to expose a large part of the body rather than only exposing the face and arms. Here are some points to note:
- The early and mid morning sun is best to make vitamin D naturally. Avoid the peak noon and afternoon sun.
- The more skin you expose, the more vitamin D your body will produce.
- People with dark skin will need more time and exposure than people with lighter/fairer skin to make the same amount of vitamin D.
6. How much supplementation is needed?
Infants need up to 1000 IU/day and adults need up to 5000 IU/day. Avoid taking more than 10,000 IU per day. People taking medicines for irregular heartbeat or thiazide diuretics should not take Vitamin D.On the days you do not get sun exposure, you must make sure to take a supplement. Here are some signs of excess Vitamin D supplementation that leads to hypercalcemia:
- Feeling sick
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent thirst
- Frequent urination
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle weakness and
7. Good dietary sources of Vitamin D
Many foods contain vitamin D but as per the Vitamin D council, these are not enough to overcome deficiency. Here are some sources of Vitamin D in diet:
- Fatty fish
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Fortified milk and orange juice
- Fortified cereals
Vitamin D deficiency generally increases in the winter months so you will especially need a supplement then.