Thursday, July 14, 2016

Vitamin D Deficiency - Causes and Symptoms

Over the past few decades, deficiency of vitamin D has become well recognized all over the globe. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that at least 50% of the general population has varying degrees of vitamin D deficiency. In addition, the deficiency is more prevalent in seniors and people of color. 
Worldwide, the number of people with vitamin D deficiency are said to be very high because of
poverty, malnutrition and adherence to strict vegetarian diets.

What causes Vitamin D deficiency?

There are many reasons for vitamin D deficiency which include the following:
1. Living an indoor life and shunning the sun. This is especially true in people who live in northern latitudes, wear long sleeved garments for religious reasons, or have an occupation that is indoors.
2. Avoiding dairy products like milk because of allergies or intolerance.
3. Eating a strict vegan diet since most natural sources of vitamin D come from animals foods like fish oil, fish, fortified milk, egg yolk, liver and beef.
4. Not eating the recommended levels of vitamin D.
5. Having a dark skin complexion. The pigment that gives the skin its color, melanin, decreases the ability of skin to make vitamin D following sun exposure. The darker the skin complexion, the lower the rate of vitamin D formation. Thus, vitamin D deficiency is common in Asians, Africans and orientals.
6. Kidney disease. The kidney plays a role in converting vitamin D to its active form. People with kidney disease are not able to do this and consequently will develop vitamin D deficiency if they do not take supplements.
7. Problems with the digestive system. There are some people who have problem-absorbing vitamin D from the digestive tract. Disorder like cystic fibrosis, Crohn disease and celiac disease can affect one’s ability absorb vitamin D from the intestine.
8. Being overweight. Research reveals that people who are overweight have low levels of vitamin D because the fat cells are not able to extract the vitamin from the blood circulation.

Why do we need Vitamin D?

Vitamin D has many functions and is essential for growth of strong bones. It also helps with absorption of calcium from the digestive tract. For many years, it was widely believed that vitamin D was only important for prevention of bone disease like rickets and osteoporosis. Today, there is more evidence indicating that that vitamin D has a number of other benefits including modulating high blood pressure, enhancing the immune system, and playing a role in various mood disorders. The latest research reveals that Vitamin D may play a role in prevention and treatment of several medical disorders like high blood pressure, type 1 and type 2 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

 Vitamin D Deficiency symptoms

1. Initially there may be no symptoms
2. Bone and muscle pain
3. Weakness and fatigue
4. Prone to infections
5. Varying mood

What are risks of having low vitamin D levels?

1. Increase risk of death from heart disease
2. Severe asthma as a child
3. Develop some types of cancer
4. Mental and cognitive impairment

How is vitamin D deficiency diagnosed?

A blood test to measure the levels of vitamin D is necessary to determine if one is deficient. Levels less than 12ng/ml is a good indication of vitamin D deficiency.
How is vitamin D deficiency treated?

There are several ways to correct vitamin D deficiency which include the following:
1. Eat foods that are fortified with vitamin D like whole grains, low fat dairy and cereals.
2. Take Vitamin D supplements
How much vitamin D is required?

The consensus of how much vitamin D is required for good health depends on your age, health and sex. Most experts suggest that the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D should be 600 international units (IU) for al people between ages 1-69. For people over the age of 69, the level should be 800 IU to optimize bone health. One should not consume more than 4,000 IU to correct the deficiency.

How can I prevent vitamin D deficiency?

One of the best ways to prevent vitamin D deficiency is to seek sun exposure; as little as 10-15 minutes of daily sun exposure can prevent the deficiency.

What are side effects of vitamin D?

1. Vitamin D is very safe when taken by mouth. There are some people who are not able to swallow and they may require injections 3 times a year.
2. Individuals with any type of allergy should avoid vitamin D.
3. Very high levels of vitamin D may cause build of calcium in blood vessels and cause sedation. Others may develop headaches, increased risk of fractures, heart attack and stroke. There is also evidence indicating that excessively high levels of vitamin D can affect blood pressure and sugar levels.
4. Vitamin D is safe for consumption by both pregnant women and those who are breast-feeding.