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Vitamin D Deficiency: Causes and Remedies

 

Our bodies use Vitamin D in many ways.  Bone health and an improved immune system are the most widely known.  Depression, weight gain, heart disease and some cancers (breast, colon and prostate) may all be linked to vitamin D deficiency. Sunlight is the number one source of vitamin D. 

Vitamin D Deficiency: Causes and Remedies

Skin tone and Vitamin D

Webmd estimates that fair skin people get 5-10 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week.  Unfortunately, the elderly and people with darker skin tones don’t receive as much of the vitamin through sunlight.(1)  

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends not exposing unprotected skin to UV rays.  When weighing the risks with the benefits, it is wise to increase your vitamin D through improved diet and supplements. (2)  Do your research though.  Don’t waste your money on low quality products or levels beyond what your body needs.  

Location.  Location. Location.

We don’t all live in sunny climates year round.  People that live in the world's most northern regions (latitudes located above 37°) are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. (3)  Summer months shorter and sunlight is limited.  

Age 65 or over

During the aging process skin becomes less able to convert sunlight to vitamin D.  One major study found that Vitamin D deficiency is a common issue among older adults. (4)  It can lead to many other medical issues.  Some are heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and more.  This age group is exposed to sunlight less often.  

BMI over 30

Vitamin D is stored in fat.  When the body has an excess of fat, vitamin D levels in the bloodstream are lower.  Higher levels of supplements are needed for the same reason. 

Various medical conditions may rob your body of this vitamin D.  

Some forms of liver disease or cancer, diabetes, Crohn's disease and Cystic Fibrosis may all cause low vitamin D.(5)  Talk with your doctor whenever you receive a new diagnosis.  Ask what other side effects the disease, or medications to treat it, may cause.  

How can you increase your vitamin D levels?  

A simple stroll outside in the sun will do wonders. Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”.   Balanced diets are key to virtually all aspects of a healthy life. When sunlight exposure is limited, vitamin D supplements are important. 

Sunlight exposure may increase the risk of skin cancer.  Limit your daily exposure and use sunscreen.  

What if sun exposure is limited?  

Supplements may help vitamin D levels in the bloodstream.  Speak with your doctor about your symptoms and ask if there could be any other medical reason.  Afterwards do your research and choose a high quality supplement. 

Vitamin D Deficiency: Causes and Remedies

Can vitamin D levels be controlled with diet?

Your body is not meant to intake the majority of vitamin D through diet alone.  However, a diet rich in Vitamin D is important. Very few foods contain high levels of vitamin D.   Salmon, mackerel and mushrooms (if exposed to ultraviolet light during growth) are the top known sources.  

Egg yolks, cheese, beef liver, foods fortified with vitamin D and tuna canned in water are additional foods that provide benefits but higher quantities need to be consumed.  One tablespoon of cod liver oil offers nearly the recommended daily intake.

Can Vitamin D levels be too high?

Vitamin D toxicity (hypervitaminosis D) is rare.  It does not occur from exposure to sun or diet. It is the result of excessive amounts of vitamin D supplements.  

The main side effect is a calcium buildup in the bloodstream.  Common symptoms are increased urination, nausea, weakness and vomiting.  

Don’t worry.  This is not something that happens by accident.  It can take as much as 60,000 IU per day to create this condition. 

Most studies suggest not taking more than 600-800 IU per day.  Exceptions to this are those with a severe deficiency, darker skin tones or excess body fat.  Even then the doctor will not prescribe doses high enough to cause toxicity.  

Always determine if the supplement is high quality. Is it full of artificial flavors, preservatives, alcohol or other ingredients that may cause further issues?  Is the dosage in a range meant for your personal needs? When in doubt consult your doctor for help.  

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Sources:

  1. www.webmd.com
  2. www.aad.org
  3. www.health.harvard.edu
  4. www.ncbi.nlm.gov
  5. www.ods.od.nih.gov