Contributed by – Preksha Buttan
According to research, 70% to 90% of Indians suffer from vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency is a common nutritional deficiency that impacts the body in major ways because it acts as a hormone and instructs all the cells in your body.
If you are one of those who spend most of their time indoors and completely avoid going out in the sun, then you may have to worry about Vitamin D deficiency in your body. Also, if your diet does not include dairy or meat then there is all the more reason for you to pay attention to this guidebook.
What is Vitamin D Deficiency?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is best absorbed when taken with fatty foods. But, very few foods contain naturally occurring vitamin D. A few of them are fish, fish liver oil, egg yolks and fortified dairy and grain products. However, the major source for it would be sun exposure. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it triggers Vitamin D synthesis and is produced endogenously.
Vitamin D supports calcium metabolism, i.e. it helps the body absorb calcium from food and supplements, which in turn promotes healthy bone cells. Other than this, Vitamin D is essential for:
- Cell growth
- Reduction in inflammation
- Promoting immune system
- Maintenance of calcium and phosphate levels in the body
- Regulating blood pressure and cardiovascular health
What causes Vitamin D deficiency?
If your diet does not contain the food which has Vitamin D in it or you do not step out in the sun or your body does not efficiently metabolize the Vitamin D then you are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
Let us look at the factors that can have an impact on Vitamin D levels in your body.
Obesity – According to various researches, obese people are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency. The study suggests that for every 10 per cent increase in body-mass index (BMI), a person can expect a 4.2 per cent drop in blood levels of vitamin D. Thus, it is necessary that if you are overweight or obese you need to be mindful of the fact that your vitamin D level will be less than optimal in all likelihood.
Improper diet – Vitamin D is found in limited types of food, specifically animal-based foods like fish, fish liver oil, egg yolks, beef liver and fortified dairy and grain products. Getting optimal levels of vitamin D only from the diet is difficult. However, including the above-mentioned items in your diet can help to some extent. Additionally, you can also consume supplements after consulting with your doctor.
Lack of sun exposure – Our skin produces Vitamin D when it is exposed to the sunlight. If you spend most of your day indoors or if you refrain from going out in the sun, you are at risk of its deficiency. To stay safe, start spending more time in the sun. You do not have to go out in the noon when the sun is harsh in the hope of absorbing more. But, you should spend at least 45 minutes in the morning sun. Also, make sure that the maximum of your skin is directly exposed to the sunlight while you are out.
Dark complexion – When too much melanin is produced within the skin, it results in dark complexion. Melanin acts as a sort of sunscreen and reduces the skin’s ability to produce Vitamin D when in contact with the sunlight. Thus, it is essential to spend more time in the sun. The more sun exposure you will have, the more Vitamin D will be produced within your skin.
Age – Your kidney’s ability to convert Vitamin D in its active form declines with increasing age. This increases the risk of Vitamin D deficiency. Thus, it becomes mandatory to have diet and supplements rich in Vitamin D.
What are the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms can be severe in some, while there will be subtle or almost no symptoms at all in other people. But no matter how small the signs and symptoms, the fact that it can cause various health problems should not be ignored. While it is necessary to know the symptoms of an illness, it is risky to self-diagnose and start treatment as these symptoms can be similar to other health conditions. Hence, getting a Vitamin D test is advisable.
Few of the signs and symptoms Vitamin D deficiency are:
- Hair loss
- Constant fatigue
- Weight gain
- Infections like respiratory tract infection
- Digestive problems
- Muscle pains
What are the consequences of untreated Vitamin D deficiency?
Ignoring vitamin D deficiency can prove dangerous, as it impacts your body in significant ways. Some of the health risks associated with untreated Vitamin D deficiency are:
- Reduction in bone density
- Risk of fractures
- Heart diseases
- Emotional problems
- Fertility problems
- High risk of prostate cancer and breast cancer
- Weak immune system
Understanding test reports
The blood test for checking the vitamin D levels is known as a 25(OH) D blood test and is considered the best indicator of Vitamin D nutritional status. The following table represents the values of Vitamin D for your reference:
|Below 20 ng/ml||20 – 30 ng/ml||30 – 100 ng/ml||Above 100 ng/m|
*Reference range may vary from lab to lab.
Frequency of the test
In case you test positive for Vitamin D deficiency, the follow-up test is suggested as per your treatment.
|Injections after 1 month|
|Tablets and sachets after 2 month|
Go for Vitamin D deficiency test every 4 months following the first test. Those who test negative for the test are also advised to go for the test every 4 months.
The best way to prevent any disease from getting worse is to alter your lifestyle. The most effective way to avoid a vitamin D deficiency is to increase your sun exposure. So, don’t shun the sun, enjoy it and try to get others to do the same.
Besides, adding Vitamin D rich food into your diet is another way to boost your Vitamin D levels. Increase your intake of foods like cod liver oil, fatty fish, egg yolks, orange juice, mushrooms and fortified dairy as all of these are rich in Vitamin D. After consulting your doctor, you can also have its supplements. These little changes will help you maintain your Vitamin D levels and will keep you safe against a lot of health issues like osteoporosis, fractures, high blood pressure or depression.
Moreover, you can add exercises into your routine. Avoid a routine where you put a lot a strain on your bone and muscles consistently. Give yourself breaks between intense workouts for recovery. Walking or swimming or engaging in some dance form can also be a good idea. Practising yoga outdoors is a great way to get some physical activity as well as get your share of the sun. Asana’s like Vrikshasna, Veerabhadrasana, Trikonasana, Bhujangasana or Shavasana can be beneficial for you.
You can use this guidebook to manage your Vitamin D deficiency and also refer to your doctor for tests and further recommendations. Do not ignore it as it can invite a lot of unwanted health issues. With a bit of modification in the lifestyle and a little care of yourself, you can definitely have a healthy and happy life.
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