Let’s begin this blog with a question. What do you think is the most important nutrient for your body? Some may say protein, others may say carbohydrates; the answer would be many. And somewhere down the list, probably at the bottom, would be vitamin D.
But just so you know, it doesn’t deserve to be at the bottom. Vitamin D is one of the most essential nutrients the body requires. But why is it essential? What purpose does it have? What would happen if somebody is Vitamin D deficient? We will be telling you all about it in this blog.
So, sit back and read along.
What role does Vitamin D play in the body?
To be brief here, Vitamin D primarily plays an essential role in bone development and maintenance. In addition, it is responsible for enabling calcium and phosphorous absorption. It also builds resistance to certain diseases.
Let’s discuss these functions in detail:
- Vitamin D is required to absorb calcium in the body. Calcium is required for bone development and maintaining good bone health.
- Vitamin D can reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases by improving immunity. Although there is only limited evidence that supports the claim, it is certain that vitamin D only has positive effects on the immune system.
What happens when you are Vitamin D deficient?
Vitamin deficiency can lead to calcium and phosphorus deficiency as the body will not be able to process the absorption of these nutrients. This decline in calcium and phosphorus may lead to hypocalcemia and hyperparathyroidism (where the body will attempt to regulate calcium levels).
Both hypocalcemia and hyperparathyroidism can cause symptoms such as muscle weakness, cramps, fatigue and depression.
While hypocalcemia means having low levels of calcium in the body, hypercalcemia is a state where the body tries to maintain calcium levels by borrowing calcium from your bones. Ultimately, the bone breaks down more rapidly than it can build. This can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Moreover, this increases the risk of bone fractures.
Although, vitamin D deficiency can affect almost anyone, be it a child or an adult, it is most commonly found in people with dark colour, older adults, breastfeeding women, obesity, and people suffering from medical conditions that limit fat absorption.
How do you know you lack Vitamin D?
The best way to know if you are vitamin deficient is through regular health check-ups as symptoms of the deficiency aren’t always apparent.
However, some symptoms can indirectly point to vitamin D deficiency. These include bone pain, muscle weakness, depression and mood swings.
So, does this mean I should stay in the sun all day long if I lack Vitamin D?
We all know the sun is a rich source of Vitamin D. But it is not the only source. Vitamin D can also be acquired through diet. Egg yolk, cheese, and mushrooms are some of the rich sources of Vitamin D.
Although Vitamin D can be acquired from diet and supplements, staying in the sun can also help. Now this doesn’t mean you have to stay in the sun all day long and risk skin cancer, tanning and hyperpigmentation (your skin nightmares). Let the sun exposure be limited. Do not go out in the peak hours, rather go in the early morning or before sundown when the sun rays aren’t harsh. While you are at it, do not forget to wear sunscreen. REMEMBER, YOU MUST APPLY SUNSCREEN EVERY 2 HOURS. Once a day is not sufficient to give you maximum coverage.
Can certain diseases also cause vitamin D deficiency?
Yes, certain diseases can also cause vitamin deficiency. These diseases include Cystic Fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, obesity, kidney diseases and liver diseases. Weight loss surgeries can also cause vitamin D.
In addition to these diseases and surgeries, certain medicines, including laxatives and steroids can also contribute to the deficiency.
These deficiencies, whether caused by dietary limitations, lifestyle factors, or medical conditions, underscore the importance of diligent self-care and informed choices. Just as the absence of these vital nutrients can cast a cloud over our well-being, their restoration can herald transformative improvements in our vitality. With medical knowledge as our guide and a commitment to nourishing our bodies, we possess the power to dispel these shadows, embracing a future where optimal health and well-being take centre stage.