The Vital Facts about Vitamin D
Our bodies need different vitamins that help it perform various functions and Vitamin D is a crucial for many functions. But it is also different from the other essential vitamins in that the human body is able to manufacture it with exposure to sunlight. The key function of this “Sunshine” Vitamin is to regulate the absorption of phosphorus and calcium in the bones. It also helps in cell-to-cell communication, through the entire body.
Exposing the skin regularly to sunlight promotes the synthesis of a sufficient amount of Vitamin D and you will not need to take any supplements. But in most cases, it has been found that adults with a darker skin color or those who are habituated to wearing sun protective clothing while performing any outdoor activities, also have Vitamin D deficiency. This sunshine vitamin is truly a hot topic nowadays.
What is Vitamin D?
There are 2 forms of Vitamin D- D2 & D3. Vitamin D2 is also called ergocalciferol, and is found in plant foods. You can also get it from supplements and fortified foods. Vitamin D3 is also referred to as cholecalcifero and the Vitamin D foods are:
- Orange juice
The human body has the ability to form it internally when the skin is exposed to the UV rays of the sun. This vitamin is stored in the fat cells of the body and is used as and when required. The body constantly uses it for bone remodelling and calcium metabolism.
Vitamin D Deficiency
In certain conditions, the body becomes deficient in Vitamin D and it may not be able to synthesize if you:
- Live far from tropical regions. You will not have adequate exposure to sunlight for many months in the year
- You live in areas that have a cloud/smog cover for a large part of the year
- You are habituated to using sunscreen before stepping out into the sun
- Spend most of your waking hours indoors
Women who have diabetes or suffer from arthritis or some other chronic health conditions are more susceptible to being deficient in Vitamin D in the winter months. Even though most regions of India have plenty of sunlight, almost 40% of Indians are deficient in this vitamin. This is largely because those who have a darker skin pigmentation might need 20-30 times additional exposure to sunlight, compared to those with a fairer skin tone. Vegetarians are also more prone to Vitamin D deficiency.
In some cases, the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are very subtle and in some cases, they might not be present at all. The common signs of this deficiency are:
- Bone pain
- Muscle weakness
- Higher death risk from cardiovascular disease
- Severe asthma condition in children
- Cognitive impairment in the elderly
Numerous studies and research have proved that Vitamin D might play a very significant role in preventing and treating various conditions such as hypertension, Type1 & Type2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and glucose intolerance.
Vitamin D Deficiency Treatment
The actual quantity of Vitamin D that is required to address the deficiency is dependent on the severity of the condition. If your doctor has found you to be deficient in this vitamin, he/she will prescribe the required supplement in the right quantities. In cases where the patient is obese, suffers from malabsorption syndromes, or for those who are on certain medications that affects the metabolism of Vitamin D, the doctor might suggest dosage that is higher than the standard one. For optimal absorption, you will be asked to take the supplement with any meal that has a larger fat content.
Since it is a fat soluble vitamin, it needs fat for absorption. Your doctor will generally recommend that the Vitamin D supplement be taken with the largest meal of the day. Studies have indicated that this is the most beneficial method of taking the vitamin and that the blood levels also increase significantly within a period of 3 months. But Vitamin D deficiency treatment is always a mix of supplements, increasing the consumption of foods that are rich in this vitamin and getting sufficient exposure to sunlight.
So, have you ever been told to test for vitamin D deficiency? How often do you get out in the sunlight for your shot of Vitamin D? Do you take vitamin D supplements? Share your thoughts.