Vitamin D is found in a variety of places. We consume it in the dairy products we eat and drink. Eggs and certain kinds of fish are an abundant source. We even absorb it through our skin by spending time outdoors in direct sunlight.
The most important benefit of vitamin D is that it keeps our bones healthy and strong. Without enough of this vital nutrient, we could develop a condition known as rickets where the bones become soft and possibly deformed.
Aside from just bone health, research now suggests that a vitamin D deficiency can play a role in a number of other illnesses. Not having enough vitamin D can possibly increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D deficiency can be responsible for severe asthma in children and it can speed up mental deterioration in the elderly.
How can I tell if I have a Vitamin D deficiency?
Some patients experiencing Vitamin D deficiency may notice weaker muscles or pain in their bones. For a lot of people, a deficiency may have no initial symptoms at all. Here are some factors that could contribute to lower amounts of vitamin D in your body:
- Lack of exposure to sunlight.
- Darker skin. Melanin inhibits your ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D.
- Not enough milk in your diet.
- A vegan diet.
- Problems with your digestive system such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease which prevent proper absorption of Vitamin D from the foods you eat.
- Kidney problems.
- Body mass index at 30 or above. Fat cells pull vitamin D from the blood stream, preventing it from reaching other parts of your body.
Vitamin D Deficiency – Diagnosis and Treatment
The easiest way for a doctor to determine if you are vitamin D deficient is to perform a blood test which checks the Vitamin D levels in your blood stream. If a deficiency is found, your doctor may recommend a combination of diet changes and supplements to try and bring your levels back to normal. This is especially important in patients aged 70 and older, because at that stage of life, the necessary levels of vitamin D increase from 600 IU to 800 IU.
In addition to preventing rickets, vitamin D supplementation can be used to prevent or treat a number of other conditions:
- Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
- Glucose intolerance
- Multiple sclerosis