You’ve probably heard about vitamin D and how important it is for our health. But do you know where you can find it and what the risks of vitamin D deficiency are? Read our guide to learn all about it.
Functions of Vitamin D
This vitamin is essential in regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. In effect, it has a great influence on the health of our bones, teeth, and muscles.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Deficiency of this vitamin can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia (also known as “soft bones”) in adults. Both conditions can lead to permanent bone deformation. It can also increase bone fragility.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
Limited exposure to sunlight –sunlight is the best and the cheapest source of vitamin D. Our body is able to produce it by itself with help from the sun.The main problem, though, is that most of us don’t spend enough time outside and when we do we use sunscreens. Of course, sunscreen is important when you plan to spend a long time in the sun but try to skip it when you’re outside for a shorter time (especiallybetween March and September!). Covering your whole body with clothes can also interrupt the process of vitamin D synthesis.
- Diet – if you’re vegan you probably don’t consume enough vitamin D through your food, as most of the vitamin D sources are animal-based (i.e. oily fish, red meat, egg yolks – but even here the supply of vitamin D is low).
- Dark skin – melanin in the skin reduces its ability to produce vitamin D.
- Age – with age our kidneys lose their ability to convert vitamin D into its active form, so more mature people have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- Digestive tract diseases – some diseases like Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, and coeliac disease can affect the ability of the intestines to absorb vitamin D from food.
- Obesity – while it isn't completely clear why people with obesity have lower vitamin D levels compared to people with average body weight, research suggests that losing weight can improve its level in the organism.
Prevention of Vitamin D Deficiency
To reduce the possibility of vitamin D deficiency you should consider spending more time in the sun withoutapplying a sunscreen. As scary as it sounds, you should remember that what leads to skin cancer is not the sun itself, but sunburn. So, moderate and reasonable sun exposure can be beneficial for your health. A customer of ours, who is a herbalist is very aware of the necessity of exposing herself to the sun and was mindful of this during our unusually sun-filled summer. Subsequently she had herself tested and still has a vitamin D deficiency despite her efforts!
Vitamin D is found in very low quantities in food, unless it's been fortified, which is often the case with soya products like tofu or plant milk, orange juice, dairy products and cereals. You might consider taking supplements if you've been told you have low vitamin D levels after a check up. Reputable health food stores are a great place to inform yourself about a good quality supplement without loads of fillers (you are after all hoping to assist your body and not pump it full of synthetic additives).
Most of all though, make sensible use of the sun when it presents itself.