Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins. Also known as the sunshine vitamin, it is produced by our skin in response to sunlight exposure.
What is the role of vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps to absorb and regulate the amount of calcium and phosphorus, critical for healthy bones and teeth. Many studies have demonstrated that a sufficient amount of vitamin D is associated with reduced incidence and death rates in certain cancers. (1)
Vitamin D is also known to play a role in insulin production and immune function. There has also been some new research suggesting that vitamin D plays a role in reducing the risk of contracting or being severely affected by the novel coronavirus. However, there is not yet enough evidence to support this, according to Yale Medicine physicians (2)
What is vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency, also known as hypovitaminosis D, means you don’t have enough vitamin D to keep your body functioning well. It affects almost half of the population worldwide.
What are the effects of vitamin D deficiency?
The symptoms are often non-specific and hard to link to vitamin D deficiency. Some of the effects of vitamin D deficiency include bone pain, fracture, extreme fatigue, and muscle impairment. It can also lead to depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, frequent infections, and immune system disorders. Vitamin D deficiency also increases the risk of uterine fibroids.
What are the causes of Vitamin D deficiency?
They are many reasons why you may not have enough vitamin D in your body. A deficiency in vitamin D can result from insufficient sunlight exposure. You may also have vitamin D deficiency if you don’t get enough vitamin D in your diet or have health conditions (gastrointestinal disorders, liver and kidney diseases) that can affect the amount of vitamin D in your body.
There are also certain medications like steroids, seizure drugs that can interfere with your body’s ability to convert or absorb vitamin D
Who is at risk of having vitamin D deficiency?
Some people are at greater risk of hypovitaminosis D.
- People with dark skin: the melanin, which causes skin pigmentation reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. According to a recent study of the Cooper Institute, 76% of adults African-Americans may be vitamin D deficient (3)
- Older people: Many factors can play a role in vitamin D deficiencies in older adults. A lot of seniors are homebound and get minimal exposure to natural sunlight. As people age, their skin thins, and there is a decrease in their capacity to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight. There is also a decrease in the ability of their kidney to convert vitamin D.
- Vegans: they are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency given the fact that they don’t eat fish or dairy, which are the main foods that contain vitamin D
- People who are always indoors are also at risk to have vitamin D deficiency
How to correct vitamin D deficiency?
You can carefully increase your sun exposure and eat more vitamin-D-rich foods. According to the National Institute of Health, “approximately 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen usually lead to sufficient vitamin D (4)
Vitamin D is not present in many foods, but there are still some vitamin-D-rich foods:
- Fatty fishes, also known as oily fishes, are a good source of vitamin D. Fatty fish include salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout.)
- Mushrooms are the only vegetarian vitamin D source. Like humans, a mushroom can produce when it is exposed the sunlight. Exposing the mushrooms to UV light can significatively increase the amount of vitamin D.
- Egg yolk
- Beef Liver
Vegans can eat foods with added vitamin D, usually say “fortified with vitamin D” on the package. The following products can be fortified :
- Orange juice
- Soy milk
- Almond milk
If you have severe vitamin D deficiency, your health care provider can recommend various vitamin D supplements.