Hi there, Sunshine: Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin D Deficiency
I think it’ s fair to say most of us know we want vitamin D. After all, we don’ t call spending a while in the sun “ getting a healthy dose of vitamin D” for nothing. Vitamin D (sometimes affectionately known as the “ sunshine vitamin” ) is one of the essential vitamins — meaning your body needs it in order to work correctly.
But how exactly does sunlight actually turn into vitamin D? And why do we want it, exactly?
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Cue the Vitamin D Experts
Knowing very little beyond the above information (even though I once had a vitamin D deficiency, myself), I actually reached out to four medical experts to help better explain this particular vitamin, its functions and some of the risks associated with not really getting enough of it. Read on for advice from board-certified dermatologist Alan M. Dattner, MD ; Annie Grochocinski, RD, LDN, CNSC at the University associated with Chicago Medicine ; June Hatfield MS, RD, CNSC, LD at Children’ s Hospital Los Angeles; plus Kathleen Meehan MICROSOFT, RD, LDN , a registered dietitian doctor. (You can read more about each of them at the bottom of this post. )
What does vitamin D do for that body?
While many of its functions are internal, calciferol also plays a role in skin health and wellness— especially when it comes to aging skin . “ Vitamin D assists protect against oxidative damage of the skin, ” says Doctor Dattner. It does this by protecting the skin from early aging— especially in relation to sun exposure. This is why you might notice vitamin D used in the topical treatment of psoriasis, says Hatfield . “[It] also regulates the activity of cathelicidin, an antimicrobial protein that promotes wound healing plus tissue repair and may modulate the inflammatory responses within the skin. ”
Calciferol plays a vital role in helping the body absorb and maintain a healthy quantity of calcium and phosphorus— in order to keep our teeth and our bones healthy and strong. Without enough vitamin D, says Hatfield, your body would only be able to absorb and use somewhere between 10– 15% of dietary calcium and close to 60% of phosphorus.
Meehan adds, “ Vitamin D helps control cell development and may reduce inflammation. Preliminary studies in mice have determined that will vitamin D may help protect skin against UV rays, but it’ s still too early to know whether that applies to human beings as well. It’ s exciting, but right now more studies needed to determine exactly what role vitamin D plays in pores and skin health. ”
How do all of us actually get vitamin D from the sun?
Many of us know calciferol comes from the sun , but what does that really mean? Meehan clarifies: “ Technically, you don’ t absorb calciferol from the sun. Your skin is able to synthesize the vitamin depending on a number of factors, including the season and the time of day when sunlight exposure occurs. ”
Dr . Dattner adds to this, explaining that when sunshine hits your skin, it undergoes a transformation process within the liver, followed by the kidney— until it becomes the energetic form of vitamin D called 25(OH)D or 25-hydroxy vitamin D. This particular active form is what doctors will typically test meant for when checking your vitamin D levels. Once in its energetic form, vitamin D will make its way back to the skin along with other important parts of your body to carry out its functions.
What happens if you don’ t get enough vitamin D?
If you’ re not getting enough vitamin D within your system each day, you might be at risk for a vitamin D deficiency. The deficiency can also be the result of not being able to properly absorb vitamins. When left untreated, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to more serious conditions like osteoporosis or malignancy.
Those who are the majority of at risk, says Grochocinski, include:
- Breastfed infants
- Old adults (65+)
- People with dark pores and skin (having more melanin can make it harder to get vitamin D with the sun)
- Those with limited contact with sunlight
- People with certain medical conditions which could affect their ability to absorb vitamins and nutrients
- Those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery
In most cases, most people won’ t ever have to worry about their vitamin D consumption. As long as you’ re spending regular time in the sunshine (wearing SPF protection , of course! ), including vitamin D in your diet and don’ t have any kind of significant risk factors, you shouldn’ t have an problem. However , if you’ re noticing any of the symptoms the following or think you’ re at risk, definitely check in along with your doctor.
What are a few of the signs of vitamin D deficiency?
Because vitamin D plays a major role in bone tissue health, “ weak bones or frequent fractures might indicate a vitamin D deficiency, ” says Meehan. “ Symptoms can be subtle, so mention bone pain plus muscle weakness to your doctor. In fact , vitamin D deficiency often goes unnoticed. Hatfield adds, “ Signs and symptoms of a vitamin D insufficiency usually won’ t be evident or obvious until the person’ s vitamin D level/status becomes severe, if at all. ”
Often , diagnoses happen after adults visit their doctors with issues of bone pain, muscle aches or general emotions of tiredness and fatigue. Other indications can seem completely unrelated, notes Dr . Dattner. These may include “ More frequent infections” and “ autoimmune disorders of the skin and elsewhere, sometimes appearing since allergies. ” He adds that even acne is actually a sign of a deficiency. Because these symptoms can be attributed to a variety of conditions, a vitamin D deficiency may not even cross your mind till you’ re told you have one.
What should you do if you think you have a deficiency?
If you think you might have the vitamin D deficiency (maybe you don’ t spend enough time outdoors or you’ re part of one of the higher risk groups), it’ s important to talk to your doctor. Hatfield explains that “ checking a 25OH vitamin D bloodstream level is the best, fastest and cheapest option to determine your calciferol status and can help determine supplement method and dosing. Pending lab results, if an insufficiency or an insufficiency is identified, over the counter supplementation may be sufficient or higher dose supplements (ex: 50, 000 IU/week for six weeks) may be prescribed by your physician. ”
What else should we all know about vitamin D supplements?
Nevertheless , it’ s important to remember that not everyone actually must supplement their diet with vitamin D. “ Keep in mind that higher dose supplements can be toxic if they aren’ t essential, ” Meehan notes. There can really be too much of a very important thing. Taking supplements you don’ t need can lead to vitamin D toxicity , which may cause symptoms like vomiting plus kidney problems. Be sure to seek advice from your doctor before starting any supplement or supplement routine.
For those who aren’ t getting enough vitamin D by means of natural sources, “ taking a supplement is an effective way to obtain the vitamin D your body needs, ” says Grochocinski. “ It’ s also a good way to get an adequate amount of vitamin D if you’ re worried about exposing your skin to the sun. ”
What are some of the best foods sources of vitamin D?
Unlike, say, vitamin C — which is abundant in fruits and veggies— vitamin D isn’ t an enormous part of the average person’ s diet. “ Vitamin D is located naturally in only a few foods and most foods that do include vitamin D only have small amounts, so it’ s almost impossible to obtain what your body needs just from food, ” describes Grochocinski.
While you can’ capital t rely on food, alone, to fulfill your vitamin D needs, it’ s still important to include vitamin D in your diet when feasible. The best sources include fatty fish (salmon, especially), ovum yolks, shiitake mushrooms and fortified foods such as whole milk or orange juice. “ Vitamin D aside, most of these meals are also a good source of protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and calcium mineral and should be consumed for these benefits as well, ” states Hatfield.
My Experience With Vitamin D Deficiency
When I found out I had a deficiency (I promise that sounds way scarier than it was), vitamin D wasn’ t really a concern of mine. I hadn’ t been experiencing any abnormal symptoms. I had eliminated in for a checkup and had some routine blood tests done. My vitamin D levels came back low, and our doctor gave the following recommendation: “ Recommend 1000 products of vitamin D daily. (Increase your intake associated with vitamin D-rich foods including low fat milk, cheese, sardines and salmon. )”
Looking back again, the most likely cause of my low vitamin D levels was obviously a lack of exposure to sunlight (and probably a poor diet because well). I was working long hours in an office and eating at restaurants for lunch more than I should have. That aside, I actually took my doctor’ s recommendations and also started making more of an effort to get outside every day (even if it has been just for a short walk during my lunch break). I noticed in just a few weeks of changing my habits that I had a lot more energy throughout the day and was in a better mood in general.
- Board-certified dermatologist Joe M. Dattner, MD integrates nutrition, used kinesiology and holistic medicine into his dermatology exercise in New York.
- Annie Grochocinski, RD, LDN, CNSC is really a Liver Transplant Dietician at the University of Chicago Medicine as well as a Good registered dietician at Rise Labs, Inc.
- June Hatfield MS, RD, CNSC, LD is a Clinical Dietitian II at Children’ s Hospital Los Angeles with a special interest in the research plus education of vitamin D .
- Kathleen Meehan MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for a corporate wellness company as well as Rise, the nutrition application aimed to help clients meet their objectives with daily help from an RD.