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If you haven’t been getting enough vitamin D on the daily, you’re missing out. We’ve heard the term being thrown around endlessly, but what exactly is vitamin D? Also referred to as calciferol, vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that is found organically in certain food sources, and also when ultraviolet (UV) rays come in contact with our skin and then trigger vitamin D creation within our body.
Vitamin D when obtained from exposure to the sun or through certain food sources and supplements is actually inert and must undergo a process of hydroxylations within the body in order for its effects to be realised. The first round of this takes place in our liver where it is converted to calcidiol, and then the second process of extraction takes place in our kidney where it is further converted into calcitriol. While traditional notions of where one can obtain high levels of vitamin D point to the sun, it is also possible to infuse the nutrient in our system through other channels. But why do you need vitamin D? and more significantly, what are the benefits of vitamin D?
The nutrient is known to help with calcium absorption in our stomach alongside helping in normal bone mineralization, thereby helping prevent hypocalcemic tetany (involuntary contraction of muscles, usually the cause of cramps and spasms). The nutrient also helps in bone growth and bone remodeling, and if the quantity of vitamin D is insufficient in our systems it can lead to brittle and thinner bone structures or even misshapen bones. It has also been seen that vitamin D can help prevent the onset of rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
The presence of vitamin D and calcium can also help prevent the occurrence of osteoporosis in adults. But the list doesn’t end there – vitamin D can also aid in reducing inflammation and also maintain certain processes such as neuromuscular and immune function, cell growth, and glucose metabolism. The nutrient also plays its part in maintaining specific gene-encoding proteins (that further help regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis). Vitamin D can also help one fight against auto-immune diseases such as diabetes, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. So vitamin D has quite the role to carry out within our system, and it is essential to make sure one is receiving optimal amounts of it.
This naturally begs the question: what are the signs of vitamin D deficiency? A vitamin D deficiency can cause a host of issues, mainly centred around bones and muscles alongside the nervous system and the immune system. It is imperative to get your daily dose of vitamin D, which not only helps maintain calcium levels and lead to the creation of healthy tissues but also helps in building and maintaining bones. While a lack of vitamin D can cause rickets in children (although this is reported to be rare), the signs of its deficiency aren’t as loud in adults, although they can be roughly chalked out to bone pain, fatigue, muscle weakness/aches/cramps and severe cases of mood-related changes (such as depression).
With over one billion people suffering from vitamin D deficiencies globally, it definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly – it can cause hypocalcemia (when our calcium levels severely dip) which can have a chain reaction, ultimately leading to hyperthyroidism (when our thyroid glands work overtime to maintain the dipping calcium levels due to a lack of vitamin D). These issues can wreak havoc on ones bone structures and overall functioning and it is therefore advised to get in your doses of this nutrient. It is important to note that cases of vitamin D deficiency can affect any number of people, from adults to infants and is usually more common amongst those with higher melanin content (i.e, darker skin) or those who wear garments that extensively cover the skin. It can also be caused by those who face issues with body weight, one’s geographical location (and its associated environmental factors), and one’s overall ability to actually absorb vitamin D.
There are several vitamin D rich foods that can help one tackle deficiencies and insufficiencies. Vitamin D is mainly found in two kinds when it comes to food sources. The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 15 micrograms and whether one should opt for sun exposure versus food sources and supplements for their vitamin D treatments should be checked by a medical professional. The vitamin D food chart includes:
Salmon (the amount of vitamin D will vary depending on whether the salmon is wild or farmed however on average it is seen that wild salmon usually have more vitamin D content)
Cod liver oil (it is quite the popular form of treatment, being used for many years)
Swordfish (in moderation)
When it comes to planning your vitamin D treatments, be wary about the associated risks of the supplements you infuse into your system. As it goes with all kinds of vitamin supplements and intake plans, one should be as cautious about its benefits vis-à-vis its side effects. What are the side effects of too much vitamin D or a haphazard intake of vitamin D supplements? For starters, toxic levels of vitamin D are considered to be anything above 100 nanograms per mL. While it is uncommon for a person’s blood levels to reach the toxic mark even if they have administered a high dose, it isn’t impossible. Elevated blood levels, elevated blood calcium levels, gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, poor appetite), altered mental status, and kidney complications (sometimes even kidney failure), are definite side effects of too much vitamin D in one’s system. If a vitamin D deficiency is prolonged it can lead to several complications such as autoimmune issues, cardiovascular problems, neurological diseases, pregnancy complications and even certain types of cancers.
It seems evident that a consistent and focused intake of vitamin D can only be beneficial for one’s holistic health and functioning and therefore must not be glazed over. All treatment plans must be undertaken under the supervision of a medical professional, as the ease of administering supplements makes it a deadly risk.
Q: Which fruit is rich in vitamin D?
A: Oranges, especially fortified orange juice is said to be high in vitamin D
Q: How can I increase my vitamin D gradually?
A: Exposure to the sun along with a balanced approach to including vitamin D rich food sources such as mushrooms, fortified yoghurt, cod liver oil and salmon will help in raising one’s vitamin D levels gradually. It is also possible to achieve the same from a prescription supplement that has a dosage plan.
Q: Which vegetable is high in vitamin D?
A: Spinach, okra, kale, soybeans, collards, and white beans are high in vitamin D.
Q: Why is vitamin D good for you?
A: This nutrient not only helps in maintaining the calcium levels in our body (thereby preventing hypocalcemia and hyperthyroidism), it also boosts bone formation and bone health while also helping fight against inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
Q: What are the signs you need vitamin D?
A: If one is facing bone pain, fatigue, muscle weakness/aches/cramps and severe cases of mood-related changes (such as depression) it is usually because of a vitamin D deficiency.
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