A lack of vitamin D does not just affect your bones, but poses more serious problems when neglected. As per the study 69% of Indians suffer from vitamin D deficiency, while a further 15% were found to be vitamin D insufficient. Because of long working hours and little or no time for outdoor activities, more and more people are suffering from vitamin D deficiency.
What is Vitamin D & why it is critical for Health?
Despite its name, vitamin D is not a regular vitamin. It's actually a steroid hormone that you get primarily from either sun exposure or supplementation. Vitamin D manages calcium in your blood, bones and gut and helps cells all over your body to communicate properly. Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses.
Give me vitamin D
The reasoning behind this concern is that vitamin D is made in the skin by the action of the ultraviolet rays (UV) in sunlight and this is the main source of vitamin D for most people. During summer, the majority of the population gets enough vitamin D through sunlight on the skin and a healthy, balanced diet. However, during winter everyone needs to rely on dietary sources of vitamin D because, the sun is low in the sky, and the atmosphere filters out nearly all the UV rays.
In fact due to current lifestyle, it is getting difficult for people to meet the ‘10 micrograms per day’ recommendation from consuming foods naturally containing vitamin D. People should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, if required.
Indeed, It's worth remembering that too much exposure to the sun brings exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which can have some nasty effects. Sometimes you can feel the heat from the sun on the skin but when it's windy or cloudy people may think they're less at risk but that's not true. UV can still be high and if you are over-exposed, your skin can burn which is not only painful but can increase your risk of skin cancer.
Sources to get Vitamin D
I firmly believe that appropriate sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D levels. If your circumstances don't allow you to access the sun, then you have only one option if you want to raise your vitamin D, and that is to take a vitamin D supplement. Here too recommendations vary, and there are no hard and fast rules.
What if you are vitamin D deficient?
Too little vitamin D results in soft bones in children and fragile, misshapen bones in adults. It helps control the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body, which are needed to keep your bones and teeth healthy. Having too little vitamin D (a deficiency) can damage the way your body absorbs calcium and phosphorus. Also, chronic low vitamin D status has been linked to poor immunity and an increased risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis, heart disease, some cancers, cavities, muscle weakness and bone diseases such as osteoporosis.
Know your vitamin D levels
Vitamin D levels can be checked through blood test.
Vitamin D Guidelines
- Aim to consume a vitamin D-rich diet all year round but especially during winter season
- Consider supplementation during the winter months. Consult with Physician or Dietitian to understand the requirement of supplement because, over dosage is also bad.
- Try to expose the skin on the legs and arms to regular, sensible doses (5-30 minutes a day) of sunshine between the hours 10am and 3pm without the use of sunscreen.
Natural sources of Vitamin D
- Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
- Fish oil
- Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soymilk, and cereals.
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Cow milk
Avoid too much vitamin D
While being vitamin D deficient is a problem; too much vitamin D leads to lot of problems as well. Excess of vitamin D may cause health problems such as dehydration, vomiting, kidney damage and kidney stones. Therefore, it is must to consume Vitamin D under supervision of healthcare professional.
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