There is an increase in the awareness of Vitamin D lately and its importance in optimal health. When our bodies are exposed to sunlight, an essential vitamin is produced naturally and that is ‘Vitamin D.’ Vitamin D is the only vitamin which our bodies can make from sunlight, unlike other vitamins. This vitamin plays an important role in the absorption and maintenance of calcium and phosphorus in our bodies. Vitamin D, a ‘fat-soluble’ vitamin is vital and is needed for our overall good health and bone health.

Benefits of Vitamin D: Here are some of the health benefits which Vitamin D provides us.

  • Assists in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus
  • Lowers the risk of heart disorders
  • Reduces the risk of diabetes
  • Helps in the development of strong bones and teeth
  • May help in weight loss
  • Aids in keeping your brain healthy
  • May help in reducing the risk of cancer
  • Helps in boosting immunity

Vitamin D deficiency: One of the common deficiencies in the World is Vitamin D deficiency. It is a deficiency that is prevalent in all age groups comprising from infants to the elderly. When there is an inadequate amount of Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus are not efficiently absorbed in our bodies. When there is insufficient intake in infancy, it leads to rickets, decreased development of teeth and slow growth. In adults, Vitamin D deficiency can cause osteoporosis, osteomalacia, a high risk of fractures, and muscle weakness.

Risk factors of Vitamin D deficiency: What could be the reason that most of the people in the world are deficient of Vitamin D?

  • When you work in an office with the AC on all day or you are staying indoors and there is less exposure to sunlight, there is a high possibility that you are prone to Vitamin D deficiency.
  • The usage of sunscreen reduces the ability of the skin to produce Vitamin D.
  • Few foods are rich in vitamin D and if you are not consuming them, then you are likely to be deficient in this vitamin.
  • Aging affects the production of Vitamin D in the body. So elderly people are deficient in this vitamin.
  • People with dark skin are susceptible to deficiency as the melanin pigment lowers the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D through sunlight.

Symptoms of Deficiency: Vitamin D deficiency is not easily recognizable as it may not always lead to signs and symptoms. If the levels are really low and have been low for quite some time, then the symptoms may show up. But do keep an eye for these signs and symptoms.

  • Muscle pain
  • Aches in the bones
  • Joint pain
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Poor immunity
  • Falling sick often
  • Depression

If you are facing any of the above symptoms, please talk to your doctor and get it checked.

Vitamin D sources:

Food sources: There are not many foods that meet our requirements of Vitamin D. The vegetarian sources are limited compared to animal sources. But the foods mentioned below are a rich source of Vitamin D. It will be beneficial to include them in your daily meals.

  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified milk
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Fortified soy milk
  • Fortified cereals
  • Oily fishes such as mackerel, tuna, salmon and trout
  • Beef liver
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Egg yolks

Exposure to sunlight: Exposing your skin to sunlight is one of the ways to get Vitamin D. Studies to suggest that the best time to expose yourself to sunlight and to receive a sufficient amount of Vitamin D is between 11 am to 2 pm. According to recent studies, exposure to sunlight for 30 to 35 minutes is adequate to produce 1000 IU of Vitamin D per day.

Points to keep in mind:

  • Avoid applying any kind of lotions, sunscreens as they are barriers to efficient absorption of Vitamin D.
  • Wear minimal clothing like a sleeveless top and shorts to get the maximum out of sunlight exposure.
  • Do take care not to burn yourself especially during the noontime as the sunlight is strong. If you feel that your skin is starting to burn, move away from the sun, and go indoors.
  • If you are sitting by the window for the sun to produce Vitamin D adequately, then it would not do its job well. Step out and get some sunshine.
  • Vitamin D absorption is lesser in winter and cloudy days. So make sure you get the best out of it during summers.
  • People with dark skin require complete 35 minutes of sunlight exposure as the pigment melanin protects the skin from UV radiation. So they need a longer time for Vitamin D to be efficiently absorbed.

Supplementation: If you are deficient in Vitamin D, your doctor would recommend supplements to achieve the recommended levels. Considering food sources are minimal, lack of fortified foods and exposure to sunlight may not be adequate, supplementation may be needed. The supplements are available in powder form in sachets, capsules or injections.

In order to avoid re-occurrence of the deficiency, it is always advised to go regular check-ups with the doctor.

So it is time to get some sunshine, have Vitamin D rich foods, and get your daily dose of this essential vitamin.