Vitamin D is one of the fundamental nutrients for our body, along with other nutritional elements and minerals. However, unfortunately, due to the current lifestyle characterized by the consumption of processed foods and the lack of healthy eating habits, we are facing increasingly lower levels of vitamin D in our bodies.
This nutrient plays an essential role in the human body, directly influencing bone health, the immune system, and even the proper functioning of the heart and muscles. Its deficiency is a health issue that can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.
Prevention of Vitamin D Deficiency:
- Adequate sun exposure: Moderate sun exposure is the best way to naturally produce vitamin D. Spending about 15 to 20 minutes in direct sunlight several times a week can help maintain adequate levels.
- Balanced diet: Include foods rich in vitamin D in your diet, such as fatty fish (salmon, sardines), egg yolk, mushrooms, and fortified foods.
- Supplementation: In cases of severe deficiency or when sun exposure and diet are insufficient, a doctor may prescribe vitamin D supplements.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency:
The main source of vitamin D for the human body is exposure to sunlight. When the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet B (UVB) light from the sun, it produces vitamin D. However, various circumstances can lead to deficiency:
- Lack of sun exposure: Living in areas with harsh winters, spending most of the time indoors, or wearing clothing that covers most of the body can reduce sun exposure. In this regard, it is recommended to expose yourself to the sun for at least 10 to 15 minutes a day, with proper sun protection, of course.
- Skin pigmentation: Individuals with darker skin have higher levels of melanin, which can limit the production of vitamin D in the skin. Ideally, the body should have around 60-70 nmol/L of vitamin D in the summer and 50 in the winter.
- Advanced age: The body’s ability to produce vitamin D decreases with age.
- Intestinal absorption problems: Gastrointestinal disorders and diseases can hinder proper vitamin D absorption.
- Kidney diseases: People with kidney disease may have reduced levels due to the inactivity of vitamin D enzymes, which need to be converted by renal enzymes. Therefore, if the kidney is not functioning normally due to some disease, it may have difficulty in performing this conversion.
- Hormonal imbalances and resistance to vitamin D receptors.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency:
- Weakened immune system: Low levels of vitamin D can make it difficult for the immune system to defend itself, making the body more susceptible to infections and inflammation. Additionally, research suggests that people with vitamin D deficiency are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
- Slow healing: Along with vitamins K and A, vitamin D plays a crucial role in efficient rapid healing.
- Muscle weakness: Vitamin D plays a fundamental role in muscle function, and its deficiency can cause weakness.
- Vision problems: Low levels of vitamin D can affect the retina and cause night blindness and visual disturbances.
- Bone pain: Vitamin D deficiency is associated with bone problems such as osteoporosis and rickets in children.
- Difficulty conceiving: Lack of vitamin D affects cholesterol production, which is important for the production of sex hormones.
- Depression: Studies suggest that vitamin D is related to mental well-being, and its absence can contribute to depressive symptoms.
- Irritability: Serotonin (the happiness hormone) is only produced in the body when there are adequate levels of vitamin D, so low levels can cause episodes of stress and irritability.
- Brittle nails: Vitamin D can affect calcium levels in the body, leading to peeling, fragility, and nail breakage.
- Fatigue: People with low levels of vitamin D may feel more tired and have reduced energy, often leading to excessive sweating, especially in the facial region.
Other common symptoms include unexplained body pain, excessive sweating in the head region, recurrent infections within short periods, weight gain, hair loss, infectious diseases such as candidiasis and aphthae, as well as mouth pain due to calcium loss.
Treatment of Vitamin D Deficiency:
- Supplementation: The most common treatment for vitamin D deficiency is the use of vitamin D3 supplements, prescribed by a doctor. The dosage and duration of treatment depend on initial levels and the severity of the deficiency.
- Medical follow-up: It is important to undergo follow-up tests to monitor vitamin D levels and adjust the supplement dosage if necessary.
- Improvement in diet: In addition to supplementation, making healthy dietary choices and including natural sources of vitamin D in the diet can aid in recovery.
- Healthy lifestyle: Maintaining an active and balanced lifestyle, with regular physical activity and a balanced diet, also contributes to bone health and vitamin D absorption.
It is important to remember that self-medication is not recommended, and seeking medical guidance before starting any treatment for vitamin D deficiency is essential. Vitamin D plays a vital role in overall health, and maintaining adequate levels can help prevent a range of long-term health problems.
Where to Find Vitamin D:
Although sun exposure is one of the primary ways to increase vitamin D levels in the body, it is important to remember to use sunscreen to prevent sunburn and long-term skin damage, such as premature aging and spots, as well as the risk of skin cancer.
Furthermore, there are various foods that can help increase vitamin D levels, including:
- Egg yolks
- Chicken liver
- Beef liver
- Mushrooms, and many more
How to Know If Your Vitamin D Level Is Low?
If you are experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned above, it is advisable to consult a doctor to evaluate your case and decide whether vitamin D replacement is necessary. Additionally, you can undergo a blood test to check vitamin D levels, also known as hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D. Reference values are:
- More than 20 ng/mL: Considered adequate for a healthy person with normal vitamin D levels.
- Between 30 and 60 ng/mL: Recommended range for the elderly, pregnant women, and patients with diseases related to vitamin D deficiency, such as rickets and kidney disease.
- Between 10 and 20 ng/mL: Low value, with a risk of bone loss and the possibility of developing diseases and symptoms.
- Less than 10 ng/mL: Extremely low value, usually requiring medication replacement.
And there you have it, did you enjoy learning more about vitamin D? Share your thoughts in the comments and don’t forget to share this knowledge with your friends and family.