I was shocked by what I didn’t know about vitamin D and how prevalent vitamin D deficiency is as a health problem in the United States. I wanted to start drinking vitamin D smoothies, until I saw a list of foods I’d have to use to make them. I wanted to get the facts on vitamin D, so I visited my local library’s health and wellness database and did a little poking around. Here are some facts I found that I think everyone needs to know about vitamin D.
Fact: Vitamin D Helps You Digest Calcium
Your colon absorbs valuable minerals from food, but it’s not like a sponge. There’s a lot of chemical reactions going on in the digestive process, and there are chemicals and elements necessary to create them. Vitamin D is necessary for your colon to absorb calcium. Without it, your body can’t replenish your bones with calcium. In fact, your body will start to use the calcium in your bones for other bodily functions that require it.
Fact: Vitamin D Deficiency Causes Health Issues
Vitamin D deficiency is called hypovitaminosis D, for anyone who wants to drop that in a conversation. At least, that’s what Krisha McCoy, MS calls it in the title of her report on it. Vitamin D deficiency results in calcium loss. What I didn’t know is that calcium, in addition to bone health, is also vital to heart, muscle and nerve function. When your body doesn’t have enough vitamin D to digest calcium, then instead of food, your bones become its source of calcium. Vitamin D deficiency may cause health problems, such as:
- Rickets – bone softening in children. In extreme cases, rickets can cause bones to buckle under pressure.
- Oseteomalacia – bone softening in adults.
- Osteoperosis – loss of bone mass, usually occurring in elderly folks.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Spontaneous combustion (I’m guessing on this one.)
McCoy says the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may vary from weakness while trying to stand or go up stairs; pain in muscles and bones and falling down.
Fact: Vitamin D Comes from Food and Sunlight
You may have known that vitamin D is absorbed mainly from food and sunlight, but just because both are readily available in your daily lives, doesn’t mean you’re getting enough. Not surprisingly, a good diet is a good way to prevent vitamin D deficiency. While Vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in a lot of foods, many healthy foods are enriched.
Some good food sources of vitamin D:
- Egg yolks
- Vitamin D supplements, often coupled with calcium (talk to a doctor before taking anything.)
Sunlight is a different matter. In Calcium, Vitamin D, and Your Health, Cheskin and Margolis said getting 15 minutes of sun a week without sunscreen is all you need to get enough vitamin D. But it’s not that simple for folks with dark skin; darker skin pigment naturally blocks the ultraviolet light necessary for vitamin D production. As with anything, talk to your doctor about how much sun you need.
Fact: Breastfeeding Children Are at Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency
Breastfeeding puts babies at risk for not getting enough D in their diet, according to McCoy. To me, it seems that despite breastfeeding being natural, man was engineered one way or another to naturally absorb vitamin D from the sun. As society progresses, babies get exposed to direct sunlight without sunscreen less and less. I’m not suggesting letting your baby sun itself on the deck for any period of time, but if you’re breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about making sure your child gets enough vitamin D. If you’re using infant formula, be sure it’s enriched with vitamin D.
Fact: Health Issues Can Cause Vitamin D Deficiency
You can do everything you’re supposed to; get plenty of sun, eat right and be sure to eat vitamin D-enriched foods, but other health issues may still cause vitamin D deficiency. Cheskin and Margolis say that Celiac sufferers and people with Crohn’s disease are especially at risk. Malabsorption diseases prevent vitamin D from assisting the colon in absorbing calcium.
Please note: I am just a blogger who was sort of blown away by what I didn’t know about D vitamins. I just wanted to pass the word. I’m by no means a medical expert. If you have any questions about your health, I suggest you consult a doctor.
Cheskin, L.J., & Margolis, S. (2009). Calcium, Vitamin D, and Your Health. Nutrition & Weight Control for Longevity. United States. 24-26.
McCoy, K. (2012). Vitamin D Deficiency: Hypovitaminosis D. Conditions & Procedures in Brief.