Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most important health issues affecting our bodies, along with other vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately, due to our modern, fast-paced lives, reliance on processed foods, and a lack of healthy eating habits, our vitamin D levels have been decreasing.
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the human body, directly impacting bone health, the immune system, and even the proper functioning of the heart and muscles. Deficiency in vitamin D is a health concern that can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. In this text, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and consequences of vitamin D deficiency.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency:
The primary source of vitamin D for the human body is exposure to sunlight. When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) sunlight, it synthesizes vitamin D. However, several 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, the recommendation is to expose yourself to the sun for at least 10 to 15 minutes a day, with appropriate protection, of course.
- Skin pigmentation: People with darker skin have more melanin, which can limit the production of vitamin D in the skin. In this context, the ideal range for each body is 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 issues: Gastrointestinal disorders, such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, can hinder the proper absorption of vitamin D.
- Kidney diseases: Individuals with kidney disease may have reduced levels due to inactive vitamin D enzymes that need to be converted by renal enzymes. If the kidney is not functioning normally due to an illness, it may struggle to convert the enzyme.
- Hormonal Imbalances and Resistant Vitamin D Receptors
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency:
- Muscle weakness: Vitamin D plays a fundamental role in muscle function, and its absence can lead to weakness.
- Bone pain: Vitamin D deficiency is associated with bone issues such as osteoporosis and rickets in children.
- Fatigue: People with low levels of vitamin D may feel more tired and have reduced energy, leading to excessive sweating, especially on the face.
- Depression: Studies suggest that vitamin D is linked to mental well-being, and its absence can contribute to depressive symptoms.
- Weakened immune system: Low vitamin D levels can lead to immune system difficulties in defending against infections and inflammation. Moreover, studies indicate that individuals with vitamin D deficiency are at greater risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
- Mood swings: Serotonin (the happiness hormone) is only produced in the body when it has sufficient levels of vitamin D. Therefore, low levels cannot produce the hormone, leading to episodes of stress and mood swings.
- Vision problems: Low levels can affect the retina and cause night blindness and visual disturbances.
- Slow healing: Along with vitamins K and A, vitamin D plays a unique role in facilitating rapid and effective healing.
- Weak nails: Vitamin D can affect calcium levels in your body, leading to peeling, brittle, and even flexible nails.
- Difficulty conceiving: Lack of vitamin D affects the production of cholesterol, which is important for the production of sex hormones.
Other common symptoms include unexplained body aches, head sweats, frequent infections, weight gain, hair loss, infectious diseases such as thrush and canker sores, as well as mouth pain due to calcium loss.
Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency:
In the long term, vitamin D deficiency can have serious consequences for health. In addition to the bone problems mentioned, it has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.
The refore, it is essential to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D through sunlight exposure, diet, and, when necessary, supplementation. If you suspect a vitamin D deficiency, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for evaluation and appropriate treatment.
Sources of Vitamin D:
The sun is one of the greatest allies when it comes to increasing your body’s vitamin D levels. However, it is important to remember to use sunscreen to prevent burns and long-term harmful effects on your skin, such as premature aging, spots, and the possibility of skin cancer.
Additionally, there is a long list of foods that can help increase your levels, including:
- Egg yolk
- Chicken liver
- Beef liver
- Mushrooms, and many more.
How to Determine If Your Vitamin D Is Low:
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms and complaints mentioned above, it is advisable to consult a doctor to analyze your case and decide on the best approach for vitamin D supplementation if it is indeed the issue. Additionally, you can undergo a vitamin D blood test, also known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D. The reference values are:
- Greater than 20 ng/mL: Value for a healthy person with adequate vitamin D levels.
- Between 30 and 60 ng/mL: Recommended value for the elderly, pregnant women, and patients with conditions related to vitamin D deficiency, such as rickets or kidney disease.
- Between 10 and 20 ng/mL: Low value with a risk of bone loss and the possibility of developing symptoms and diseases.
- Less than 10 ng/mL: Extremely low value, often requiring medication supplementation.
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