Vitamin D Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms, Food, and Treatment

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for optimum growth and development. The optimal range of vitamin D is 20 ng/ml - 50 ng/ml.  Vitamin D deficiency occurs when the blood level falls lower than 12 ng/ml. 

Vitamin D: Importance

Vitamin D performs the following functions:

Bone health: Vitamin D helps in the absorption of various essential elements for bone health like phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium. Its deficiency is associated with various disorders of the bone such as rickets and osteomalacia in children and osteoporosis in adults. 

Muscle health: Vitamin D improves muscle function and strength. It also reduces the risk of falls by maintaining postural stability. 

Cardiac health: Low level of vitamin D increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It regulates the blood pressure, reduces the level of parathyroid hormone, and improves vascular compliance. 

Kidney health: Vitamin D plays a role in maintaining kidney health. Further, the kidney converts vitamin D into its active form.

Lungs health: Vitamin D improves lung function by enhancing the respiratory muscle strength. It has a potent anti-inflammatory action. It reduces the risk of lung infection by increasing the secretion of cathelicidin.  

Weight management: Vitamin D helps in maintaining a healthy weight by interfering with leptin, which is an appetite hormone.  

Neurological conditions: Vitamin D improves cognitive functions by removing chemicals like beta-amyloid, which causes neurological diseases. It also acts as an anti-depressant. 

Prevention of diabetes: Vitamin D improves insulin sensitivity, thus prevents diabetes.  

Impaired or delayed wound healing: Vitamin D deficiency increases inflammation and delays wound healing. It is because vitamin D plays a role in the synthesis of chemicals that accelerates the formation of new skin.

Compromised immunity: Vitamin D boosts the immune system by interacting with the cells of the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of infection.

Vitamin D deficiency: Symptoms

Patients with Vitamin D deficiency may experience the following symptoms:

  • Falling sick very often

  • Feeling tired and fatigued most of the time

  • Low back pain or bone pain

  • Muscle pain

  • Delayed wound healing

  • Depression

  • Hair loss

Vitamin D deficiency: Causes

Following may be the causes of vitamin D deficiency:

Low level of intake: Not taking foods rich in vitamin D may result in its deficiency. It is especially true for the people who follow a vegan diet as vitamin D is present at a high level in food derived from animal sources. 

Limited solar exposure: Synthesis of vitamin D occurs in the skin in the presence of sunlight. People who have limited exposure to sunlight are at increased risk for vitamin D deficiency. 

Dark skin: People with dark skin have a high concentration of melanin. Melanin interferes in the synthesis of vitamin D.  

Underlying medical condition: Various medical conditions results in a low level of vitamin D. These include kidney diseases, liver disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders. 

Obesity: Fat cells do not allow vitamin D to release. Obese people are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency. 

Weight loss surgery: Weight loss surgery results in a reduction in the size of the stomach and intestine. It results in reduced vitamin D absorption. 

Medicines: Certain medicines such as steroids, anti-tuberculosis drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and laxatives reduces the level of vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency: Treatment

Following are the options for treating vitamin D deficiency:

Supplements: Supplements are available to increase the level of vitamin D. In severe cases, the doctor may also prescribe vitamin D injection.

Diet: Incorporating vitamin D rich foods in the diet helps in improving the level of vitamin D. Cheese, fish, egg yolk, milk, and liver are a rich source of vitamin D.

Dietary changes in Vitamin D deficiency

Following foods should be incorporated in the diet to increase vitamin D levels:

  • Seafood and fatty foods such as shrimp, oysters, and tuna.

  • Mushrooms

  • Egg yolk

  • Fortified foods such as yoghurt, tofu, and cow's milk

  • Cod liver oil

  • Fortified orange juice

Lifestyle changes to get some more Vitamin D

Various lifestyle changes may help in increasing the level of vitamin D. Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, and solar radiation plays a role in its synthesis. Thus, increasing solar exposure may result in enhancing vitamin D levels. However, solar exposure should be moderate as excess exposure increases the risk of cancer. Regular exercise also increases the level of vitamin D. You can also use the UV-B lamps under the guidance of your doctor.

Do Vitamin D supplements work?

Vitamin D supplements are one of the best methods to raise the level of vitamin D. However, the supplements should be taken under the guidance of doctors. Vitamin D supplements should preferably be taken with meals to increase absorption.

 

 Dr Gaurav Rastogi

Consultant - Orthopaedics

Manipal Hospitals, Dwarka, Delhi

 

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