Vitamin D is a nutrient we need to consume and a hormone the human body creates. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin known chiefly for helping absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus, which are vital for building strong bones. Vitamin D can also reduce inflammation and help keep infections at bay.
Few foods naturally have vitamin D, but some are fortified with it. Supplements are widely used to increase vitamin D intake but come in two forms: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3, which are naturally occurring forms in the sun’s ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. Vitamin D production in the skin can be limited depending on where someone lives. For example, if there are long winters or sunlight is limited, people have a higher chance of being deficient in vitamin D. People with darker skin or higher amounts of melanin tend to have lower vitamin D levels because melanin reduces the production of vitamin D.
Do You Have a Vitamin D Deficiency?
A vitamin D deficiency essentially means that you do not have enough vitamin D in your body and can cause issues with your bones and muscles. As mentioned previously, vitamin D is vital in your nervous, musculoskeletal, and immune systems. In addition, vitamin D deficiency often affects anyone over the age of 65 who has darker skin.
If you have a vitamin D deficiency, there are a few things you can do:
- Increase your sun exposure.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin D.
- Take a vitamin D supplement.
Anyone can experience vitamin D deficiency, but it tends to affect those with higher melanin content and cultures that cover their bodies entirely from the sun, such as Middle Eastern countries. It affects about 1 billion people worldwide, and 35% of adults in the U.S. experience vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms in children include incorrect bone growth, muscular weakness, bone pain, or joint deformities. As for adults, the signs may be fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, cramps, or even mood changes. Of course, it is also possible to have no symptoms. Discuss any concerns with a medical professional.
Different medical conditions or causes of vitamin D deficiency, such as weight-loss surgeries or medications exist. Cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s, and celiac disease can prevent a person from absorbing enough vitamin D. Obesity can also lower vitamin D levels because fat cells keep vitamin D isolated. Kidney or liver disease can reduce the enzymes needed to change vitamin D to a useful form.
Medications such as laxatives, steroids, cholesterol-lowering drugs, seizure-preventing drugs, rifampin, and orlistat are all medications that can lower vitamin D levels.
Incorporating vitamin D naturally into one’s diet can be difficult as few foods naturally have vitamin D in them. Some include:
- Fatty fish (like tuna, salmon, and sardines)
- Rainbow Trout
- Beef Liver
- Egg yolk
- Cod Liver Oil
Some vitamin D fortified foods include:
- Cow Milk
- Soy, almond, or oat milk
- Orange juice
- Yogurt or dairy products
Can You Consume Too Much Vitamin D?
Consuming too much vitamin D can be an issue as well. It is difficult to get too much vitamin D from the sun. However, vitamin D toxicity can lead to hypercalcemia which is when one has too high of calcium in their blood. This is rare, but the symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Bad appetite
- Impaired balance
- Confused speech
Vitamin D is vital to our survival, but overconsumption can be bad as well. Before starting a supplement, speak with your healthcare provider. Consult them if you feel that you may have a vitamin D deficiency.