In Apran’s blog we have already touched on the importance of Vitamin D. However, there is a heightened risk of Vitamin D deficiency during the winter months. Therefore, we feel it important that the vitamin gets its own article.
In our story about the vitamin order origin, we have established the definition of a vitamin – a substance that is essential for the proper functioning of the body, but cannot be synthesized by it. In that sense Vitamin D is a curious exception – considered a hybrid between a vitamin and a hormone. Learn more about it in the article!
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble substance, extracted by the body from some foods or synthesized when exposed to ultraviolet B radiation from the 290–320 nanometers wavelength range.
The vitamin is popularly used as a treatment for rickets, but also relieves bone pain and promotes bone strength. It is often a part of the treatment for sufferers of:
• Kidney Failure,
• High Blood Pressure,
• High Cholesterol,
• Multiple Sclerosis,
• Rheumatoid Arthritis,
And even some conditions, heavily affecting the skin, such as:
• Actinic keratosis,
• Lupus vulgaris
Vitamin D is available in two forms - vitamin D3 , called cholecalciferol and vitamin D2, called ergocalciferol. The vitamin, ingested or synthesized, is originally inactive and has to be activated via processes in the liver and kidneys.
How do I get Vitamin D in my system?
Vitamin D is originally available in a limited amount of foods. Those include some fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. Smaller amounts of the substance are available in some animal products – the beef liver, fish liver oils, some cheeses and eggs, some mushrooms.
The way one obtains enough Vitamin D is a controversial topic.
• First, there is a limited number of foods that contain it.
• Second, the vitamin is synthesized in the body when unprotected skin is exposed to ultraviolet light. However, the danger of skin cancer discourages the healthy conscious community from choosing that option.
• Third, because of the great importance of Vitamin D for your bone, heart, digestion and skin health, fortification (enriching) different foods with the vitamin is a common practice. The recent trend to seek ‘clean foods’ (foods without additives and preservatives), though, sometimes strips the individuals of choices of Vitamin D enriched foods.
Because none of the three ways to get enough Vitamin D is guaranteed as sufficient and safe, many people resort to the guaranteed solution – adding a Vitamin D supplement to their menu.
What purposes does Vitamin D serve?
• Vitamin D regulates the levels of calcium in the blood stream. Deficiency in any of the two can be found to be a cause of rickets – a condition where weak bones bend under the weight of the body in children and lead to deformities.
• Vitamin D plays a role in increasing the absorption of magnesium – a mineral responsible for:
• Healthy muscles and nerves,
• Digesting nutrients and converting them into energy
• Being a precursor to serotonin – the ‘happiness hormone’
• Low levels of Vitamin D and iron have been linked to anemia
• Hypovitaminosys D has been linked to cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
• There is some evidence autoimmune diseases, such as asthma, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease, may be caused by the low levels of vitamin D in patients.
What are the symptoms and consequences of Vitamin D deficiency?
In children, Vitamin D deficiency is causing softening of the bones. When children start walking and spending more and more time carrying their own weight, the bones cannot stand the test of gravity and bend. It is a well known condition, called rickets.
Its version in adulthood is called osteomalacia. With osteomalacia usually no bending of the bones is observed. The symptoms include bone pain, muscle weakness, and inability for prolonged physical activity. Some experts suggest osteomalacia is so common, that any patient with chronic pain should de screened for Vitamin D deficiency (or ‘Hypovitaminosys D’). Although osteomalacia does not usually affect the appearance, it is to be taken very seriously as it is a precursor of osteoporosis.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include:
• Bone pain
• Brain fog
• Frequent fractures
Why am I Vitamin D deficient?
There are three ways to raise the amounts of Vitamin D in your system:
• Ingest Vitamin D rich foods
• Ingest Vitamin D fortified (enriched) foods
• Expose unprotected skin to the sun regularly and allow the body to synthesize the vitamin
As pointed out above, foods that are originally rich in Vitamin D are rare, and fortified and processed food is being vilified in today’s society.
Even healthy conscious people are rarely aware of the fact sunscreen – cosmetic and medical products with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) – inhibit Vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
Ironically, even people who regularly apply sunscreen often miss to reapply in time or miss to cover all skin areas. The ears and back of the neck, for example. Those uncovered areas sometimes provide sufficient exposure for enough Vitamin D to be synthesized.
However, that cannot happen during prolonged periods of bad weather, short days or limited light during the winter.
Spending too much time indoors also has negative concequences, because the ultraviolet light cannot penetrate glass.
If you feel any of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency or have a history of issues with bone health, you have to consider adding a Vitamin D supplement to your menu.