November 28, 2011

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

Sun exposure and Vitamin D supplementationIt seems like everyday we learn more and more about the health benefits of vitamin D.  Vitamin D is really a hormone and a hormone is a chemical that is made in one part of the body and exported to other parts of the body where it controls and regulates certain cells and organs.  Though vitamin D can be obtained in the diet it is also made in the skin in response to sun exposure.  Vitamin D exerts effects throughout the body, and therefore vitamin D deficiency symptoms are many.

What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency?

There are many reasons why someone might be vitamin D deficient.  Some vitamin D is obtained through the diet and anything that interferes with absorption of vitamin D from the gastrointestinal tract can lead to vitamin D deficiency.  Also certain drugs like antacids and cholesterol lowering drugs can reduce vitamin D absorption.  Since vitamin D is also made in the skin, limited sun exposure will have lower vitamin D levels.  In addition, the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D decreases after the age of 50 or so. Also, vitamin D needs to be converted into an active form requiring a healthy liver and kidneys so disorders of the liver and/or kidneys can lead to vitamin deficiency.

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms and Signs

  •  In children vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets where the bones become soft and bend leading to a host of orthopedic problems.
  • Adult bones can become soft in the presence of vitamin D deficiency also know as osteomalacia.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is associated with bone and muscle pain.
  • In older adults vitamin D deficiency contributes to the development of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • Vitamin D deficiency is now associated with decreased insulin sensitivity contributing to poor blood sugar control.
  • Depression is linked to insulin resistance associated with vitamin deficiency.
  • Optimal level of vitamin enhances immune system function reducing the risk of some cancers.
  • Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of high blood pressure.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is associated with vitamin D deficiency.
  • Low vitamin D is linked to multiple sclerosis which is more common in more temperate climates (less sun light).

Best Sources of Vitamin D

The best source of vitamin D is the sun.  Usually ten to fifteen minutes of bright sunlight will be enough to improve vitamin D synthesis without increasing the risk of skin cancer.  Vitamin D is not found naturally in too many foods, but those that are rich in it include mackerel, salmon, sardine, shrimp, cod, halibut, tuna, alfalfa, liver, egg yolk, sweet potatoes and vitamin D fortified cereals and milk.  So be sure to regularily consume these vitamin D foods.

Optimal Vitamin D Levels

Though vitamin D levels above 30 nanomoles/liter have been traditionally considered normal there is increasing evidence that levels above 60 nanomoles/liter are more optimal and help to prevent cancer.  The nice thing is vitamin D levels are easy to measure taking the guessing out of how much vitamin D supplement one should take.  It’s simple – take enough vitamin D to get levels in the 60 nanomole/liter range.

See related articles.

“Can You Get Too Much Vitamin D?”

“What Foods are High in Vitamin D?”

“Stop Weight Gain with Green Tea”

“Are You Vitamin D Deficient?”

“Branched Chain Amino Acids May Increase Longevity”

 

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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