Vitamin D deficiency is deemed as a global health problem, with over a billion people affected across the world. We produce vitamin D naturally in the body using sunlight. It is an incredibly important vitamin to us throughout our lives, as it stimulates growth, bone health and supports healthy immune system function. We have over 22,000 genes in the body and 10% of these are regulated by vitamin D alone. However, in the UK and many other countries in the world, our exposure to the sun is so limited in late autumn, winter and early spring that we may struggle to produce enough. Late sunrises and early sunsets can mean you may only make it into the sun on a lunch break or at the weekends! It is possible to ingest vitamin D through our food, and also to supplement this vitamin as well, so it may be worthwhile considering this during these all-important months.
Who Is At Risk Of Vitamin D Deficiency?
If you have a job that’s based indoors, it goes without saying that you’re probably likely to not spend too much time outdoors during those winter months. This, couples with colder weather already makes it difficult for us to want to spend more time outside. Elderly or frail people are also at risk because vitamin D production declines with age. You may also be at risk if you wear clothes throughout the year that cover over 60% of your skin, as this means that not enough sunlight touches the skin’s surface to produce it. There exists a debate as to whether sunscreen blocks vitamin D absorption in the skin. Speaking theoretically speaking, as our skin needs to absorb UVB rays to produce vitamin D this may be the case. However, this is not a case to not use sunscreen. Very few people actually use enough sunscreen to fully block UVB rays or use it too infrequently anyway, and the risk of not using sunscreen can put you at great risk over time. Lastly, people with a higher concentration of melanin in the skin, i.e. darker skin tones, experience a slowed rate of vitamin D production – which can make them more at risk too.
What Are The Health Problems Associated With Vitamin D Deficiency?
As mentioned previously, vitamin D deficiency is a global health problem due to the variety of conditions it can cause. Deficiency in vitamin D can cause obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, the development of cancers, strokes and autoimmune diseases. Recent evidence also suggests that vitamin D deficiency can play a part in the causation of 17 different cancers – including prostate, breast and colon cancer. All these problems likely stem from vitamin D’s important role in regulating the proper function of the immune system, as well as in brain function.
Is There A Link Between Vitamin D Deficiency & Autism?
As Vitamin D is so vital in the normal development and function of the brain, it makes sense that it could have an impact on the development in brain conditions such as autism. It has been found that children born with low blood levels of vitamin D have a 33% increased chance of developing autism. Furthermore, children born to vitamin D deficient women are more than twice at risk of autism. Newborns need vitamin D for normal brain development, but they need to ingest it from their mothers. This means it is even more important for mothers to supplement with vitamin D, and is also recommended that babies from birth to 1 years old that are breastfed are given an 8.5-10 microgram supplement daily to ensure they receive enough. For formula fed babies, these formulas are usually fortified with vitamin D, so it is not necessary to supplement.
What Are The Best Sources Of Vitamin D?
The two most common forms of vitamin D are D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 can be ingested through plant products, such as oranges, almond milk and mushrooms that are grown under a UV lamp. Vitamin D3 is derived from animal products, including fatty fish, eggs, liver and dairy products like milk. Both forms of vitamin D contribute to overall vitamin D levels, which, once they are metabolised by the liver, enters the blood stream as calcifediol. Therefore calcifidiol levels are what doctors will measure in blood tests in order to estimate your vitamin D levels. Some studies show that the amount of calcifediol produced is lower from vitamin D2 than D3, so this is also something to consider when choosing foods or supplements. If you do choose to supplement, the maximum amount that is safe to take in a day is 100 micrograms, but the recommended daily intake is 10-20 micrograms.
On the other end of the spectrum, too much vitamin D can also be problematic. Excessive vitamin D in the body can lead to a build up of calcium, which will weaken bones and damage the kidneys and heart. This however only applies to supplementation. It is not possible to overdose on vitamin D through sunlight, as the body just simply stops producing more. Too much sun exposure can obviously also cause skin damage or cancers, so do make sure that you’re not out in the sun for too long and wear sunscreen.
What Are The Benefits Of Being Vitamin D ‘Efficient’
If the problem has become chronic, you suspect it could be down to the alignment of your spine or a problem with a spinal disc, for example if you’re suffering with other symptoms such as stiffness in the neck or referred pain into other areas of the body – you may require a deeper investigation to examine the overall condition of your spine. Your local osteopath or chiropractor, including The Mayfair Clinic if you’re based in the London area, should be able to examine your spine using physical tests, and with x-ray imaging if it’s needed, in order to identify the underlying problem. Once that has been completed, a treatment plan can be formed to give you a plan going forward to relieve the pain and resolve the problem. This form of problem can be more difficult to resolve but it’s likely that without treatment it will only become worse.
In summary, with over 1 billion people affected by vitamin D deficiency, it should be taken a lot more seriously in our lives. Vitamin D is responsible for so many genes and bodily function, including the immune system and the brain, so it’s a vital vitamin to ensure smooth running of your body. Vitamin D can be produced by the body in as little as 10-15 minutes of outdoor sun exposure, but if we are wearing clothing that covers over 60% of the body (i.e. during those months where sunlight hours are reduced) then we may find it challenging to produce enough. Ingesting vitamin D through your diet can be doable with the right foods, but you may find it convenient to supplement with vitamin D during the darker months in order to make sure you have enough. Optimal levels can positively impact the risk of developing many serious health problems like cancer, autism, diabetes and autoimmune diseases. This means that getting enough is absolutely vital for your health in the long-term. If you consider supplementation, do make sure you’re not overdosing as this can also cause various health problems in itself.
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