Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D Deficiency

by Cheryl Smitherman DNP, CNM
Women’s Wellness at Flower Mound
972.355.9436
womenswellnessfm.com

Exposure to sunlight can increase levels of vitamin D in the body, therefore most people feel that their levels of vitamin D are acceptable because they get adequate sun exposure. However, it is estimated that 1 billion people worldwide and 41.6% of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient. The deficiencies are even higher in Hispanics at 69.2%, and African Americans at 82.1% related to increased amounts of melanin in the skin which blocks the sun’s rays. In addition, because of our increased awareness of the risk of skin cancer with sun exposure, limited sun exposure and sunscreen play a role in vitamin D deficiency because they reduce the number of ultraviolet rays that reach the skin.

Vitamin D deficiencies are also found in those who are elderly, obese, or insulin resistant, or have gastrointestinal malabsorption, poor liver or kidney function, a diet low in vitamin D (ie. vegan), hyperparathyroidism, sarcoidosis, lymphomas or take medications which may interfere with vitamin D absorption such as cholestyramine, steroids, antifungals or HIV/AIDs medications. The elderly spends an increased time indoors and efficiency of converting vitamin D decreases with age. Low vitamin D can also contribute to insulin resistance which leads to obesity where increased body fat binds some vitamin D and prevents it from getting absorbed. A body mass index of 30 or greater often have low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which means it requires dietary fat for breakdown. Individuals with gut malabsorption issues such as lactose intolerance, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, history of gastric bypass surgery or other gastrointestinal disorders have decreased absorption of vitamin D because these individuals do not tolerate fatty foods. Vitamin D is converted by the liver and the kidneys, therefore individuals with poor liver or kidney function are also at risk of having low serum vitamin D.

Most people know that vitamin D is an important vitamin for bone health, but are unaware of the importance in any other functions. Vitamin D assists with calcium absorption needed for bone growth and remodeling, maintaining normal blood calcium and phosphate levels, decreasing insulin resistance, aiding in cell growth in every cell of the body, supporting muscle health, reducing inflammation and promoting immune function. Adequate intake of vitamin D can therefore reduce bone loss and pain, prevent and treat osteoporosis, decrease fatigue, decrease joint and muscle pain or weakness, decrease “brain fog” and depression, and promote a strong immune system.

The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for adults is 600-800 IU per day when vitamin D levels are normal, but people at elevated risk for deficiency or who are already deficient require more. Foods naturally high in vitamin D include fatty fish, beef, cheese, egg yolk, fish liver oils, lean meats, poultry, beans and peas, nuts, seeds, soy products and mushrooms. Foods fortified with vitamin D include milk, breakfast cereal, yogurt, orange juice and margarine. Even with a vitamin D rich diet, it is very difficult to get adequate stores from diet alone. Fifteen to thirty minutes of sun exposure in the middle of the day without sunscreen can increase vitamin D levels. However, vitamin D cannot penetrate glass, so sitting inside by a window will not increase levels. Those with vitamin D deficiency will often be prescribed more than 4,000 IU to correct vitamin D deficiency. A normal vitamin D level ranges from 50 to 125 nmol/L. Less than 30 nmol/L is considered deficient and a range of 30-50 is considered at risk for deficiency.

Ask your healthcare provider today about checking your Vitamin D level to see if you are deficient or at risk for deficiency. Fortunately, vitamin D deficiency can be easily remedied and can drastically improve your health and well-being.


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