Vitamin D helps our body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorous, two critical elements responsible for bone health and development. It is mainly sourced from sunlight and different types of foods.
Why Is Vitamin D Important for Good Health?
Vitamin D exists in two major forms: D2 and D3. While D2 is mostly derived from yeast precursors and plants, D3 is produced by our body when exposed to direct sunlight or obtained from fortified or animal-based food like fish, fish oil, egg yolks, liver, etc.
D2 and D3 are stored and inactive in our livers until processed or metabolized into calcitriol – the active form of vitamin D crucial for bone formation, growth, and healing. It facilitates the absorption of calcium and phosphorous from the intestine to make our bones dense and strong.
Studies show that vitamin D can also prevent the growth of cancer cells, reduce inflammation, and help control infections. Since most of our body tissues and organs have receptors for vitamin D, it is believed to be important in numerous other areas than bone health.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Its Health Risks
The vitamin D in your body may fall below the recommended levels for several reasons.
- It mostly happens if your diet doesn’t include food rich in vitamin D or you don’t get enough exposure to sunlight.
- You may also become deficient if your body can’t absorb enough vitamin D from food or convert it into its active form.
- Some medicines may also affect your liver and kidney’s ability to absorb or convert vitamin D.
The people at high risk for vitamin D deficiency include breastfeeding infants because human milk doesn’t contain enough vitamin D and older adults because their body doesn’t absorb or convert vitamin D as efficiently as youngsters.
Moreover, dark skin absorbs less sunlight, which means people with dark skin may also produce less vitamin D under the sun. Others on the list of high risk for vitamin D deficiency are people with certain medical ailments and those suffering from obesity.
Vitamin D deficiency is not always evident; its symptoms may take several years to appear. However, it poses numerous health risks in the long term.
Health Risks for Children
Children who are mildly deficient in vitamin D suffer from muscle pain and weakness. In some cases, vitamin D deficiency in children may also lead to rickets.
Rickets refers to the weakening of bones in children caused by vitamin D deficiency. Children suffering from rickets have bowed or bent bones and deformities in joints. They may experience symptoms like bone pain, muscle weakness, delayed growth, and problems in motor skills development.
Note: Rickets may also result from rare, inherited health problems.
Health Risks for Adults
Lack of vitamin D isn’t quite as apparent in adults. Adults with mild vitamin D deficiency may suffer from fatigue, bone pain, muscle ache and cramps, and mental discomfort.
Prolonged vitamin D deficiency may lead to the following conditions.
Osteoporosis refers to the weakening of bones to the point they can break and fracture easily. It happens when bone tissues are broken down faster than your body can replace them. Common osteoporosis symptoms include frequent fractures, height loss, receding gums, curved spine, and back pain.
Adding foods like fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks to the diet can help relieve the symptoms of osteoporosis in adults.
Osteomalacia refers to the softening of bones, also known as rickets in children. It causes multiple health problems, mainly pain in the bones and hips, muscle weakness, difficulty walking, and dental problems.
Researchers in the health industry are trying to find solid evidence to prove if low vitamin D levels also leads to other symptoms or conditions like depression.
It is important for nurses to educate their patients on the health risks of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the body. Fast CE For Less offers online nurse continuing education courses at https://fastceforless.com/ce-courses-for-nursing/ to help you gain increased knowledge to better care for you patients and advance your career.