Let the Vitamin D in!

A blog by Dr. Shipra Patil 

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is produced by our body when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays from sunlight.

There are two types of Vitamin D. Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, is a plant source and is obtained from irradiated fungi, such as yeast and mushrooms. Most prescription Vitamin D products contain Vitamin D2, while Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is produced by our body after exposure to sunlight and in some fatty foods.

Sources of Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is also called the “sunshine vitamin,” as unprotected sun exposure on the skin is a major source of Vitamin D for both children and adults. A sensible amount of sun exposure of just 20 minutes per day, especially between 10 am and 3 pm, ensures enough ultraviolet B-rays to hit the cholesterol in the skin; here, the Vitamin D retention can last twice as long in the blood, compared to ingested Vitamin D.

Research suggests that Vitamin D3 is better than Vitamin D2 in raising blood Vitamin D levels. However, overexposure of sunlight to the skin can be harmful, causing redness, swelling, pain or tenderness, and sometimes blisters. From an aesthetic point of view, too much sun exposure can also cause increased skin pigmentation and catalyse the appearance of ageing. Excessive exposure can also damage the retina of the eyes and increase the risk of cataracts.

Consumption of certain foods can also help increase vitamin levels in the body. Dietary sources of Vitamin D are oily or fatty fish (cod liver oil, sockeye salmon, tuna fish, sardines, mackerel, rainbow trout, Atlantic herring, Atlantic cod, haddock, sturgeon), organ meat (beef liver, pork chops, chicken breast), egg yolk, white mushrooms, and various fortified foods (fortified milk, yogurt, orange juice, cereals, oat meal, pickled herrings, canned salmon, Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese).

What does Vitamin D do? 

  • Vitamin D can help maintain optimal skeletal health through the proper mineralization of the bone, thus preventing osteoporosis and rickets. It also offers dose-dependent fracture protection.
  • Vitamin D boosts immunity and aids in the fight against infection.
  • Vitamin D supplements lower the risk of viral respiratory tract infections.
  • The risk of cancers such as breast, lung, pancreas, colorectal and prostate cancer is decreased with Vitamin D supplements.
  • It regulates blood pressure, the growth of vascular cells, and inflammatory and fibrotic pathways, thus reducing the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular conditions, and stroke.
  • It has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, thus aiding in diabetes management.
  • It also has a role in the management of obesity, weight loss, depression, and multiple sclerosis.

Signs and symptoms of deficiency: 

Vitamin D deficiency is highest among people who are elderly, institutionalised, or hospitalised and in-patients with malabsorption syndromes, acute liver conditions and taking certain medications like anti-epilepticus.

Children with Vitamin D deficiency are often found to have started walking late or prefer to sit down for prolonged periods.

Adults can experience muscle weakness, fatigue, chronic muscle aches and pains, along with periosteal bone pain, fibromyalgia, mood swings, anxiety, palpitation, hair loss, and even obesity.

Diagnosis and treatment: 

The best way to determine vitamin D status is to test for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D). Recommended treatment with Vitamin D is dependent on the patient’s age and if the patient has a deficiency or insufficiency.

High doses of Vitamin D can have a deleterious effect on patients with hyperparathyroidism, lymphoma, hypercalcemia, chronic kidney conditions, atherosclerosis, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, pregnancy, and who are breast feeding.

Most people don’t experience side effects (weakness, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting) with Vitamin D, unless too much is taken.

To get tested for Vitamin D, be sure to call 800 352 and ask about our Vitamin D Screening Packages.