In a sunburnt country like Australia it’s surprising to learn that Vitamin D deficiency still occurs in our community. Most people know that exposure to sunlight triggers our body to produce Vitamin D, and sunlight is one thing we have in abundance in our wide brown land. However a recent article in South Australia’s The Advertiser tells of a study to test the levels of Vitamin D in newborn babies and their mothers to see if “supplements are needed to reduce the risk of bone diseases among babies.”
According to the paper, the study is being conducted in response to the ‘re-emerging’ risk of rickets in infants in this country.
Why do we need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is actually a hormone that is responsible for managing the body’s stores of calcium. It allows our bodies to absorb calcium from our food. It’s for this reason it’s so important in the treatment of bone conditions like rickets, which is a softening and weakening of the bones in children. A similar condition in adults is called osteomalacia and both conditions can lead to misshapen bones, stunted growth (in children), teeth deformities, increased bone fractures, muscle pain and cramping and bowing of the legs.
Vitamin D also assists in regulation of the immune and neuromuscular systems, plays a part in management of cells, and helps to reduce inflammation in the body.
There have also been numerous studies into the possible role Vitamin D deficiency plays in a range of diseases associated with inflammation as well as mental health conditions such as depression, however the links are still unclear and more research needs to be conducted before any definitive health directives could be made.
What are the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency?
The symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are general and sometimes vague and can easily be mistaken for the symptoms of entirely different health conditions. They include:
- Noticeable muscle weakness
- Aches and pains that come and go and persist for many weeks or months.
- Increase in bone brakes and fractures
- Increase in sweating for no reason
- Exhaustion and general fatigue despite being well-rested.
If you have these symptoms and believe you could be deficient in Vitamin D you doctor will be able to conduct a blood test to have it properly diagnosed.
How can I get more vitamin D?
Exposure to sunlight is by far the most immediate and efficient way you can get more Vitamin D. However that exposure needs to be on bare skin, not covered by clothes and not smothered in 30+ sunscreen.
High protection factor sunscreen inhibits the amount of Vitamin D that your skin can absorb. Some still gets through, but not at the strong levels needed to make a real difference. If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer, but need to increase your Vitamin D levels, try wearing sunscreen with a lower protection factor and only going into the sun for short periods during the early morning or late afternoon when UV levels are not as strong.
You can also speak to your doctor about prescribing Vitamin D supplements which can help to boost your levels. Some people may require more or less Vitamin D than the standard recommended amount so it’s important to work with your integrative doctor to find the level that’s right for you.
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are the best food sources of Vitamin D. Egg yolks, cheese, beef liver and mushroom also have higher levels of Vitamin D than other foods and you can look in the supermarket for products like orange juice and yoghurt that have been fortified with Vitamin D.
It’s also important to note that people with darker skin absorb less Vitamin D than those with fair skin, and may need more sun exposure, more Vitamin D supplements or eat a diet richer in Vitamin D foods.
This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered in any way as medical advice. For reliable medical advice please consult a registered medical practitioner.