Vitamin D Deficiency – How Dangerous Is It for You?
How much milk do you drink and how much bread do you eat? If you’re like many people, you’re probably giving up or cutting back on dairy milk and bread, which means you may not be getting enough vitamin D; side effects from a vitamin D deficiency may be more severe than you realize. To understand why you may want to increase your consumption of vitamin D foods or even consider a supplement, let’s first take a closer look at this nutrient and why your body needs it. We’ll then talk about some good sources of vitamin D, symptoms of a deficiency, and what to look for if you do decide to opt for a supplement.
1. What is vitamin D, and side effects of not getting enough
Vitamin D is actually made by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight. This vitamin works along with calcium and other nutrients to build strong bones, and is also needed by your muscles, including the muscle of the heart. Not only is vitamin D itself needed for bone health but it also helps your body to absorb calcium, so if you don’t have enough vitamin D in your system, your body won’t absorb calcium properly and will simply be excreted as waste.
Rickets and bone diseases are associated with a vitamin D deficiency; this can mean greater risk of breaking a bone from a fall or impact, and greater risk of osteoporosis and other such bone-related conditions as you get older. Other risks of a vitamin D deficiency may include asthma, cardiovascular disease, and even certain cancers!
2. Why you don’t get enough vitamin D
Since the skin creates vitamin D when exposed to the sun, this is one reason why you have a deficiency of this nutrient, as many people today do their best to stay out of the sun! Since sun exposure is associated with premature wrinkles and other skin damage, and even with skin cancer, it’s not unusual for someone to avoid the sun or wear heavy sunscreens when outside. This can lead to a vitamin D deficiency.
Along with sun exposure, fortified foods are good sources of vitamin D; milk and bread often have vitamin D added during the manufacturing or baking process. Other foods naturally high in vitamin D include eggs, fish, and some fish liver oils. Persons who are lactose intolerant or who follow a strict vegan diet may not drink much if any milk, and others may be avoiding the carbs in bread, which can also mean a vitamin D deficiency.
Note, too, that your body needs to be able to easily absorb this nutrient when you eat vitamin D foods. Persons with digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease may not be getting enough vitamin D in their system even if they have milk and other sources of vitamin D every day. The body also absorbs vitamin D into the bloodstream through fat cells, and having too many of these fat cells can interfere with this process, so obese persons may also not be getting enough vitamin D in their system, even if they take a supplement or include vitamin D foods in their everyday diet.
3. Choosing a good supplement to prevent a vitamin D deficiency
If you don’t want to have fortified milk or bread and don’t get enough sunlight for the natural production of vitamin D in your system, it can mean that you have a vitamin D deficiency, so it’s time to think about taking a supplement. As with all supplements, always make sure you choose a reputable brand. Note the reviews left online and elsewhere, and read consumer reports for that brand and even the seller.
When choosing a vitamin D supplement, always look at the percentage of active ingredients; this refers to how much actual vitamin D you get in each dose, versus filler materials. A low-quality supplement may be cheaper but may have far less actual vitamin D, versus gelatin and other materials. Note also the dosage; a low-quality, cheaper brand may recommend that you take more pills every day than a higher-quality brand, so you actually use up and need to replace that cheaper brand more often! Invest in a quality vitamin D supplement for your health, and your wallet.
4. Signs of too much vitamin D
Very rarely does someone take too much vitamin D; side effects of loading up on this nutrient, however, may include fatigue and muscle weakness, as the muscles absorb more of this nutrient than they need. You may also experience sleepiness and headaches, loss of appetite, and dry mouth. These are common symptoms for when you take too much of any nutrient, as the body works to absorb it and then excrete it through the digestive system.
Other signs of too much vitamin D include a metallic taste, as the nutrient has not broken down properly when taken as a supplement. In extreme cases, you may also experience nausea and vomiting, as the body is expelling the vitamin D from your system. In some cases, too much of this nutrient can also lead to hardening of the arteries, especially in those with kidney disease.
5. Some Advice
Note that too much vitamin D can also mean absorbing too much calcium in your system, as the two nutrients work together. This high level of calcium may show up in blood tests. Also, you don’t want to have too much milk or vitamin D foods if these will upset your system in other ways; lactose can be irritating to the digestive system and breads contain lots of carbs that can lead to weight gain if you’re not careful about how much you eat.
As with all supplements and nutrients, it’s good to inform your doctor of how much you’re taking and ensure he or she monitors your health. While you have little risk of getting too much vitamin D, side effects of ingesting too much, or of having too little, can be serious, so ensure your doctor knows what supplements you’re taking and any potential complications to your health.