Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, is created in our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, there has been an increasing trend of Indians being diagnosed with a deficiency of Vitamin D, which is more worrying because we live in a tropical country with plentiful sunshine. Working indoors, avoiding the sun, smog and pollution as well as too much sunscreen are some of the reasons why people could develop this deficiency.
Why is Vitamin D important?
The human body needs a balance of all vitamins and nutrients. Vitamin D, in particular, is essential for the absorption of calcium. It also boosts immunity by fortifying white blood cells that defend the body against bacteria. Vitamin D is strongly related to depression and mental health, with a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, seen in countries with long winters. Imbalances in Vitamin D levels also have linked to bone health, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, cancer and more.
What are the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency?
A blood test will conclusively determine Vitamin D deficiency. Normal levels range from 15 to 50 ng/ml. Lower than 15 means you have a deficiency which necessitates supplements. At a level of around 30, just exposure to sunlight is enough to stay healthy. If you’re suffering from any of the following symptoms, you might want to get it checked out:
- Chronic fatigue
- Inexplicable weight loss
- Inexplicable muscle aches
How can we get Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is the overall name for Vitamins D2, ergocalciferol, and D3, cholecalciferol. Vitamin D2 is found in foods like fatty fish, but is normally used to fortify foods like fruit juices and milk. Vitamin D3 is produced in the body when it’s exposed to sunshine.
The easiest way to get this vitamin is by spending 15 to 20 minutes a day in direct sunlight, without sunscreen, at least 3 times a week. Your body can never make too much Vitamin D from the sun.
Vitamin D is also available as supplements, oral and injectable. Vegan Vitamin D2 is made from yeast and mushrooms. If you’re taking Vitamin D supplements, you must monitor your dosage as you might end up taking too much, which can cause hypervitaminosis D.
If any of this raises your concern or you notice any of the above mentioned symptoms, we urge you to consult your doctor.
What to watch out for
Sunburn is a major concern. Limit exposure to early mornings or perhaps evenings. Also, eat a healthy diet full of raw fruits and veggies – the antioxidants will help prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of cancers.