Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb other vitamins as Calcium and Phosphors which are need to keep healthy bones and muscles. Vitamin D also helps with our general health and mood. There is also evidence to suggest that Vitamin D can help prevent diseases such as Cancer, Diabetes and Heart Disease.
Vitamin D Deficiency is common in the UK, where certain groups are more at risk. Vitamin D Deficiencies are be caused by three main reasons.
Increased need for vitamin D
Growing children, pregnant women, and breast-feeding women need extra vitamin D because it is required for growth. So, vitamin D deficiency is more likely to develop in the following groups of people:
Pregnant or breast-feeding women. Vitamin D deficiency is even more likely to develop in women who have had several babies with short gaps between pregnancies. This is because the body’s stores of vitamin D get used up, and there is little time for them to be built up before another pregnancy.
Breast-fed babies whose mothers are lacking in vitamin D, or with prolonged breast-feeding, as there is little vitamin D in breast milk. (Note: there are significant advantages to breast-feeding; you should not stop breast-feeding due to concern about vitamin D levels – your baby can simply have vitamin D supplements as drops by mouth – also available at PrivateGP.com)
Where the body is unable to make enough vitamin D
This can occur for various reasons:
People who get very little sunlight on their skin are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. This is more of a problem in the most northern parts of the world where there is less sun. In particular:
People who stay inside a lot. For example, those in hospital for a long time, or housebound people.
People who cover up a lot of their body when outside. For example, wearing veils such as the niqab or burqa.
People with pigmented skin (because less sunshine gets through the skin).
Strict sunscreen use can potentially lead to vitamin D deficiency, particularly if high sun protection factor (SPF) creams (factor 15 or above) are used. Nevertheless, children especially should always be protected from the harmful effect of the sun’s rays and should never be allowed to burn or be exposed to the strongest midday sun.
Elderly people have thinner skin than younger people and so are unable to produce as much vitamin D. This leaves older people more at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Some medical conditions can affect the way the body handles vitamin D. People with Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease, and some types of liver and kidney disease, are all at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Rarely, some people without any other risk factors or diseases become deficient in vitamin D. It is not clear why this occurs. It may be due to a subtle metabolic problem in the way vitamin D is made or absorbed. So, even some otherwise healthy, fair-skinned people who get enough sun exposure can become deficient in vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency can also occur in people taking certain medicines – examples include: carbamazepine, phenytoin, primidone, barbiturates and some anti-HIV medicines.
Not enough vitamin D in Your Diet
Vitamin D deficiency is more likely to occur in people who follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, or a non-fish-eating diet.
Treating vitamin D Deficiency
Most cases of Vitamin D deficiency are easily treated.
A course of Vitamin D injections can be recommended or alternatively Vitamin D supplements until the deficiency is under control.
Nutrition can also be discussed with the doctor.