Are you confident that you’re getting all the nutrients you need from your diet? Even if you consider yourself a healthy eater, you might be surprised to learn that you aren’t getting as much vitamin D as you need. The number of people with insufficient levels or deficiencies of the vitamin are on the rise. That means you could be missing out on some important health benefits.
Most of us know that vitamin D is necessary to build strong, healthy bones. Not having sufficient levels can cause soft bones in children, a condition called rickets. After being nearly eradicated, rickets is once again on the rise. In adults, vitamin D deficiency causes fragile or misshapen bones. This makes it easier for bones to break and increases the risk of complications including infections.
Scientists also believe the vitamin helps boost immunity, aids in diabetes management, and helps prevent heart disease. A number of studies have also indicated a link between vitamin D deficiency and some types of cancer. A new research study, the largest of its kind, shows strong evidence that vitamin D helps reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
When a study proves a link between two factors, it means there isn’t definitive proof that one circumstance caused the illness or disease to occur. It only means that those two factors occur together frequently. According to the data obtained during the study, more people with low vitamin D levels developed colorectal cancer. The study also showed that giving people vitamin D supplements reduced their risk.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
One way that your body gets vitamin D is through your diet. Foods like fatty fish, dairy products, orange juice that is vitamin D fortified, mushrooms, and egg yolks are the only ones that contain vitamin D. Even if you ate a diet composed mainly of these foods, getting the recommended value would be nearly impossible.
Another way that you can get vitamin D is from sunlight. When exposed to sunlight, the skin makes vitamin D. Today, more people use sunscreen or keep their skin covered when they go outdoors. Experts blame the worries over skin cancer for the higher incidence of vitamin D deficiency and the recurrence of rickets in children.
As experts continue to learn the value of the “sunshine vitamin,” more healthcare providers are screening their patients regularly to test their levels. Those with insufficient levels or deficiencies are given vitamin D supplements to bring their levels up to normal. These supplements are much more effective than using a multi-vitamin with vitamin D as one of the ingredients. The same amount of vitamin D isn’t right for everyone.
The U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends that adults up to 70 years of age get 600 IU of vitamin D each day. People with dark skin, or those who are overweight, stay indoors, or have a higher risk of colorectal cancer may need more than the recommended dosage.
Low Levels Versus Deficiency
The difference between insufficiency and deficiency is the difference between where your levels are and where they need to be. It’s like putting gas into your car’s fuel tank. You need to put in however much it takes to get the tank full. There’s a big difference between starting with an empty tank and one that’s over half full.
Some people have medical conditions that prevent them from absorbing supplements efficiently. They may require a higher dosage of vitamin D. For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients often have vitamin D deficiencies due to the poor absorption of nutrients from the intestine. The same condition makes it challenging to treat their vitamin D deficiency. If you have IBS, you should talk to your gastroenterologist about testing and monitoring your vitamin D levels.
It isn’t a good idea to just take more of the vitamin instead of learning your actual levels. Some vitamins are water-soluble, meaning that what your body doesn’t use gets passed in your urine. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. The body stores the excess vitamin in fat cells until it is needed. If you take too much, it can have a toxic effect on your body. Toxicity results in symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and fatigue. More serious symptoms include anorexia and arrhythmia.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
People with a vitamin D deficiency often have no symptoms. You may go for many years before experiencing vague symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they include mood changes, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, and muscle weakness. Since these symptoms occur with many other conditions, a vitamin D deficiency isn’t always considered. This is why doctors are beginning to screen regularly to identify deficiencies even when no symptoms are present.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your vitamin D levels can be determined with a simple blood test. If you have low levels or a deficiency, your doctor can prescribe the right strength of supplement for you. Your gastroenterologist can also provide you with screening tests for colorectal cancer. If you are at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency or colorectal cancer, monitoring your health is the most important step in prevention. If you are concerned about your risk for colorectal cancer, make an appointment at Carolina Digestive Health Associates today. We can determine the cause of your symptoms and the best approach to vitamin D supplementation for your needs.