Thursday, March 24, 2011

Understanding Vitamin D Deficiency

Spending significant time indoors could lead to a condition with some very negative side effects: Vitamin D deficiency!

Vitamin D has long been called the sunshine vitamin because it is largely produced in the body after the absorbtion of sun's rays. Without exposure to the sun, then it's very easy for a person to develop vitamin D deficiency, a condition affecting roughly 40%  of the American population.

Many people understand vitamin D's role in promoting bone health, helping the body use calcium for strong bones. Vitamin D has often been linked to rickets, a condition in which bone tissue does not properly mineralize, resulting in weak soft bones.

But the importance of vitamin D goes beyond bones. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with various maladies, including  an inability to fight certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment and increased risk of depression. Some research also indicate that vitamin D can help prevent and treat a number of condition including diabetes. Low levels of vitamin D may also be associated with schizophrenia and compound skin disorders such as psoriasis.

Vitamin D is a fat soluble  and is delivered to the body through fat cells. Individuals who are obese or have a high body fat index are more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. Although vitamin D is an essential ingredient for overall good health many people take it for granted. It is virtually impossible to get all of the needed vitamin D through diet alone.  Sunlight is the single most effective way to receive the vitamin D the body requires for optimal health and is entirely free!

The trouble with sunlight exposure is that today many people spend more time indoors than outside.  Futhermore, when outdoors, many are heeding the warnings of dermatologist and other health experts and lathering on sunblock products. While these protect the skin fro harmful UV rays, SPF creams and lotions also inhibit the body's ability to absorb our friend vitamin D from the sun.

Diagnosing vitamin D deficiency isn't always easy. Many times doctors mistake it for fibromyalgia, simply because muscle aches, pains and weakness are symptons of both conditions! But doctors can easily rule out a vitamin D deficiency through routine blood tests.

Sensible exposure to sunlight, around 15 minutes a day, 2 or 3 times a week could be enough  to restore proper vitamin D levels. Otherwise supplementation is an easy way to also increase vitamin D, primarily for those who are concerned about UV rays.

Individuals who are undergoing a routine physical examination should ask their doctor to include bloodwork that screens for vitamin D levels, as well as other essential vitamins. A doctor can determine whether a person lacking in vitamin D and prescribe a regimen thaq may include dietary changes, supplementation and/or increased exposure to natural sunlight.

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