Vitamin D is essential for the body to function properly, playing a role in calcium absorption, immunity, cell regeneration, and more. So what happens if an individual becomes deficient? Individuals dealing with a vitamin D deficiency can experience many symptoms, including hair loss, skin problems, muscle weakness, and muscle pain. Patients may also become depressed, lightheaded, and very tired. They might notice over time they're getting sick more often and take longer to heal. Patients may also notice back pain, and if it's very serious, their doctor may identify such problems as osteoporosis, osteomalacia, rickets (for growing children), or pre-eclampsia (for pregnant women). The bottom line is a vitamin D deficiency is a big deal! Getting enough of this vitamin to stay healthy is easy, though, once individuals know what's causing the deficiency.
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Limited Sunlight Exposure
Limited sunlight exposure is the most likely cause for a vitamin D deficiency. This is because vitamin D is created by the skin when it comes into contact with UVB rays from the sun. These rays are too wide to pass through windows, so if individuals spend most or all of their time indoors or in vehicles, they probably aren't getting enough UVB exposure. What individuals wear also plays a role in UVB absorption. Sunscreen can completely block UVB rays, though in practice most individuals don't apply it well enough to do so. Clothing, however, does block UVB rays completely. If individuals go outside often but are covered from head to toe in wool, they won't be able to benefit from the sun's rays. This likely plays a large role in why individuals tend to be more deficient during the winter. Melanin in the skin also plays a role in how much sunlight individuals absorb, and darker skin acts as a natural sunscreen, so individuals with darker skin will naturally need more sun exposure to get enough vitamin D.
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Not Consuming Enough In Diet
Individuals may also become deficient in vitamin D if they are not consuming enough in their diet. Depending on where individuals live, it can be very difficult to get vitamin D through sunlight, making their diet very important. Cod liver oil and fatty fish are great sources of vitamin D. The fat is important because vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means the body stores excess amounts in fat, rather than peeing it out like with water-soluble vitamins. Eating vitamin D with fat, specifically with something high in omega-3s, helps individuals absorb it better.
There are also other sources of vitamin D, specifically plant-based ones, as there are actually two types of vitamin D: vitamin D3, which is the type humans and animals create, and vitamin D2, the type plants create. Vitamin D3 is far easier for the body to use than vitamin D2, though they're treated equally on nutrition labels. That being said, mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D2. Many foods, such as dairy products, dairy alternatives, and even orange juice, are also fortified with a synthetic version of vitamin D (usually D2 because it's cheaper to create). Of course, individuals may also choose to take vitamin D supplements, though it is crucial to follow directions and not take too much, as this can be just as bad as not getting enough.
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