Wonderful D

Vitamin D, considered by some to be a nutrient or hormone, is becoming popular as a wonder supplement.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and maintain strong bones, preventing rickets in children. And not only does it have a role in preventing osteoporosis and bone fractures, it helps in preventing heart and infectious diseases as well as breast and colon cancer, viruses and autoimmune diseases such as Lupus and multiple sclerosis, and lessening the symptoms of asthma.

The best way to get D is by direct exposure to the sun for 15 minutes at a time from early March to November. The more skin exposed the better.

Very few foods contain Vitamin D naturally. Salmon, herring, mackerel and fish oils are the best natural sources.

Beef liver, egg yolks and mushrooms contain small amounts, but most dietary vitamin D comes from foods fortified with it.

Those at risk for D deficiency:

Dark skinned people; they need longer exposure to the sun to synthesize D

Breastfed infants since human milk lacks vitamin D

 Older adults; their skin doesn’t convert sunlight to D as easily as when they were young

The obese because their body fat prevents good absorption

People who don’t live in sunny places

Those that have diseases that affects fat absorption through the intestinal tract such as Crohn’s or celiac disease

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include musculoskeletal symptoms such as bone and muscle pain and weakness. A blood test can be administered to diagnose.

It is rare to have toxicity due to too much vitamin D and it is caused by excessive use of supplements.  A buildup of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia) occurs and symptoms would be nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and maybe muscle weakness. Treatment would be cessation of supplement and hydration.

It is recommended adults take 800U of vitamin D daily. Infants and children need 400U a day.

Vitamin D should be included in the multivitamin drops that the infant is given after birth.

Reference on the UpToDate website

Read more on the Mayo Clinic website

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