Vitamin D deficiency is Associated with Higher Risk To: Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Autoimmune Diseases, and Depression
By Chen Ben Asher
In our society, vitamin D deficiency has skyrocketed beyond belief or understanding. Vitamin D deficiency is a global public health issue. After all the supplements, foods and sunlight we are trying to soak in, a whopping 1 billion people worldwide are still vitamin D deficient. In the USA, 61% of the elderly population, 47% of African American infants and 56% of Caucasian infants have vitamin D deficiency. About 50% to 60% of nursing home residents and hospitalized patients also suffer from vitamin D deficiency.[i]
Not cool, but a higher vitamin D deficiency is found among premenopausal women (64.7%) compared to postmenopausal women (49%).[ii] Women of childbearing age need to be more fit and healthy; however, an increased percentage of Vitamin D deficiency among younger women puts them at the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and depression.[iii]
In this blog, I will highlight some of the major causes of vitamin D deficiency among our generations today and how we may fix them.
Let’s get going!
Are You Doing Enough to Get Your Vitamin D?
After the recent health crisis, almost everyone among us has become aware of the importance of a strong immune system and the role of Vitamin D in building our immune system and our overall health. Even after repeated efforts to increase our intake of essential vitamins, the question that arises is why over 50% of women still suffer from the lack of Vitamin D.
Are we just not exposing ourselves enough to the sunlight, or is there more to it?
Diving into the other reasons for low vitamin D, you need to observe your symptoms first.
Why DO You Need Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential to protect against many diseases and health problems. Optimal levels of vitamin D support and improve your:
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
- Autoimmune disorders
- Hormonal imbalance
- Musculoskeletal system
- Bone health
- Heart disease and high blood pressure
- Some types of cancer, such as colon, prostate and breast cancers
- Multiple sclerosis
Before we start digging into the reasons for vitamin D deficiency, let’s look at the symptoms of being deficient in Vitamin D.
- Bone pain
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle aches and cramps
- Mood changes
- Mental exhaustion
- Hormonal imbalance
These are some signs of low levels of Vitamin D in our body.
Factors Compromising Our Vitamin D Levels
Many factors have been found to affect our bodies’ levels of vitamin D. Different studies have linked different factors with lower levels of this essential vitamin in our body. Some of these are:
Autoimmune Diseases and Vitamin D Deficiency
Autoimmune diseases are caused by many factors, one of which can be the deficiency of Vitamin D. You are more likely to increase your risks of diseases like insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and rheumatoid arthritis (RA)[iv] if the vitamin D intake is not enough. However, if you already are suffering from autoimmune diseases like Cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease and Celiac Disease, your vitamin D levels can also get lowered because your gut cannot absorb all the vitamin D from your diet and supplements.
Gut Health and Vitamin D
Our gut is the guard of everything that gets absorbed in our body. When we eat food supplements for vitamin D, or foods rich in vitamin D, our gut ensures that the appropriate amount of vitamin D is absorbed in our blood. People with gut health problems can reduce their vitamin D absorption through food and supplements. If you feel bloated, constipated or frequently suffer from acid reflux, there are high chances that your gut needs help.
Some types of medications also cause vitamin D deficiency. Individuals on those medications must take Vitamin D supplements to maintain their optimal levels. Laxatives, steroids, cholesterol-lowering drugs like cholestyramine and colestipol, seizure control drugs like phenobarbital and phenytoin, rifampin for TB and Orlistat for weight loss[v] are some of the known medications that lower the Vitamin D in the body.
Low Sun Exposure
Low exposure to the sun due to our increasingly hectic lifestyles is one of the major causes of lower levels of Vitamin D in our bodies. Most Americans spend time indoors in air conditioning, using sunscreens and indoor areas for physical activities, which is why their body is least exposed to the sun.
Covered clothing is one of the common reasons why we are low on Vitamin D and less exposed to the sun. In many countries like middle-east and other areas where there are prolonged winters, covered clothing reduces the direct absorption of sunlight by our skin, consequently lowering the desired vitamin D levels in our bodies.
In countries situated at higher latitudes, the amount of UVB sun rays reaching the earth’s surface is much lower in winters due to the sun’s lower angle. Short days and covered clothing make the absorption even lower.
Higher levels of pollution in the air mean higher carbon emissions. Carbon particles in the atmosphere absorb UVB radiation. Also, the ozone layer absorbs UVB radiation, and holes in the Ozone caused by air pollution may also affect the Vitamin D levels in people living in those areas.
Skin Color and Temperature
Dark skin tone means that your skin has higher levels of melanin. Melanin tends to absorb UVB more; thus, people with dark skin tone need higher sun exposure to activate their vitamin D production. Also, when you feel warm, like in summers, you are more likely to produce vitamin D than in winters.
Obesity and being overweight is directly related to the low levels of Vitamin D. Studies show that people with unhealthy, high weight are vitamin D deficient even though vitamin D can be absorbed in the body fat and made available to the body on days when the body is low on Vitamin D. A BMI of 30 and above are associated with Vitamin D deficiency. Obese people also need to take higher doses of vitamin D to attain the optimal levels of vitamin D required by their bodies.
Weight Loss Surgeries
Weight loss surgeries such as stomach bypass or small intestine bypass make it difficult for the body to fully absorb all the nutrients from the food. Individuals who undergo such surgeries need to monitor their nutrition profile and take supplements for vitamin D and other essential nutrients throughout their lives.
The older you are, the lesser the Vitamin D production in your skin. Younger people tend to produce more vitamin D. Despite the studies proving likewise, mostAmerican teenagers are deficient in vitamin D. These low levels are linked with teenage hypertension, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.Many other factors also cause the lack of Vitamin D as people grow in their middle ages.
Liver Health and Kidney Health
The liver and kidney are involved in the process of synthesis of vitamin D in our body. Liver diseases affect the absorption of vitamin D in the body because the liver produces lower levels of bile. Similarly, in people with some kidney diseases, bioactive vitamin D levels decrease to the point that the level is undetectable.
Human Breast Milk
Human breast milk contains a very small amount of Vitamin D. Infants who are completely breastfed are at a higher risk of having lower vitamin D levels. Formula milk also has a small proportion of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency in infants and children must be ruled out to ensure a healthy life.
These factors usually combine to multiply the effect we experience in the form of various symptoms. Women in their middle ages are especially vulnerable because of impending hormonal changes that may lead to problems like mental exhaustion, osteoporosis and other health concerns.
Sources of Vitamin D
- Food Sources
Vitamin D is found in various foods naturally, such as cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, tuna, fortified orange juice, milk, yogurt, sardines, Swiss cheese, sardines, egg yolk, beef, liver and fortified cereals.
It is majorly created in our bodies through sunshine. The UVB rays, when absorbed by our body, are converted into a bio-available form by our own body
- Dietary Supplements
Dietary supplements pack the recommended daily dosage, i.e., 800 IU of Vitamin D3. There are many Vitamin D Supplements available over the counter; however, choosing the right one for yourself requires you to know your current Vitamin D levels.
Regular Vitamin D3 Supplement
A daily, weekly, or monthly Vitamin D3 supplement can help you level off your vitamin D and prevent the risks of various diseases while supporting your bone and dental health. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium in your body, saving your bones from depleting over time and improving the hormonal imbalance in premenopausal and menopausal women.
You can order your daily dose of Vitamin D3 essentials here, and rest assured that your levels are optimized.
See this complete guide on Vitamin D Depletion and Support to know more about how a Vitamin D supplement can help.
Evaluate the factors that may be causing the deficiency in your body and take steps today to get the sunshine back in your life before it is too late.
[ii]Too little vitamin D in premenopausal women: why should we care? Accessed from: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/76/1/3/4689458
[iv]The importance of vitamin D levels in autoimmune diseases. Accessed from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21125142/#:~:text=Current%20studies%20have%20linked%20the,and%20rheumatoid%20arthritis%20(RA).
[v]Vitamin D Deficiency. Accessed from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15050-vitamin-d–vitamin-d-deficiency#symptoms-and-causes