Vitamin-D is one of the essential nutrients required by the human body and it is the precursor for the production of an important steroid hormone called Calcitriol in the body. Vitamin-D works in concert with other vitamins and minerals to support healthy bone growth. In other words, Vitamin-D is very important for mineralization and de-mineralization in the body.
Vitamin-D is an important factor which regulates normal cell growth and differentiation throughout the body; It is a key factor in maintaining hormonal balance and for a fully functional immune system. Calcitriol becomes an integral part of all cells and assists in building and breakdown of all tissues.
Human body cannot synthesize Vitamin-D on its own. But in the presence of sunlight, body can produce Vitamin-D. Common sources for Vitamin-D in food include cod liver oil, eggs, fish etc.
Conditions that can cause Vitamin-D deficiency
* Using sunscreen or covering all body parts preventing sun light’s penetration into skin
* Dark skin (dark skin actually produces less Vitamin-D)
* Exclusive breast feeding of babies
* Renal or intestinal problems in women
Symptoms of Vitamin-D deficiency
Hypovitaminosis-D (Deficiency of Vitamin D) in children causes a condition called rickets and in adults, osteomalacia. Most common symptoms associated with deficiency of Vitamin-D are muscle pain, weak bones causing even fractures, low energy and fatigue, lowered immunity, insomnia, depression and mood swings.
As aging occurs, body loses the ability to mobilize Vitamin-D. This reduces calcium absorption rates and thus causes problems in the functioning of bones. It can lead to bones becoming porous and weak, a condition known as osteoporosis. Post-menopausal women face a higher risk of osteoporosis, as their estrogen levels go low which is an important factor involved in calcium metabolism.
People who have an impaired mechanism involved with Vitamin-D mobilization weigh more, thus becoming obese. Stress and other psychological factors seem to disrupt the function of Vitamin-D receptors thus making the body susceptible to unusual cell activity which can lead to cancer. Research has shown that Vitamin-D supplementation or sunlight induced Vitamin-D conversion is associated with lower incidence of cancers. Vitamin-D is also believed to have protective action against a few cancers like breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancers.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a situational mood disorder brought on by decreasing daylight in the winter months. High doses of vitamin D during these months have proven to be a very effective natural remedy for SAD which might be due to the fact that normal neurotransmitter function depends in part on adequate vitamin D synthesis.
Vitamin D levels are inversely related to those of melatonin, a mood-regulating hormone. While sunlight aids synthesis of Vitamin D in the body, it is darkness, on the other hand, that triggers secretion of Melatonin from the pineal gland within the brain. Insomnia, mood swings and food cravings are influenced by melatonin. When the body is exposed to sunlight, melatonin production shuts off, while release of vitamin D is triggered. Thus Vitamin-D is helpful in preventing depression.
Ways to prevent Vitamin-D deficiency
* Allowing limited unprotected exposure to sunlight
* Eating a diets rich in Vitamin-D (available in cod liver oil, fish like mackerel, tuna and salmon, cheese, egg etc)
* Consuming milk products specifically fortified with Vitamin-D
* Eating whole foods and food with complex carbohydrates