Vitamin D in the Body
Sources of the vitamin are limited making vitamin D deficiency a relatively common condition.
Vitamin D is responsible for a number of functions in the body, including:
- Promoting the absorption of calcium, a mineral vital to bone growth and mineralization
- Aiding in cell growth
- Assisting in neuromuscular and immune system function
- Reducing inflammation
Without adequate levels of vitamin D, the body is unable to produce calcitriol (a hormone that helps the body absorb calcium). When the body does not make sufficient calcitriol or take in enough new calcium, it is forced to rob the mineral from existing bones and new bone growth. This weakens the skeletal frame and leads to osteomalacia – a softening of the bones.
Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to cancer, cognitive impairment and an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Between the ages of 19-70, women require 600 IUs of vitamin D daily. Starting at age 70, the requirement increases to 800 IUs.
Sources of Vitamin D
The only way to prevent vitamin D deficiency is through adequate intake of the vitamin, supplements, or sun exposure. Vegans are particularly prone to the condition since the best food sources for vitamin D are fish, meat and dairy.
It’s difficult to determine the amount of time needed in the sun to produce an adequate amount of vitamin D, since many factors play a role. Clouds, window glass and suncreen with an SPF of 8 or greater all block vitamin D producing UV rays.
Some experts suggest 5-30 minutes of sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., but it’s important to wear sunscreen during other outdoor time and to be mindful of the risk of overexposure.
Foods sources with vitamin D:
- Cod liver oil
- Beef Liver
- Fortified orange juice, yogurt, margarine and ready-to-eat cereals
Treatment of Vitamin D Deficiency
If your OB/GYN suspects you may be deficient in vitamin D, the diagnosis can be confirmed through a simple blood test. Test results revealing a blood concentration of less than 20 nanograms/ml suggest treatment may be necessary.
Treatment of vitamin D deficiency consists of increasing dietary vitamin D and the addition of vitamin D supplements. Your gynecologist will guide you in determining the amount of vitamin D supplementation your body needs.