Vitamin D is a nutrient consumed and a hormone produced by the body. It helps absorb calcium and phosphorus, which is crucial for the development of bones and teeth. It also facilitates normal immune system function.
Each adult needs approximately 10-15 micrograms of vitamin D each day; deficiency may lead to fatigue, aches and pains in the bones. Those who reside in highly polluted areas, spend most of their time indoors or use sunscreen excessively are more susceptible to deficiency of this vitamin. However, why is it so? This is because the best source of vitamin D is the Sun; the body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight. This is why minimal exposure to sunlight causes deficiency.
One interesting fact about this nutrient is that it exists in two primary forms: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is obtained from plant sources like wild mushrooms and fortified milk. This is generally the “vitamin D” that is referred to in ordinary parlance. Vitamin D3 mainly comes from animal sources such as fish oil and egg yolks. This is called the “sunshine vitamin” because it is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
There is a particular focus on vitamin D in these unprecedented times. Adjusting to the “new normal” has been the talk of the town since the pandemic has set in. Stark changes have occurred in the daily hustle worldwide. One such change is the “Work from Home” culture. Frequent lockdowns and the system of social distancing have compelled a large part of the world to remain confined to their homes. Adapting to the same, office culture has brought in concepts like zoom meetings. Stepping out of the house has become less and less; all needs, from purchasing a toothbrush to watching a movie, can now easily be accessed from home.
The deficiency of vitamin D in today’s day and age is a vicious cycle. Staying indoors leads to lesser production of this vitamin in the body- and vitamin D deficiency is of particular concern if a person contracts Covid itself. One study recently published in the journal PLOS ONE showed that people with a vitamin D deficiency are more likely to have a severe case of Covid.
Apart from exposure to sunlight, vitamin D levels can be increased by consuming the following:
- Fortified milk
- Fortified plant milk
- Fortified cereal
- Certain mushrooms
- Some cheeses
- Oily fish (salmon, sardines, tuna)
- Red meat
- Fish liver oil
- Egg yolk
A word of caution in this context is that vitamin D can reach toxic levels in the body if taken in excess. It is recommended to avoid taking high doses of vitamin D. The effects can be:
- Elevated blood levels
- Elevated blood calcium levels (Hypercalcemia)
- Gastrointestinal issues like nausea
- Altered mental status
- Kidney complications
In Greek, there is an ancient saying that translates to “moderation is the best .”Thus, it is ideal for maintaining optimal vitamin D levels in the body for a healthy, active life.
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