Vitamin D Deficiency: Symptoms and Treatment
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids (a broken ring steroid) that is responsible for improving intestinal absorption of zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and iron in the body. Several vitamers, or forms of vitamin D exist. These include:
- Vitamin D1 - A mixture of Vitamin D2 and lumisterol.
- Vitamin D2 - Known as ergocalciferol, it is made from ergosterol.
- Vitamin D3 - Known as cholecalciferol, it is made from 7-dehydrocholesterol in human skin.
- Vitamin D4 - Known as 22-dihydroergocalciferol.
- Vitamin D5 - Known as sitocalciferol, it is made from 7-dehydrositosterol.
Related: 10 Vitamin D Foods You Should Be Eating Now
Vitamin D either enters the human body through food intake, or can be produced naturally through exposure to the sun.
Osteomalacia, also known as rickets, is a softening of bones caused by a vitamin D deficiency. While this extreme form of vitamin D deficiency is a rare condition, general vitamin D deficiency is very common in adult and children.
Symptoms of Vitamin D DeficiencyThe National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005-2006 defined vitamin D deficiency as a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration of less than or equal to 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L).  This survey found that 41.6% of adults had a vitamin D deficiency. Rates were more prevalent in overweight individuals, those lacking a college education, and individuals with poor health.
Individuals who do not drink milk or have hypertension tend to experience higher rates of vitamin D deficiency.
The highest rate of vitamin D deficiency, 82.1%, was seen in blacks. Hispanics came in at a rate of 69.2%. 
A vitamin D deficiency is linked to numerous risk factors that are tied in with some of the leading causes of death in America. For this reason, a deficiency should be taken seriously. Some of these conditions and problems include: 
- Advancement of cancer, including prostate, breast, colon, and ovarian. 
- Increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Cognitive-related issues in adults.
- Muscle aches and muscle weakness. 
- Osteoporosis, with an increase in bone fragility and a decrease in bone mineral density.
- Erectile dysfunction. 
Those with a vitamin D deficiency may experience the following symptoms, or have the following conditions or body/age characteristics.
- You feel down. Those with very low vitamin D levels are 11 times more likely to experience depression.  Sun exposure causes an increase in the rise of serotonin levels, which is the brain hormone that is connected to mood.
- You are over the age of 50. As you age, your skin's ability to produce vitamin D decreases. Also, with age, your kidneys become less efficient at converting vitamin D into a usable form.
- Your skin is darker. Dark-sinned individuals need 10 times the amount of sun exposure to generate the same amount of vitamin D.
- You're obese or overweight. Vitamin D is fat-soluble. Body fat acts as a collection point, or sink, for vitamin D. Those with more fat require a larger amount of vitamin D.
- You carry extra muscle mass. There appears to be a tie-in between overall weight and the amount of vitamin D your body requires.
- Aching bones. This symptom of vitamin D deficiency is often misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.
- A sweaty head. A classic, and often the first sign of vitamin D deficiency is a sweaty head. Physicians used to ask mothers if their newborn children had this condition to assess possible vitamin D issues.
- Stomach issues. A vitamin D deficiency may lead to conditions like Chron's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and gluten sensitivity.
Vitamin D Deficiency TreatmentTo treat a vitamin D deficiency you need to focus on a 3-pronged attack. Choose foods that are naturally high in vitamin D, spend more time in the sun each week, and consider using a vitamin D supplement.
The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily 800 IU of vitamin D for adults over the age of 70, The RDA recommends 600 IU for all individuals through the age of 70. The safe upper limit of vitamin D consumption is 4000 IU per day. Doctors have been known to prescribe more than this to combat a deficiency.
The following foods are high in vitamin D. Considering adding some of these choices to your weekly meal plan:
- Salmon, tuna, and tilapia
- Portabello and maitake mushrooms
- Lite silken tofu and soy beans
- Vitamin D fortified milk
- Pork and spare ribs
- Turkey and pork sausage
- Spinach, kale, and collards
- White beans
- Beef liver
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