Vitamin D has been dubbed “the sunshine vitamin” because adequate amounts can be absorbed through the skin if exposed to 15 minutes of ultraviolet sunlight three times per week. The ultraviolet rays transform a cholesterol compound in the skin into vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), the most active form of vitamin D. The form of vitamin D we get through our food or supplements is not fully active until the liver and kidneys can convert it. If vitamin D is not present in the required amount, the body’s ability to absorb and use calcium and phosphorus is hindered. Vitamin D protects against muscle weakness, and since your heart is a muscle, D is important for your heart. D has been show to be effective against breast and colon cancer, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. Vitamin D enhances your immune system, is essential for thyroid function and normal blood clotting.
DEFICIENCIES IN CHILDREN
Children need vitamin D to ensure proper growth and development of bones and teeth so when your mom shooed you outside to play in the sunshine, she was right! A condition called rickets occurs (a softening of the bones that could lead to fractures and deformity) when there is a lack of vitamin D and calcium in a child. In adults, the deficiency can cause osteomalacia, similar to rickets.
Fish liver oils, fatty saltwater fish, dairy products eggs, butter, cod liver oil, halibut, liver, milk, oatmeal, salmon, sardines, sweet potatoes, tuna and vegetable oils. Herbs containing vitamin D include alfalfa, horsetail, nettle and parsley.
Symptoms of a deficiency of vitamin D include loss of appetite, a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, diarrhea, insomnia, visual problems and weight loss.
Taking over 1,000 IU of D daily may cause a decrease in bone mass. Intestinal, liver and gallbladder disorders, some cholesterol-lowering drugs and diuretics, antacids, mineral oil and steroid hormones degrade D absorption.
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