It’s hard to imagine it, but even in the middle of summer, there are people who aren’t getting enough sunshine in their life. There could be all kinds of reasons why, but the most likely one is because they are being wise and listening to the well-placed warnings from their dermatologist about skin cancer. So, they slather on sunscreen, suit up in long sleeved shirts and pants and basically avoid the sun when possible. But some doctors are seeing an unintended consequence to this advice: vitamin D deficiency.
What is Vitamin D
According to the Vitamin D Council, D is unlike any other vitamin. Your body can make its own vitamin D when you expose your skin to sunlight. But, your body can’t make other vitamins; you have to get them from the foods you eat.
Basically, when your skin is exposed to the sun, it produces vitamin D and sends it to your liver. Your liver then changes it to a substance called 25 OH D. When your doctor talks about your vitamin D levels you’ll basically be talking about the amount of 25 OH D you have in your blood. You can also get vitamin D from supplements or even small amounts from the foods you eat.
Vitamin D at Work
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in keeping your bones strong. Your body needs it in order to absorb calcium. If you don’t have enough, your bones can become soft, thin and brittle. In children, this is called rickets. In adults, it’s known as osteomalacia. Researchers are also looking into the role that a vitamin D deficiency plays in:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Type 1 diabetes
Are You at Risk?
A lack of sun exposure due to sunscreen use isn’t the only risk factor for a deficiency. Some people are just more inclined to it. According to the Vitamin D Council, people at risk for D deficiency include:
- People with darker skin. The darker your skin the more sun exposure you need to get the same amount of vitamin D as a fair-skinned person.
- People who spend a lot of time indoors during the day. For example, if you’re housebound or work nights and spend the day sleeping.
- Older people, because they have thinner skin and may not be able to produce as much vitamin D as younger people.
- Pregnant women and breastfed-only infants.
- People who are overweight.
The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency are so vague you might not have a clue. They can range anywhere from tiredness and general aches and pains to a pain in your bones and weakness. Some people don’t even have symptoms at all.
Testing to Know Your Levels
Testing to find out your levels of this important vitamin is as simple as going to your local Any Lab Test Now location. The test you’ll want to ask for is the Vitamin D 25-Hydroxy Test (25 OH D). It’s a simple test that requires no fasting and results generally take between 24 to 72 hours. Our experts have found that people who take the Vitamin D 25-Hydroxy Test (25 OH D) will also request one of the following relevant tests as well:
If your levels are abnormal a trip to your doctor is in order. They can talk to you about safe and sensible sun exposure and supplements. Having plenty of the “sunshine vitamin” can really be the key to feeling sunny every day!