What is Vitamin D and Why Do You Need It?

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is produced by the body as a response to sun exposure. It is one of the many nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy. Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. It means that it is vital in the development of bones and teeth. Without Vitamin D, the calcium and phosphorus absorbed by your body will not be enough and your bones would become brittle and would break easily. In addition, it also facilitates a normal immune system function. Getting a sufficient amount of Vitamin D will improve the resistance of your immune system against certain diseases.

What is Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency is a global health problem that happens when a person is not getting enough Vitamin D to stay healthy. This is mainly caused by insufficient exposure to sunlight. According to an article published by PubMed Central, it is estimated that 1 billion people have vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency worldwide.

If your child is not getting enough Vitamin D, it can result in soft and fragile bones in children. In addition, Vitamin D deficiency is associated with muscle weakness. This leads to walking speed, prolonged sit-to-stand, and even a higher rate of falls. Furthermore, a person is more at risk of having a variety of illnesses which include breast cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, colon cancer, and prostate cancer if you have Vitamin D deficiency in the long run.

People who are more at risk of getting Vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Patients with chronic illness such as asthma and chronic kidney disease
  • People with dark-pigmented skin
  • Infants who are exclusively breastfed
  • Children with poor nutrition

What are the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?

Even though our body can create Vitamin D, there are still many reasons why deficiency occurs.

Here are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency:

  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Getting sick more often
  • Aching bones and back
  • Impaired wound healing

If Vitamin D deficiency continues for a long period, a person may be more at risk with these health conditions:

  • Obesity
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Osteoporosis
  • Diabetes
  • Osteomalacia
  • Hypertension

How to Prevent and Manage Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D is vital for calcium absorption and for maintaining bone health in the pediatric population. And for the past years, Vitamin D deficiency has become a significant pediatric health issue with health complications that include hypocalcemic seizures, rickets, limb pain, and fracture. Even though Vitamin D deficiency is common, this condition still requires long-term management. Here are some recommendations on how to prevent and manage Vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents.

Managing Vitamin D Deficiency in Infants

The most important factor in the development of Vitamin D deficiency in infants is maternal vitamin D status. All women, especially those who are dark-skinned, should check their serum 35-OHD concentration during the first trimester of pregnancy. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is recommended to supplement all breastfed infants with Vitamin D-fortified formula. Although human milk is the best source of nutrition for infants however it is a poor source of Vitamin D. Aside from Vitamin D-fortified formula, other Vitamin D preparations may be available at hospital pharmacies.

 

Managing Vitamin D Deficiency in Children and Adolescents

Most healthy children receive enough sunlight exposure to maintain adequate Vitamin D levels. Children who have dark skin, an underlying medical condition, and are exposed to less sunlight should receive 400 IU of Vitamin D daily to prevent Vitamin D deficiency. If a child or adolescent already have Vitamin D deficiency, they can have either daily low-dose supplements or high-dose intermittent therapy. There are many low-dose supplements that are commercially available. But make sure to ask a healthcare provider on how much you need to take and how long you need to take it to avoid complications.

There are certain foods that contain Vitamin D naturally while there are some foods that are fortified. This can help increase a person’s Vitamin D.

Some of the food that are the best sources of Vitamin D include:

  • Salmon
  • Orange juice
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Beef Liver
  • Cheese
  • Cereal
  • Egg yolk
  • Margarine
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Mushrooms

It is important to note that siblings of a child diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency should also be screened to know if they also have the same condition. Lastly, parents should encourage their children to participate in any outdoor activities to have enough exposure to sunlight.

Final Thoughts

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem in pediatrics especially for people who have an insufficient amount of sun exposure, have a chronic illness, and are on chronic medications. But most people are not aware of it because the symptoms are often subtle and non-specific. However, this does not mean that Vitamin D deficiency cannot be prevented or managed.

If you think your child may have Vitamin D deficiency, talk to your pediatrician about it. You can visit Pediatric California Associates. They provide preventative care and also caters to the complex medical needs of children with a chronic illness. You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Caceres or Dr. Garcia at (559) 728-4133 (Fresno office) or (559) 673-6085 (Madera office).