As we welcome Autumn and the days get shorter and the sun is lower in the sky I’d like to draw your attention to the importance of Vitamin D.
This topic is of importance to many people living in the Northern hemisphere but for me, as an Osteopath, a symptom of Vitamin D deficiency can be bone, muscle and back pain, so it’s something I need to have good knowledge of in my clinic.
Vitamin D is vital for strong bones and may have many other health benefits. It is essential for strong bones because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. Research suggests it could play a role in the prevention of a number of diseases including diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) multiple sclerosis and cancer.
Your exposure to sunlight is limited: The body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight so you may be at risk of deficiency if you are homebound, live in northern latitudes, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure.
While suncream prevents burning and so lowers the risk of skin cancer, fears have been voiced that it may stop your skin producing vitamin D. Studies have shown that you can make vitamin D when you are wearing suncream, so don’t be tempted to go with out suncream and risk sunburn, you are still increasing your Vitmain D levels but safely.
Your diet lacks vitamin D: This is possible if you follow a strict vegan diet, because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, fortified milk, and beef liver.
You are dark skinned: The pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Your kidneys cannot convert vitamin D to its active form: With age the kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing their risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D. Some medical problems, including Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease, can affect your intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the food you eat.
Obesity: Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.
If you are worried that you might be Vitamin D deficient a simple blood test from your GP can check your level.
About 90 per cent of our vitamin D comes from sun exposure, and only 10 per cent from what we eat. So what do we do in the winter with the cloudy, dark days?
Usually the recommended treatment is to take a supplement, where safe get more exposure to sunlight and try to alter your diet to include foods with Vitamin D. You can get limited Vitamin D from foods such as fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks and in fortified dairy and grain products but these are relatively small amounts.
There can be many reasons a person can suffer from bone, muscle and back pain. An Osteopath is highly trained to diagnose the problem and use a variety of treatment approaches to help treat musculoskeletal pain or refer appropriately if osteopathy is not the right treatment.
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