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Vitamin D Deficiency

There is a lot of concern in the medical profession that a high number of people are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, mainly because most people stay indoors for most of the day and so do not get much sunlight. In addition, when people do go outside, they may wear sunscreen most of the time and this is a concern because in order for the sunshine to bring vitamin D into the body, it needs to shine on bare skin.

In order to prevent deficiency of vitamin D, everyone should get between 10-20 minutes of direct sunshine on the skin (face, arms and legs) every day when the sun is at the weakest (before 11am or after 4pm).

The following people may be most at risk of vitamin D deficiency:

  • Alcoholics
    People that drink excessive amounts of alcohol may be deficient in vitamin D because alcohol prevents the body from absorbing and storing it. People with severe alcoholism are at the greatest risk of deficiency, but even people who regularly consume more alcohol than is advised are at risk of deficiency too.
  • People on very low fat diets
    Vitamin D needs some fat in the food in the diet to be able to be absorbed and used properly, so people who are on really low fat diets may become deficient in this very important vitamin and will need to either increase the (healthy) fat in their diet or to get vitamin D supplements.
  • People over 65 years
    People who are over 65 tend to have some difficulty with the absorption of vitamin D and their body is only able to metabolise about half of the amount of this vitamin that younger people do, so supplementation may be required. This is the reason why the recommended daily intake of vitamin D is much higher for people over 70, but it is also higher for people over 50 (than people under 50 years).
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  • People taking certain medications
    Certain medications either block absorption of vitamin D or they prevent vitamin D from being as effective as it should be. People taking any type of medications should seek advice from their doctor to determine how much (if any) extra vitamin D supplements they need to be taking. Caution: Some medications actually accelerate the rate of absorption of vitamin D and can cause really high levels in the body, with associated toxicity symptoms, so people on medications should not self-prescribe, always seek medical advice.
  • People that have a part of their gastrointestinal system removed
    People that have had any part of their gastrointestinal tract removed by surgery (for any reason) may not be able to absorb vitamin D properly and so may not be able to use it properly. This is because a part of the gastrointestinal system is missing, which is necessary to help absorb the vitamin D, the level of deficiency depends on the part that was removed.
  • People who do not get much sunlight
    People who do not get much sunlight may be deficient in vitamin D and may need supplementation. People who are house-bound, people who are sick, people in nursing homes and even office workers who stay inside all day and do not get much sunlight are all at risk for vitamin D deficiency. People who fit in this category need to get a blood test to determine levels of vitamin D to find out if there is a deficiency and if supplementation is required.
  • People with cystic fibrosis
    People with the condition cystic fibrosis have an excess of mucous in their body. This condition does not just affect the lungs, the intestines are also exposed to an abnormal amount of mucous and this may impair their ability to absorb and utilise vitamin D. People with this condition need to seek the advice of their doctor about vitamin D supplementation, as it could interact with medication they are taking.
  • People with kidney or liver disease
    The sunlight form of vitamin D is an inactive form of vitamin D (D3) and needs to be converted into the more active form of vitamin D through a processed involving the liver and kidneys and if these organs are not working, a deficiency may result, especially if foods rich in vitamin D are also not consumed on a regular basis.

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