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Dr. Claudia Ng - Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D? Monday, April 09, 2012

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, can be made by our bodies when we absorb sunlight. While it’s well-known for its role in the healthy development and growth of bones, research has shown that it also plays a role in inflammation, immunity, brain development, cardiovascular health, diabetes1, and cancer prevention2.

Although less common, we can also get it from a limited number of foods, including oily fish like salmon, sardine, tuna, cod liver oil and in fortified dairy products and egg yolks.

Vitamin D Deficiency

In Kids

  • When children lack vitamin D, they can develop rickets: once a disease of the past, rickets has made a comeback in many developed countries.
  • Breast-fed infants are particularly at risk as breast milk contains little amounts of vitamin D, even less from breast-feeding moms who are deficient.

In Adults and the Elderly

  • Adults who are deficient in vitamin D may suffer from soft bones and weak muscles – a condition known as osteomalacia. When they are deficient in vitamin D, the soft bones and weak muscles often result in more falls and fractures.
  • A UK study in 2010 shows more than 50% of population has low vitamin D levels3
  • The major cause is due to insufficient sun exposure, and to a certain extent, it is related to sunscreen use: SPF 8 reduces skin synthesis of vitamin D by 92.5%, SPF 15 by 99%. Women concerned with sun damage tend to use high SPF (30+) skincare products which significantly reduces sun exposure.
  • UK Department of Health now recommend supplementation for at-risk group: pregnant and lactating women, children under 5, aged over 65, people of dark skin colour4

Vitamin D & Chiropractic

Chiropractic-relevant symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency aremusculoskeletal pain, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis (fragile bones). Our clinical experience has shown that patients with headache and muscle pains achieved sustained improvements after vitamin D supplementation in addition to chiropractic treatments.

Did You Know?

  • The body can store vitamin D made from sunlight exposure in summer for winter consumption.
  • Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption from the gut.
  • Vitamin D levels can be easily monitored by blood test.

How Much Do I Need & How Should I Get It?

  • New recommendations are 800 to 1000 IU per day5 (used to be 200 IU).
  • Canada recommends all infants and children receive 400 IU per day6.
  • For prevention of osteoporosis and muscle pains, 1000 IU vitamin D plus 600 to 1000 mg calcium per day is recommended.
  • Direct sun exposure to arms and legs for 5 to 10 min between 10 am and 3 pm twice a week is often enough (equivalent to 3000 IU each dose).
  • Be careful with over-exposure to sun, which can increase the risk of burns and skin cancer.  Remember that the amount of UV rays absorbed varies with geographical latitude, seasons, and skin colour.
  • Synthetic oral supplementation in the form of vitamin D3 is an option, but it isn’t available over-the-counter in Hong Kong.
  • Multi-vitamins contain only 400 IU or less and are low in calcium, requiring additional supplementation.

How do I know if I may be deficient?

You may be vitamin D deficient if you have persistent, non-specific musculoskeletal pain or migraine that is more severe between September and March when your exposure to the sun is reduced.  Elderly and housebound individuals are usually more prone to lack vitamin D. To determine your level, take a blood test and then supplement accordingly until a sufficient level is reached. Talk to us for more information on vitamin D tests or our range of whole food supplements.

Citations:

1. The Telegraph. Low vitamin D linked to Type 2 diabetes risk.

2. National Cancer Institute. Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention: Strengths and Limits of the Evidence.

3. UK Public Service. 50% of UK Vitamin D deficient.

4. UK Department of Health. Dangers of vitamin D deficiency highlighted.

5. Holick, New England Journal of Medicine, July 19, 2007

6. Health Canada. Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary Reference Intakes.

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