Most of us know that Vitamin D is good for our bones, however it is not widely appreciated that many Australians suffer Vitamin D deficiency.
Many of us now avoid sun-exposure.
Vitamin D is a hormone which our bodies cannot make and only small amounts are found in foods such meat, eggs and fatty fish such as salmon and mackel.
Vitamin D is made in the skin when exposed to sunlight. The main sources of Vitamin D are sunlight exposure. It is not possible to get enough VIT D from the diet.
Anyone who spend most of their time in doors is at risk of Vitamin D deficiency include senior citizens, particularly those in residential care, and those with skin conditions where avoidance of sunlight is advised,
The main function of Vitamin D is to promote calcium absorption from the intestine, maintain blood calcium levels and facilitate the incorporation of calcium mineral into the bones. Mild deficiency can lead to muscle weakness and therefore a greater chance of falling and fracturing a bone.
It is important to have adequate calcium in the diet. Check you are getting enough calcium in your diet by using this online calcium calculator. Rheumatological Diseases Unit | www.cgem.ed.ac.uk
When the body lacks Vitamin D there is an increase in the secretion of parathyroid hormone which if persists can can resorb calcium from bone causing osteoporosis.
Low Vitamin D levels are often associated with falls, reduced bone mineral density and increased risk of hip fractures. When Vitamin D deficiency becomes severe a pattern of symptoms develop which is called osteomalacia. The symptoms are bone and muscle pains, difficulty getting in and out of chairs due to muscle weakness , a waddling gait and softened bones. All individuals at risk of low sun exposure and with osteoporosis should know their Vitamin D levels and if necessary take supplements.
How to get enough Vit D.
Guidelines from the Australian and New Zealand Bone & Mineral Society advise exposure of hands, face and arms to 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight four to six times a week.
Vitamin D supplements (in a dose advised by your health professional) will be necessary. The most common high strength supplement in Australia contains 1000 units of Vitamin D per capsule. Higher doeases can be obtained on prescription from compounding chemists.
A level above 40 is good. If you have an inflammatory illness the level may need to be higher
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