Vitamin D is essential for our health, as it helps our body fight infections, absorb calcium for strong, healthy bones, and maintain the health of muscles and the nervous system. Unfortunately, many people suffer from a vitamin D deficiency, as they don’t get enough sun exposure, or their diet lacks naturally occurring or added vitamin D. Other people have trouble absorbing vitamin D because of certain medical conditions.
We will go through the main causes of poor absorption of vitamin D to give you an idea of the investigations you would need to go through if you present symptoms of low vitamin D levels.
Risks of Low Vitamin D Absorption
Not being able to get the daily amount of vitamin D you need daily can put you at risk for numerous diseases and conditions, especially if you belong to certain risk groups because of older age or darker skin.
Here are some of the health risks associated with low vitamin D levels:
- Bone and muscle weakness
- Nervous system conditions
- Heart disease
- And others
Who Is at Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency?
Here is a list of certain groups of people who are more at risk of low vitamin D absorption, and who should pay special attention to their vitamin D intake and what makes it absorb slower.
- Older people: with age, our body loses its ability to synthesise vitamin D3, which is its active form we produce when our skin is exposed to the sun;
- People with dark skin;
- Those suffering from coeliac disease;
- Those suffering from IBS (inflammatory bowel disease;)
- Those suffering from medical conditions like certain cancers, end-stage liver disease, obesity, or kidney disease;
- Those taking rifampicin or antiepileptic;
- Those who went through weight loss surgery: as their digestive system is now shortened, absorption is less efficient;
- Those with limiting diets (veganism) should investigate any source of vitamin D that complies with their dietary restrictions.
How Much Vitamin D Should You Get?
It’s hard to determine how much vitamin D you are getting daily, as you can’t calculate exactly how much it comes from the sun, how much of it is vitamin D from food, and how well your body actually absorbs it.
A good solution for people whose body absorbs vitamin D less efficiently is to get a dietary supplement of vitamin D prescribed by the doctor, based on their blood vitamin D levels. Vitamin D supplements vary in terms of concentration, so choose what’s the best fit for you.
In Australia, the guidelines recommend the following intakes per day:
- 5 micrograms (200 IU per day) for children, teenagers, and adults aged 19-50 years old.
- 10 micrograms (400 IU per day) for adults aged 51-70.
- 15 micrograms (600 IU per day) for adults older than 70
Of course, these recommendations will vary with the specific conditions you may have, and a doctor will be able to adjust your vitamin D supplements according to your needs and tell you what types of vitamin D sources are recommended for you. Foods that naturally contain vitamin D are egg yolks, fish, fish liver oil, and foods that are frequently fortified with vitamin D are dairy products and cereal.
To Sum It Up
As you can see, various factors can influence your vitamin D absorption and we don’t always have control over them. For example, if you are older, you are at a greater risk of vitamin D deficiency. Your doctor can investigate the potential causes of vitamin D deficiency and prescribe proper treatment.