Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium and maintain healthy bones and muscles. However, many women, particularly those living in northern latitudes, are deficient in this crucial vitamin. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a host of health problems, including weakened bones, increased risk of falls, and autoimmune disorders.
Women are particularly susceptible to vitamin D deficiency because they tend to spend less time outdoors than men, wear more sunscreen, and have a lower dietary intake of vitamin D. Additionally, women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or menopausal may require higher levels of vitamin D to maintain optimal health.
Dr Mithun N. Oswal, MBBS, M.S Ortho Joint Replacement Surgeon, Apollo Clinics, says, “Vitamin D deficiency cases are growing rapidly across the country, especially amongst women. One survey found around 90 percent of women were low on Vitamin D and overall it’s about 76 percent of overall population deficit in vitamin D.”
The reason for this is due to low exposure to sun, low dietary intake of vitamin D3, diseases like chronic renal failure and liver diseases. These also prevent the ability of the kidney and liver to convert vitamin D into active form.
Dr Edwina Raj, Head, Clinical Nutrition Dietetics, Aster CMI Hospital, says, “Sunshine vitamin D is essential for women to maintain skeletal and bone health, additionally it plays an important role in preventing various chronic diseases. Women are prone to this deficiency due to inadequate intake through food, lack of exposure to sunlight, inability to absorb through food (malabsorption or low intake of fat), if one’s liver and kidneys are unable to convert it into active form of Vitamin D, higher body fat composition and dark skin colour with more melanin pigment hinders the absorption.”
Other recently observed reasons are using sun block creams, covering face and hands while traveling, following low or restrictive diets with inadequate intake of fat leads to vitamin D3 deficiency since it is a fat soluble vitamin. “Poor intake of natural sources of vitamin D through food which are sources of vitamin D such as fish, eggs, dairy, fortified milk, oil etc Due to dairy intolerance, vegan diet, low phosphorus diet in few disease conditions can be one of the reasons for Vitamin D3 deficiency,” adds Dr Raj.
It is also observed commonly in women during pre and post-menopausal period due to drop in estrogen hormone, there is an imbalance in calcium and vitamin D3 levels which results in osteoporosis and low bone mineral density. “There are some individuals with inadequate inability to utilize Vitamin D3 by converting it into active form which is commonly observed in those with malabsorptive disorders, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, crohn’s disease, post intestinal surgeries and obesity. Prolonged use of medicines like laxative for constipation, steroids etc. could also be one of the reasons to be deficient in Vitamin D3,” opines Dr Raj.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is naturally present in few foods. But body has the endogenous ability to produce vitamin D when the ultraviolet rays from the sun strike the skin and trigger its synthesis.
“Vitamin D helps to increase bone calcium uptake. But it’s deficiency can lead to lethargy, mood disturbance, hair loss, bone and joint pain, fatigue, increased fracture incidence even with trivial trauma and curving of back and long bones,” adds Dr Oswal.
Especially women need to get an early diagnosis once any of the above symptoms are seen and confirm with a laboratory. They should increase their exposure to the sunlight. Vitamin D3 supplementation are also recommended.
“These can be either oral or intramuscular injection as well. Taking a que Vitamin D has importance in almost all systems in the body. Early preventive measures can help the people in avoiding diseases,” states Dr Oswal.
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