February 5, 2018

When I was on the mend from two cracked ribs, etc., the doctor prescribed, among other pills, a once- a-week-50,000-unit pill for vitamin D. That set me to wondering about the implications or even the necessity of vitamin D. An online check showed that vitamin D is vitally necessary to our health and well-being. It facilitates the absorption and metabolism of phosphorous and calcium, thus enabling the development of strong bones.

In its most extreme form, prolonged, severe vitamin D deficiency during childhood, known as rickets, can delay growth and lead to visible deformities in our skeleton. Vitamin D deficiency is very common. It is estimated that about 1 billion people worldwide have low levels of the vitamin in their blood. Among the 41.6% of the vitamin-D-deficient Americans (69.2% in Hispanics and 82.1% in African Americans), the potential health consequences of this epidemic are serious, for the deficiency is linked to osteoporosis, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, poor pregnancy outcomes, an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children, and cancer.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may be fatigue not caused by exertion, general aches, bone and/or back pains from no traceable cause, getting sick or infected often, depression, impaired wound healing, bone loss, hair loss, a sweaty head, trouble with one’s gut or digestive system.

Since vitamin D is made from cholesterol by our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight, dark-skinned people can have a vitamin D deficiency caused by sun blockage by their skin’s melanin. If you are exposed to enough sunshine, as people are who live near the equator, you should not need a vitamin D supplement. Unless you compensate by exposure to the sun or products like soy milk, you may need a vitamin D supplement if you are a total vegan. Vitamin D is also found in certain foods such as fatty fish and fortified dairy products, although it is very difficult to get enough from diet alone. The recommended daily intake is usually around 400-800 IU, but many experts say you should get even more than that.

Common risk factors for vitamin D deficiency: having dark skin, old age, obesity, not consuming enough fish, fish oil or flax oil, eggs or milk, living too far from the equator, always using sunscreen when outdoors, staying indoors too much.

In its online information, WebMD observes that, regardless of age, most people should not need supplemental vitamins. Rather, the best way to get vitamins, minerals and other nutrients we need is through the things we eat and drink. Thus, we must maintain a good, balanced food regimen loaded with fruits and vegetables, nuts, low-fat dairy or plant-based milk, abundant fluids, healthy oils, good proteins and whole grains. However, there are people who need supplemental vitamins because of lack of appetite, trouble chewing, fixed budgets, trouble finding healthy foods, and because their aging bodies no longer process vitamins so well as they used to. We must also admit that achieving good nutrition is more than a notion.

Researchers have found that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives globally each year. Also, incidence of several types of cancer could be slashed in half. Good levels of D3 reduce the risk of flu, the risk of diabetes, and develops healthy infants and healthy pregnancies.

Sufficient vitamin D3 reduces the dangers of radiation. Although we may be entirely unaware of it, we are exposed to low levels of radiation – besides the sun – in our everyday lives on a regular basis, such as getting x-rays. However, consuming Vitamin D can protect our body, too. In its active form, Vitamin D3 will help fight problems caused by radiation-induced situations. It boosts the immune system, reduces inflammation, stimulates weight loss, lowers the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, promotes strong bones, makes you happier, keeps you mentally alert, promotes emotional stability, fends off cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Therefore, how much, if any, supplemental vitamins should we be taking?

My thoughts automatically ran to a one-a-day pill to cover all vitamins, needs and eventualities. Centrum I had heard so much about. Could this be the panacea, even though its vitamin D component lasts only several hours? For most doctors, it apparently is. With the one caveat that one can take too much vitamin D, persons at low-vitamin risk should choose a good one-a-day vitamin.

“God is love, and all who abide in love abide in God and God in them.”   (1 John 4:16)