What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency?
Latitude, cultural dress, seasons, avoidance of the sun, and sunscreen block the necessary UVB rays from production of Vitamin D in the skin. Renal disease, liver issues, as well as gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease or other fat malabsorption diseases can also limit both the conversion of vitamin D into its active form, as well as the dietary absorption of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is not technically a vitamin - rather it is classified as a hormone. Specifically, 25-Hydroxyvitamin D belongs to the steroid hormone family, and is synthesized from cholesterol, similar to other steroid hormones derived from cholesterol-such as estrogen, testosterone, and other steroid hormones.
Steroid hormones are most well-known for their ability to directly target and signal DNA-subsequently turning certain genes on while simultaneously turning other genes off.
Vitamin D has a specific receptor that rests on precise regions of DNA, and can control the transcription of many genes, such as immunoregulatory genes, cancer genes, anti-inflammatory genes, and even blood pressure-related genes.
Cellular DNA isn't the only region of the body that responds to vitamin D. Smooth muscle cells that lie within arteries can convert Vitamin D into the active form in order to control the angiotensin-renin system, which can help lower blood pressure. When blood pressure is chronically elevated, scientists and physicians know the risks for cardiovascular disease and stroke skyrocket. A number of small clinical trials have demonstrated Vitamin D's ability to decrease blood pressure.
We've gathered a list to help you detect some additional signs that your vitamin D levels might be too low.
Signs Your Vitamin D Levels Are Too Low
1. Suicidal Thoughts and Depression
While environment, psychological health and genetic factors certainly influence the presence of suicidal thoughts and depression, scientists are discovering that approximately 58% of suicide attempters are deficient in Vitamin D. In addition, these individuals typically display elevated proinflammatory status, and it has been suggested that Vitamin D deficiency may play a role in the increase in neurological inflammation in suicidal patients. With depression, several studies have demonstrated a relationship between severity and risk of depressive symptoms and low vitamin D levels. Successful intervention with vitamin D has also been observed, resulting in an improvement in depressive symptoms in overweight adults.
2. High Blood Pressure
While the true cause of most cases of hypertension -or high blood pressure-is unknown, vitamin D has a role in regulating the angiotensin-renin axis signaling that is responsible for hypertension in the smooth muscle cells that line arteries and veins. The kidneys are capable of converting inactive vitamin D into active vitamin D forms, and using it locally to help regulate blood pressure. A number of studies have shown that vitamin D interventions help to reduce blood pressure in adults.
3. Your Immune System Doesn't Seem Up to Par
Vitamin D is responsible for helping to keep inflammatory immune cells at bay, and encouraging the maturation of naïve cells into regulatory immune cells. Which means your body will be able to produce that delicate balance of immune reaction, but not over-reaction, to a stimulus. Beyond that, certain cells, such as antigen presenting cells, have the ability to convert inactive vitamin D into the active form of vitamin D. Vitamin D signaling in immune cells leads to a decrease in histamine production - that annoying molecule that makes your eyes watery and your nose itchy.
4. Osteoporosis or Osteopenia, or Rickets in Children
If your bone health is not the best, making sure your vitamin D level is adequate is essential to help keep a problem from getting worse. In children, bowed legs, or weak, soft bones is a symptom of rickets, and is a direct result of a vitamin D deficiency.
5. Abnormal or Cancerous Cells
While the jury is still out on the role that Vitamin D plays in cancer, the facts are clear. People who have higher vitamin D levels are less likely to develop cancer, and they are less likely to die from cancer (lower mortality) than individuals who have sub-optimal vitamin D levels.
6. You Have Pre-Diabetes - or Insulin Resistance
Vitamin D is related to the auto-immune development of type 1 diabetes, as well as the onset of type 2 diabetes. Vitamin D plays a vital role in the action of insulin, which is dysfunctional in type 2 diabetes.
7. You Have High Cholesterol or High Triglyceride Levels
A recent study showed that presence of metabolic syndrome as well as hyperlipidemia is associated with decreased vitamin D levels. Adding vitamin D to statin treatment lowered cholesterol levels an additional 10 points lower than just the statin alone. People who were given vitamin D also saw a greater decrease in triglyceride levels as well.
8. You Have Low HDL or "Healthy" Cholesterol Levels
If your HDL, or good cholesterol-levels, are too low, studies show that this is independently and significantly related to the vitamin D deficiency.