Vitamin D is an important nutrient for overall health. It is an important factor in bone health because vitamin D aides in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. It has also been shown to be important for the immune system, muscle function, cardiovascular function, respiratory system, brain development, and might have cancer fighting effects. It is also believed to be connected to emotional/mental health.
Lack of vitamin D in the winter months has been connected to depression in some people. A major problem that can come from being deficient is rickets. While it isn’t as common in developed countries any longer, it can still happen if a child is not getting enough vitamin D. Rickets happens when bone tissue fails to properly mineralize, causing soft bones and skeletal deformities. This can be mild or extreme.
**Important to note here** Do not freak out that your baby/child has rickets just because they are bowlegged. Baby’s legs are naturally bowlegged and as kids grow, this changes. It isn’t uncommon to go from bowlegged to knock-kneed and then eventually have things even out and look normal. So don’t freak yourself out.
It’s also one of the most common deficiencies. For some people it can be as simple as getting enough sun every week to have optimal levels of vitamin D. It isn’t always that simple though. There are a few factors that affect our ability to have adequate levels from sun exposure; such as, time of day, distance from the equator, skin tone, season, amount of skin exposed, and sunblock use. The link below in the sources section for the Vitamin D Council has more detailed information on this.
Because vitamin D deficiency is so common, many doctors automatically say that an infant needs to be supplemented. This isn’t always true. If the mother has sufficient levels and both the mother and baby get some sunlight regularly, the baby is likely fine without supplementation. Since it is a common deficiency, many doctors simply assume that no mother will be able to provide enough vitamin D through breastmilk and they recommend supplementation. Your doctor may even say that it isn’t passed through breastmilk at all, which is not true. A simple blood test can be done to test the vitamin D levels in any child or adult. If you are concerned, ask your doctor to do the test and see if you or your baby need to be supplementing.
If you do choose to supplement, there are a variety of brands available, some of which offer the recommended daily dose in as little as one drop. There are also two types of vitamin D you choose from to supplement with, D2 and D3. D3 is more easily absorbed by the body. However, if you are vegan this may come with an ethical dilemma as it is derived from animal sources. It that applies to you, it is something to take into consideration when choosing a supplement.
- Vitamin D Council: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/#
- Kellymom http://kellymom.com/nutrition/vitamins/vitamins/#VitaminD
- National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements: QuickFacts:http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-QuickFacts/ … Factsheet for Health Professionals, has info on sources, recommended daily values, etc: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/4/1080S.full
- Dr. Mercola’s opinion on where to get Vitamin D: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/11/25/why-sunlight-is-your-best-source-of-vitamin-d.aspx