Vitamin D is an important nutrient to maintain the health of your bones and muscles. It helps absorb calcium and phosphate that prevents bone loss, which leads to a condition called osteopenia (when the fracture risk is medium) and osteoporosis (when the fracture risk is very high).
As you age, the rate at which bones break down is greater than the rate at which new bones form. This is a normal condition in older people and menopausal women. However, unfortunately, there has been an increase in the cases of osteoporosis in young adults. A lack of a good diet and exercise should be blamed. In addition, certain medical conditions like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) are also a responsible cause.
Given the fact that you are not afflicted with any medical condition, the absence of vitamin D in your diet is the reason for the poor absorption of calcium into your bones.
What are the sources of vitamin D?
Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. From late March until September end, you can get enough vitamin D from the sunlight, but you cannot make enough vitamin D from the sunlight from a period between autumn and spring.
However, if you do not prefer to be exposed to the sunlight, you can get it from a lot of food sources such as oily fish like sardines, salmon, mackerel and herring, liver, red meat, egg yolks and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals. Although these foods are rich in vitamin D, they can harm your health in other ways if consumed excessively.
How much vitamin D should you take?
10 micrograms of vitamin D a day is a must for children over the age of 1 and adults, including pregnant and lactating women and people who have or are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Between 8.5 and 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day is more than enough for babies who are yet to turn 1.
1 microgram of vitamin D is equal to 40 IU (international units), so it means you need 400 IU of vitamin D every day.
Vitamin D supplements
There are some people who are not exposed much to the daylight in the summer and do not eat non-vegetarian food. Of course, they are at risk of being prey to bone deformities. The deficiency of vitamin D will lead to poor absorption of calcium, and as a result, your bones will become rickety over time.
You might need supplements to avoid suffering from vitamin D deficiency. The best time to take the vitamin D supplement is between October and early March. The rest of the time, you can easily absorb enough vitamin D from the sunlight, so no supplements are required, provided you bask in the sun.
You can get over-the-counter vitamin D supplements, but it is recommended that you consult your GP first. Other people who are at risk of vitamin D include those who are housebound or do not often go out and usually wear clothes that cover up almost most of their skin when they are outdoors.
You cannot make enough vitamin D if you have dark skin. African and South Asian people cannot make enough vitamin D from the sunlight because of the higher amount of melanin that exists in their bodies.
What if you take too much vitamin D?
Health experts advise that you do not take vitamin D more than 400 IU a day. If you are absorbing vitamin D from supplements, make sure you do not overdose. Too much levels of vitamin D will lead to vitamin D toxicity.
It is a condition of excess buildup of calcium in your blood that can cause throw-up, frequent urination, fatigue, bone pain and kidney stones. Make sure you ask your doctor before consuming any supplement and strictly adhere to the prescribed dose. You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight.
However, you are still advisable to cover up your skin as much as possible when you are out, especially if you have to stay outdoors for a longer period, to avoid the risk of skin damage, rash, tan and skin cancer.
Food for healthy bones
You should try to improve your diet to have enough vitamin D so your bones stay healthier for a longer period. The denser your bones are, the less fracture risk you will have in old age.
|Adults need 1000mg of calcium a day, regardless of gender.
|Adults need 400 IU of vitamin D a day, regardless of gender.
If you are a vegan, you can get calcium and vitamin D from the following sources:
- Soya beans
- Sesame seeds
- Oat drinks
- Fortified rice
- Dried fruits such as raisins, prunes
- Breakfast cereals
- Vitamin D supplements
Avoid too much spinach, as it is known for leeching out calcium from your bones. Likewise, you should avoid too much intake of liver because of the high amount of vitamin A.
How to keep your bones healthier in older age
Despite sufficient intake of vitamin D, your bones will lose their density if you are at least 60. Here are some of the ways to help you keep your bones healthier when you are older:
High-intensity exercises are not recommended as your bones are already weak at this time., but you should keep moving so your bones do not become overly stiff. Walking is the best exercise if you are 60 or over. However, if you feel a bit stronger, you can choose to do moderate-intensity exercises like dancing, carrying groceries, walking up and down stairs, yoga, heavy gardening like digging and water aerobics. Avoid lifting objects when you are at a high risk of fracture. Stretching can help you, but ask your doctor first because not all types of stretching or exercises will be helpful for you.
Protein is also important
Protein is an essential nutrient to maintain muscle health. Ask your doctor for protein supplements. You might be avoiding dairy products at an old age because of diabetes. You should consider other alternatives to get sufficient calcium and vitamin D.
Other ways to protect your bones from fracture include:
- Quit smoking
- Make your house safer to avoid accidents
- Review your doctor if you have any symptoms
The final word
Vitamin D helps absorb calcium into your bones, so you cannot avoid this nutrient. Your diet must include dairy products, egg yolk, fortified foods, fish etc. Take vitamin D supplements.
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