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According to Shira Miller, M.D., Founder and Medical Director of The Integrative Center for Health & Wellness, many people are unaware that they have a vitamin D deficiency, which can result in an array of health issues. That is why it is important to frequently get your vitamin D levels tested.
Vitamin D is produced in skin exposed to sunlight. While spending most of the time indoors or wearing sunscreen can inhibit natural vitamin D production, Miller notes on her website that geographic location can play a role in the effectiveness of sun exposure. During the winter, in areas that are at least 40 degrees north of the equator, such as Portland, Oregon, Chicago and Boston, the sun's UVB rays are filtered by the atmosphere and people are unable to produce vitamin D.
Miller suggests taking oral supplements and safely using tanning beds, which provide UVB. Having a vitamin D deficiency can lead to a myriad of health problems, ranging from autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and muscle aches, to cancer in the breast, prostate, colon and other parts of the body. She also notes that cesarean delivery, fatigue, insomnia and influenza can result from a vitamin D deficiency.
According to Miller, people cannot tell on their own if they have low levels of vitamin D, which is why it's important to obtain a blood test, no matter how much time is spent outside.
The risk of rickets
The National Institutes of Health reports that vitamin D helps people control their calcium and phosphate levels. When they are too low, the body releases a hormone that causes the nutrients to be released from the bone. This may result in rickets, which causes pain in the arms, legs, pelvis and spine. Other symptoms include dental deformities, frequent muscle cramps and impaired growth. Skeletal deformities are also caused by rickets, which may leave children bow-legged, having bumps on their rib cages or with misshapen pelvises and spines.
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