Are you getting enough of the sunshine vitamin?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, steroid vitamin, which is a very important nutrient needed to maintain our bones. It is predominantly produced by our body on exposure to sunlight. Other than this, the food sources rich in vitamin D are oily fish, eggs and other fortified food products like milk.
Vitamin D deficiency is commonly seen in pregnant women and has been associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus, preterm birth, and other conditions. That is why vitamin D is usually given as supplements to pregnant women to reduce these risks. Though supplementation is available, a pregnant woman should get enough Vitamin D from a healthy, balanced diet. Apart from this, you need to know how to get vitamin D from the sun.
Research says that consumption of 4000 IU of vitamin D daily can prevent preterm labour, preterm births and infections. Prenatal vitamin has only about 400IU of vitamin D and thus requires additional supplementation.
Importance of vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a major role in immunity function, healthy cell division, and bone health. Vitamin D is also needed for the absorption and usage of calcium and phosphorus in our body. Researchers have linked low levels of vitamin D to an increased risk of cancer, autoimmune disease, neurological disease, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease.
Adequate vitamin D levels are important for maternal, foetal and child health. Vitamin D plays a very important role in neurological and immunity development in children too. The damage done due to low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy can sometimes be seen in the child after many years. So, the prevention of vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women is very important.
Factors affecting vitamin D levels:
Wondering what vitamin D deficiency causes are? Pre-pregnancy obesity is often associated with low levels of vitamin D in both the mother and the infant. This is because body fat stores a major amount of vitamin D in the skin, thus making it less available to the body.
Some medications like steroids, anti-epileptic medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs and diuretics also reduce vitamin D absorption from the intestine. Having intestinal malabsorption diseases like Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, or the partial removal or bypass of the stomach or intestine can also cause vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D sources
In addition to food sources, vitamin D absorption in our body also depends on where you live, the season, how much time you spend outdoors without sunscreen, skin pigmentation, age, obesity, pollution, and whether you have healthy, functional intestines.
Including more vitamin-D-rich foods in your diet and getting 10 minutes of sunlight exposure between 10 am and 3 pm, 2 to 3 times a week, is essential to maintain good vitamin D levels. Another effective way to get vitamin D is through supplementation, which can be in the form of either ergocalciferol (vegetarian form), or cholecalciferol (animal-sourced form) obtained from fish liver oil or lanolin from sheep.
Cholecalciferol is the most absorbable form of vitamin D. But if you are a vegan, ergocalciferol form can be taken. There are other prenatal supplements too that have good amounts of vitamin D, which you can take as per the doctor’s advice.