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Vitamin D

What is Vitamin D?

A vitamin is a substance that is needed for normal cell function, growth, and development.  Vitamin D is a hormone that the body uses in a few different ways.  


What does it do?

Vitamin D is essential in bone growth and strength.  It works by helping calcium enter the body through the gut.  Calcium is then used to make up the basic structure of the bones.  Low calcium leads to decreased bone density in adults and rickets in children.  In growing children, the decrease in bone density leads to soft bones that don’t form correctly, and can bow.  It also can lead to delayed development, pain, and muscle weakness.  


We are also finding out that Vitamin D has other effects on the body, including the immune system.  Studies have shown that a lack of Vitamin D can increase the risk of respiratory infections, and may be associated with long term diseases such as diabetes and some childhood cancers.  


How do I get Vitamin D?

There are two main ways to get Vitamin D.  The first is sunlight.  Your body can make its own Vitamin D just by being out in the sun.  Unfortunately, many people aren’t able to make enough of their own for various reasons including using sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, spending more time indoors, having darker skin, and living in colder climates.


The other way to get Vitamin D is through supplements.  Infants, especially breastfeeding ones, require 400 IU a day that is often given via drops.  Older children are often given food or drink that are fortified with vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D.  They can also be given drops or capsules if needed.


Can I get too much?

Not from the sun, the body can break down excess Vitamin D when you make it yourself.  You can, however, get too much using supplemental drops or capsules.  Vitamin D overdose can cause problems like confusion, peeing very often, nausea, vomiting, and weakness.


What do I do if I think my child doesn’t have enough Vitamin D?

Ask your pediatrician about it.  They can talk to you about your child’s diet, and any problems they may be having.  If needed, they can check Vitamin D levels in your child’s blood.  If it turns out it’s needed, they can help you get the right dose.


Bottom line.

Vitamin D is an important substance for your body that helps with your bones and immune system.  Not enough causes trouble, but so does too much.  Ask your doctor for guidance.



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