Our body begins to make Vitamin D only when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight, which in turn converts a hormone called 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) present in the skin into an active form of the vitamin. This is further followed by multiple steps to synthesise vitamin D which is required for various physiological processes.
Vitamin D has become one of the most sought-after and valuable micronutrients in today’s era. Deficiency of Vitamin D has become a pandemic concern with researches highlighting about 70-100 per cent of the general population falling victim to it. Another concern is that this deficiency is being undiagnosed and untreated.
One of the most hazardous effects of Vitamin D deficiency is compromised bone health and skeletal structure. Vitamin D helps in absorbing dietary calcium and as a result, it plays a role in phosphorus and calcium homeostasis and bone mineralisation versus remodeling. Low calcium levels immediately result in high parathyroid hormone, which signals the kidney to re-sorb calcium, while the bones give back the calcium into the blood. As a result, the bones become brittle. Chronic vitamin deficiency also leads to osteomalacia, osteoporosis, and rickets.
Recent researches also indicate a vital role of vitamin D in maintaining immunity. There is a link between vitamin D deficiency and increased risk of tuberculosis, upper respiratory tract infection, influenza, otitis media. Studies also indicate a 30 per cent decrease in type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes) for children supplemented with vitamin D.
Role Of Vitamin D In The Gut
A strong link has been observed between Vitamin D deficiency and Crohn’s disease, which is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease affecting any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Inflammation is most commonly seen in the small intestine and upper part of the large intestine. A trial conducted in the year 2013 presented the therapeutic role of vitamin D in Crohn’s disease and since then the primary role of Vitamin D is considered to be the absorption of dietary calcium.
All of this can be attributed to the fact that vitamin D plays a vital role in boosting the immune system. The composition of gut flora and microbiota is also regulated by Vitamin D, whose deficiency leads to inflammatory response and increased risk of autoimmune and inflamed bowel diseases.