Bad to the Bone: Is Inadequate Vitamin D Putting Your Health at Risk?
With your eyes firmly on the prize, it’s natural to get caught up in the excitement of your weight loss journey, directing all of your effort and attention towards reaching your goal weight. But don’t forget that part of this process is making sure your body gets all the nutrients it needs to be healthy.
Whilst vitamin D deficiency is common in the Australian population as a whole, you may be at even greater risk following bariatric surgery.1
The Dynamics That Drive Your Deficiency
Reduced food intake, accompanied by changes in your body’s ability to absorb nutrients following surgery, puts many people at risk of developing vitamin D deficiency. This becomes more likely if you had poor vitamin D levels before surgery. Additionally, reduced sun exposure (you read correctly; your skin produces its own vitamin D when exposed to the sun) also plays a role in the deficiency dilemma.
Vitamin D Has a Killer Work Ethic
Vitamin D is vital to your overall health, with a deficiency having significant negative effects on your well being. One of the busiest vitamins in your body, vitamin D puts in some serious overtime trying to keep you healthy. Its benefits include:
- Maintaining strong, healthy bones: Vitamin D increases your absorption of the mineral calcium, with both of these nutrients being crucial for maintaining bones throughout the body;2
- Supporting muscle strength: Muscle weakness is a cardinal sign of vitamin D deficiency and can lead to pain and muscle wastage, causing you to experience muscle fatigue during everyday activities;3
- Regulating your immune function: Many of the cells that make up your immune system, which defend your body against illness, depend on vitamin D;4
- Enhancing your body’s energy production: Vitamin D has been shown to support the function of several organs including the pancreas, liver, skeletal muscle and adipose (fat) tissue. These key organs are involved in converting food from your diet into energy that can be used by your body.5
With all of these functions in mind, you can see how a vitamin D deficiency comes with many unwanted side effects, including fatigue and recurrent illnesses.
Them Bones, Them Bones, Them Thin Bones…
‘Sticks and stones may break my bones’… and so can a calcium deficiency!
Following bariatric surgery, vitamin D deficiency commonly leads to hypocalcemia (low levels of calcium), which can compromise bone health and increase the risk of bone fractures occurring later in life.6
As calcium is an important mineral for building bone, your body requires a consistent influx of calcium through diet or a supplement to support strong, healthy bones. For best results, combine your calcium with a dose of vitamin D, which will enhance your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Still need more convincing? Click here for more information on the importance of calcium supplementation following weight loss surgery.
On top of these nutrient deficiencies, the weight loss you’ve experienced also increases your risk of reduced bone mineral density, which is a measure of bone strength based on the amount of key minerals in your bones. As your weight decreases, your bones no longer need to bear the same amount of physical load, so your body compensates by producing much less new bone to support your reduced body weight. This reduction in bone mineral density further increases your risk of fractures and breaks. With this dilemma in mind, having adequate calcium and vitamin D levels reinforces the production of strong, healthy bones, and reduces the risk of bone breaks and fractures.
Power Up Your Vitamin D
The most efficient ways of powering up your vitamin D status include:
- Delighting in 10 minutes of sunshine daily: Skipping the sunscreen and showing some skin (your arms and legs will do) will enhance your body’s ability to produce its own vitamin D. However, make sure you avoid peak UV times to prevent sunburn. Once your 10 ten minutes are up, make sure you slip, slop, slap.
- Supercharge your diet with vitamin D-rich foods: These include eggs, beef, liver, dairy products and saltwater fish (herring, salmon, tuna, and sardines).
- Embrace a supplement: Selecting a cleverly crafted combination of vitamin D and calcium can significantly reduce the risk of poor bone health following surgery.
Your Deficiency Dilemma Sorted
Vitamin D deficiency is a common complication of bariatric surgery and may have negative effects on your health, preventing you from feeling your best. If you have poor bone health, lack muscle strength, feel fatigued, or are catching every cold or flu going around, that is a sign your vitamin D needs a top up. Boost your vitamin D levels by basking in the sunshine, eating vitamin D-rich foods and by taking a combined vitamin D and calcium supplement. Doing so will improve your overall levels, prevent deficiency and keep you on track for more weight loss achievements. To have your vitamin D levels assessed, speak to your Doctor or healthcare Practitioner who can recommend a blood test.
- Lespessailles E, Toumi H. Vitamin D alteration associated with obesity and bariatric surgery. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2017 May;242(10):1086-1094. doi: 10.1177/1535370216688567.
- Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. 4th California (USA): Wadsworth Cengage Learning; 2009. p. 396-8.
- Gunton JE, Girgis CM. Vitamin D and muscle. Bone Rep. 2018 Apr 18;8:163-167. doi:10.1016/j.bonr.2018.04.004.
- Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. 4th California (USA): Wadsworth Cengage Learning; 2009. p. 398-9.
- David R. Fraser. Vitamin D deficiency and energy metabolism. Endocrinol. 2015 Jun 1;156(6):1933-1935. doi:https://doi.org/10.1210/en.2015-1298
- Kalani A, Bami H, Tiboni M, Jaeschke R, Adachi JD, Lau AN. The effect of bariatric surgery on serum 25-OH vitamin D levels: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Sci Pract. 2017 Jun 27;3(3):319-332. doi: 10.1002/osp4.113