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Insufficient Vitamin D Levels May Cause Lung Problems

A study published in the February issue of the Chest revealed that vitamin D deficiency is linked to a higher risk of interstitial lung disease.


The Lungs

The principal function of the lungs is to transport the oxygen acquired through breathing to the blood streams and to release carbon dioxide back to the atmosphere. The whole process of respiration is accomplished by tiny specialized cells called alveoli or the air sacs. In the process of breathing, air passes through the nose then travels through the nasopharynx, larynx, trachea and through the branches of the bronchial tubes before finally reaching the aveoli. The diaphragm, on the other hand, is important in driving air to the lungs.

Pulmonary Health Risks

The increasingly deteriorating conditions of the environment make it even harder to keep the lungs healthy. Though the lungs are naturally capable of filtering the air that we breathe, they may not be able to filter toxic materials in the air that may affect our health. This results to lung problems that can be life threatening. Lung cancer, for example, has a high prevalence rate in the United States and other parts of the world.

The number one cause of lung damage is smoking. Numerous studies had found out that smoking can dramatically increase the risk of developing lung cancer and other pulmonary disorders. A single stick of cigarette can contain hundreds of toxins and harmful materials that can directly harm the lungs and other vital organs of the body. Indeed, smoking is bad for the health. Other factors and bad habits can also result to an increased risk of developing lung disease. Inhaling aerosols like paint and deodorants can result to serious damage of the lungs. Vehicles like trucks and cars release toxic fumes that can damage the lungs when inhaled. The lack of sufficient nutrition can also lead to certain lung problems.  A study published in the February issue of the Chest revealed that vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of interstitial lung disease, a health condition associated with inflammation of the tissues surrounding the air sacs.

Interstitial Lung Disease

The air sacs found in the inner lining of the lungs plays a very important role in extracting oxygen from the air and are supported by a thin lining of tissue. When this tissue becomes inflamed, the function of the air sacs is affected. This health condition of the lungs is called interstitial lung disease. ILD is not limited to certain portions of the lungs but the inflammation can spread all throughout the lungs. Unlike pneumonia, the inflammation of the lungs in interstitial lung disease is not caused by infection but by other factors including the misdirected response of the immune system to infection and toxins like silica dusts and asbestos. Other cases of ILD are idiopathic or with no definite cause.

The first symptom of ILD is difficulty in breathing due to the reduced amounts of circulating oxygen in the body followed by frequent coughing. The condition can be mistakenly diagnosed as pneumonia. Health examinations to conclude ILD include blood tests to rule out infection, imaging studies like CT scans and chest x-rays, PFT or pulmonary function tests and biopsy. Though all these tests are not required in order to determine ILD, some cases may need more examinations that others.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Lung Health

In a study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, results revealed that vitamin D deficiency can affect the proper function of the lungs. The researchers observed that patients with interstitial lung disease or ILD are mostly deficient in vitamin D especially in patients with connective tissue disease or CTD. They gathered a group of 67 patients with CTD-ILD and 51 patients with other types of ILD and found that the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency is 69 percent and 38 percent, respectively.  Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining healthy lung function. And aside from keeping the respiratory system in tip-top shape, vitamin D also plays an essential role in other body functions.

Health Benefits of Vitamin D

United States laws require the fortification of all milk brands with vitamin D. So drinking one to two glasses of milk a day can supply the body with its needed dosage of vitamin D to maintain and promote better health. Other rich sources of vitamin D are cream, butter, and other dairy products. Some oysters and fish are also rich sources of vitamin D.

The efficient absorption of calcium in the bones need the assistance of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is commonly associated with rickets in children and osteoporosis in older adults. Too much vitamin D can also have adverse effects to the body since it results to the excessive absorption of calcium which can accumulate in vital organs like the heart and lungs. Muscle weakness, vomiting and the appearance of kidney stones are also linked to too much vitamin D.

Infants and children aged 0 to 13 years need 5 micrograms of vitamin D a day; this recommended daily intake of vitamin D is relatively consistent up to the age of 50 with an increase to 10 micrograms for people 51 years and older.

Natural Ways to Promote Lung Health

Frequent exercise, proper nutrition and avoiding harmful habits are keys to keeping the lungs healthy. Even if the person exercise frequently and is receiving sufficient nutrition, smoking can keep his risk of developing lung disease high compared to sedentary and malnourished non-smokers. It has been well established that smoking can lead to numerous health conditions like lung cancer and other types of cancer. Smoking can also weaken the immune system and make the person more susceptible to infection.

Medical experts advise regular check-ups for the early diagnosis of a lung disorder. Taking the stairs instead of using the lift will also give the lungs a healthy workout if there’s no time to go to the gym. Second hand smoke can damage the lungs more than cigarette does to the actual smoker. So try to stay away from smoky areas and always make it a point to take the non-smokers area in bars and restaurants. Certain household products may also release toxic fumes when used. Make it a habit to always check the labels of household cleaning products before buying or using them.

Sources
medicinenet.com
eurekalert.org
medicinenet.com
nlm.nih.gov
ods.od.nih.gov
rd.com

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