bone health, dance health, Dance Nutrition, Injury Prevention, Injury Recovery, Menstrual cycle

Vitamin D Deficiency in Dancers

It’s been a beautiful few days here in Sydney with blue skies and sunshine.

Pretty much the best weather to get a good dose of Vitamin D – one of the most common vitamins deficient in dancers.

Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D’s functions are:

  • Develop and maintain strong bones
  • Ensure optimal muscle functioning (contraction and retraction movements)
  • Support optimal functioning of the nervous system
  • Help regulate hormonal balance (esp. insulin and thyroid related hormones)
  • Maintain healthy immune system

Dancers of Vitamin D deficiency

If you are deficient in Vitamin D, that can make you more prone to fractures, cold and flu, bone and joint pain, and disruption in hormonal balance.

Doesn’t sound pleasant at all, does it?

How do you get Vitamin D?

You actually generate majority of the Vitamin D in your body.

The main way in which this is done is through sunshine:

  • The UV hits the skin
  • Vitamin D3, which is a precursor of active Vitamin D, is created
  • Through the liver and kidneys, this precursor turns into the active Vitamin D which can carry out all the functions listed above

Vitamin D can also be obtained from food, however, it’s not possible to get enough ONLY from food and without sunlight.

It’s also important to note that in the process of generating Vitamin D in the body (and absorbing any Vitamin D’s from food), cholesterol is essential.

Dancers are at high risk

So you could probably see why dancers are at high risk of becoming deficient in this important vitamin.

For one, dancers practice mainly indoors. So the more hours you practice inside, the less time you get to go out in the sun.

Low/no-fat dairy, fat-free dressings and avoiding fats in general, are unfortunately still a common practice encouraged in dancers. So even if you did go out in the sun enough, if you were having these foods often, it’s unlikely you get enough cholesterol in your body to create the active form of Vitamin D.

What to do to prevent or treat Vitamin D deficiency

You can check your Vitamin D level with a blood test.

In Australia it’s almost become a routine to check this and at DDD we definitely recommend it for all dancers.

In Australia, a level of 50 nmol/L is considered to be the minimum amount needed for healthy bodily functioning.

Anything below that would be considered deficient, and is categorised into three levels of deficiency depending on the actual level.

If you are found to be deficient in Vitamin D, the best thing to do is to take Vitamin D supplements.

Generally speaking, moderate to severe deficiency would require a supplementation with 3000 – 5000 IU of Vitamin D (daily) for 6-12 weeks, followed by a maintenance dose of 1000 – 2000 IU (daily).

Ask your GP or Dietitian for the exact amount as this would depend on your level.

While taking supplements, it’s best to tackle the underlying cause of the deficiency.

The most common issue we see in dancers with Vitamin D defieicny here at DDD is, actually, a general lack of food intake.

Making sure you develop habits to fuel your body adequately and plentifully can help you prevent this deficiency from happening again.

So before the End of Year performance season begins, make an appointment with your GP to check your levels, or review your overall eating to ensure you’re eating enough to support your dancing body.

Fumi x

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