The Deal With D
Called “The Sunshine Vitamin”, the importance of Vitamin D has become apparent within the last decade or so. It’s called “The Sunshine Vitamin” because when your body is exposed to the sun, your skin makes the vitamin and it is then sent to your liver. The liver converts it to a new substance called 25(OH)D. From the liver, it is sent all over your body where different tissues convert it to the active form. Activated Vitamin D3 serves multi purposes. D3 affects up to 2,000 genes which underlines the power of this mighty nutrient.
Perhaps the most vital and well known role for D3 is regulating the absorption of calcium & other bone and teeth strengthening nutrients. Calcium is especially important during infancy and teenage years because of growth. Poor calcium absorption leads to low calcium levels and poor bone development. Over long periods of time, low levels of vitamin D-3 contribute to osteoporosis.
Studies also suggest that vitamin D-3 supplementation helps resolve seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The theory is that restoring optimal vitamin D-3 levels alleviates symptoms of depression resulting from low sunlight exposure during winter months.
In addition to its primary benefits Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for many systems in the body including:
- Optimizing immune system function, reducing the likelihood of developing the flu and helping to fight other infections
- Muscle function
- Improving blood sugar and reducing insulin resistance
- Reducing inflammations
- Decreasing heart disease risk and improving circulation (blood flow)
- Respiratory system, improved breathing, optimizing healthy lungs and airways
- Brain development
- Cellular communication
So what happens if you don’t get enough sunlight on your skin?
Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is a concern for many of us who live in cooler climates. By not having exposed skin in the sun each day, we may become deficient and can’t reap the benefits of this important vitamin.
Deficiency of Vitamin D is implicated in many disorders ranging from osteoporosis to certain cancers (colorectal, breast, pancreatic, and others). Other conditions associated with low Vitamin D levels include high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, influenza, eczema, asthma and depression.
How do you know if you are deficient in vitamin D? There are certain groups of people that are more prone to be deficient. These include:
- People with darker skin tones
- People who spend a lot of time indoors
- People who cover their skin most of the time
- People that live in the northern U.S. or Canada (or other cooler climates)
- Infants that are breastfed and not given a vitamin D supplement
- Pregnant women
- People who are obese
You may not show any signs or symptoms of vitamin D deficiency so it is important to have your blood levels tested. For convenience, you can order a test kit through PHS Diagnostics. When looking at the results, the sufficient level, according to the Vitamin D council, is between 40 and 80 ng/ml. Studies support that adults need to consume 5,000 IU/day of a vitamin D3 supplement each day to reach and maintain optimal levels. Once achieved, supplementation at 2,000 to 4,000 IU a day (less in the summer time with greater sun exposure; higher range in the winter or when indoors more often than not) should maintain optimal levels. If your level is low and you start a vitamin D3 regimen, it is wise to re-check your levels every 3 months to ascertain results, then twice annually.
Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients that your body utilizes. Having proper levels in your blood may help to keep you healthy and supplementation is crucial to keeping sufficient levels. It is very difficult to get enough vitamin D from your diet because there are so few foods that contain enough to make a difference in keeping your levels optimal.
In addition to capturing vitamin D from sun exposure, you can get the vitamin from the following food sources.
Meeting daily vitamin D requirements via sun exposure may be difficult. Depending on skin color, where you live and season of the year. 45 minutes to 3 hours per week of sun exposure may be needed to make enough. Sunlight needs to reach face, arms, back and legs without sunscreen.
- Dairy products — such as cheese, unsweetened yogurt, butter and fortified milk (including unsweetened almond and coconut milk)
- Fatty fish (salmon, sardines and oysters)
- Egg yolk
- Fortified juice
source: vitamin d council
*The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.