It is a vitamin that many people these days are deficient in, yet is has vital importance to our overall health and wellbeing, more than any other vitamin. Let’s take a closer look at what makes vitamin D important in order to be healthy.
Why do we need vitamin D
Vitamin D plays an important role in helping to prevent osteoporosis, depression, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that plays a key role in almost all of our physiological functions. Sufficient levels of vitamin D are crucial for calcium absorption in your intestines. Without sufficient vitamin D, your body cannot absorb calcium. As an immune system regulator, vitamin D is absolutely vital to vibrant health. It is the only vitamin your body makes itself (and it’s actually a hormone!). Although there are many forms of vitamin D the two most common types are vitamin D3 and vitamin D2.
How can we get Vitamin D?
The good news is, vitamin D is actually free and easy to obtain- your body makes it when sunlight touches your skin. However, despite that, vitamin D is the most undervalued nutrient in the world, since most people assume they are getting enough from the sun.
However, this simply isn’t the case. Due to the increased concern about skin cancer and raised awareness about the dangers of excess sun exposure, people are getting less and less of this crucial vitamin.
Vitamin D is produced by your skin in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight. Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to generate vitamin D in your own body. Our bodies can produce vitamin D on their own when exposed to sunlight but the skin must be free of sunscreen, sun blocks and clothing, which all interfere with the process.
The healing rays of natural sunlight that generate vitamin D in your skin cannot penetrate glass. So you don’t generate vitamin D when sitting in your car or home. Even weak sunscreens (SPF 8) block your body’s ability to generate vitamin D by 95%. Sunscreen products can actually cause disease by creating a critical vitamin deficiency in the body.
While experts agree that vitamin D is crucial, there is some controversy over the best way to get it. Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods. If you’re looking to get vitamin D from food, include fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines in your diet. Other food sources are eggs, fortified milk, mushrooms, fortified cereals, select yogurt brands, beef or calf liver, and cheese. Cod liver oil boasts high vitamin D levels, but also contains a lot of vitamin A, which may be toxic in large amounts. It is nearly impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from your diet. A person would have to drink 10 tall glasses of vitamin D fortified milk each day just to get minimum levels of vitamin D into their diet.
Exposing your body to sunlight really is the simplest and most effective way to get vitamin D. However, the amount of sun you need to meet your vitamin D requirements varies hugely, depending on your location, the season, your skin type, the time of day, air pollution, body parts exposed, and age. The further you live from the equator, the longer the exposure you need to the sun in order to generate vitamin D. Canada, the UK and most US states are far from the equator.
While some say exposure to the sun is enough, others say the sun is not reliable and therefore encourage a supplement regimen.
Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency
There are certain people in the population who are at higher risk of deficiency than others. People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 to 30 times as much exposure to sunlight as fair-skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D. Having kidney disease or liver damage can greatly impair your body’s ability to activate circulating vitamin D.
People living in the northern hemisphere may not get enough sunlight. The body is usually able to get all the vitamin D it needs through regular exposure of enough bare skin to the sun.
However, many people don’t get enough sunlight because they spend a lot of time inside and because they use sunscreen or wear clothes to cover their skin. It’s also difficult for some people to get enough vitamin D from the sun during the winter.
People who are obese and pregnant women also need more vitamin D than usual and older people have thinner skin than younger people and this may mean that they can’t produce as much vitamin D.
How much do we need?
High quality multivitamins contain approximately 50 – 1,000 IU (International Units) of vitamin D in each capsule or tablet. If you are considering supplements, check in with your primary care physician before starting a regimen. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is debated, though the Institute of Medicine calls for 600 IU per day for children and adults under 70.
How can you know if you are deficient?
Some people may not have any symptoms of vitamin D deficiency and still be deficient. The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are sometimes vague and can include tiredness and general aches and pains. Some people may not have any symptoms at all.
If you have a severe vitamin D deficiency you may have pain in your bones and weakness, which may mean you have difficulty getting around. You may also have frequent infections. However, not everyone gets these symptoms.
Chronic vitamin D deficiency cannot be reversed overnight; it takes months of vitamin D supplementation and sunlight exposure to rebuild the body’s bones and nervous system.
How to test for vitamin D deficiency
If you think you may have vitamin D deficiency, you should see your physician, or have a blood test to check your vitamin D levels.
The way doctors measure if you’re deficient in vitamin D is by testing your 25(OH)D level, but most doctors just call this a vitamin D test. Getting this blood test is the only accurate way to know if you’re deficient or not.
Be wary when supplementing
When people are concerned about deficiency they often oral vitamin D, which may become problematic unless you’re also getting sufficient amounts of vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 works with vitamin D for optimum health. While vitamin D provides improved bone development by helping the body to absorb calcium, there is new evidence that vitamin K2 directs the calcium to your bones, while preventing it from being deposited where you don’t want it. Without one, the other just doesn’t do its job effectively.
Having natural exposure to vitamin D through the sun is undoubtedly the best way to amp-up your levels. Knowing why vitamin D is important might make you now realise you need to get more sunshine. There is no better way to expose your skin to sunlight than while walking outdoors in natural tropical paradise on one of our Bootcamp holidays.
Vitamin D http://geti.in/1b0h0tK
Estimated equivalency of vitamin D production from natural sun exposure versus oral vitamin D supplementation across seasons at two US latitudes http://geti.in/17IgW2Y
Vitamin D http://geti.in/1b0h0tK
How Much Vitamin D? http://geti.in/1cIeUQu