Vitamin D plays an important role in many places throughout the body, including the development and calcification of bones. It has the ability to interact and affect more than 2,000 genes in the body.
There are multiple ways to get your necessary dose and a few of them involve taking in that beautiful sunshine outside your door!
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is an oil-soluble vitamin that has several important functions in the body:
- It helps to absorb dietary calcium and phosphorus from the intestines
- It suppresses the release of parathyroid hormone, a hormone that causes bone resorption
Through these actions, vitamin D keeps calcium and phosphate levels in the blood normal, thereby promoting bone health.
Why is Vitamin D important? What can it do for me?
It enhances muscle strength, has anti-inflammatory effects and bolsters the immune system. It helps the action of insulin and has anti-cancer activity. It is also necessary for building and maintaining healthy bones because your body can only absorb calcium, the primary component of bone, when vitamin D is present. Other benefits that come from an optimized level of Vitamin D:
- In combination with exercise, it helps us reduce visceral fat
- Prevent type 2 diabetes
- Rejuvenate aging eyes
- Reduce Alzheimer’s risk
- Protect us from 16 different types of cancer including breast, colon, prostate, ovaries and esophagus
Natural sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is made in the skin under the influence of sunlight. The amount of sunlight needed to synthesize adequate amounts of vitamin D varies, depending upon the person’s age, skin color, sun exposure, and underlying medical problems. The production of vitamin D from the skin decreases with age. In addition, people who have darker skin need more sun exposure to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D, especially during winter months.
If you live above 40 degrees north latitude –north of Philadelphia for example, or Denver –you won’t make much vitamin D in the winter months.
The sun isn’t all good, of course. As any dermatologist will eagerly tell you, too much sun could risk a lot more than a bad sunburn. Routinely overdosing on sunshine could translate into life threatening skin cancer.
So how much sun do you dare expose yourself to? Just five to ten minutes in the sun two to three times a week –exposing your hands, legs and arms –is more than adequate to satisfy your vitamin D requirements, and you’re not likely to significantly increase your risk of skin cancer in the process.
What foods and drinks have Vitamin D?
- Milk, orange juice or yogurt fortified with vitamin D
- Cooked salmon or mackerel
- Canned tuna fish
- Cereals with vitamin D added
- Cod liver oil
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
The main reasons for low levels of vitamin D are:
- Lack of vitamin D in the diet, often in conjunction with inadequate sun exposure
- Inability to absorb vitamin D from the intestines
- Inability to process vitamin D due to kidney or lower disease
Potential Complications of Vitamin D Deficiency
The most serious complications of vitamin D deficiency are low blood calcium, low blood phosphate, rickets (softening of the bones during childhood) and osteomalacia (softening of the bones in adults). Thus, identifying and treating vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency is important to maintain bone strength. Treatment may even improve the health of other body systems, such as the immune, muscular and cardiovascular systems, although more research is needed in these areas.
Who needs Vitamin D levels checked?
Consult with your physician to determine if this test is indicated. Based on the results, you may need to find ways to increase your intake of vitamin D. This may be accomplished through increased sun exposure, dietary intake or supplementation.
If you’re not getting enough Vitamin D, head out side for a quick walk and soak up those gorgeous rays. Or maybe visit the market and make an amazing salmon dish for dinner served with a glass of organic milk. Regardless of the source, be sure to stock up on the Vitamin D and keep your bones healthy so you can enjoy the gorgeous weather heading our way!
Do you have a favorite method of getting your Vitamin D intake for the day? Head over to our Facebook page and let us know, or share in the comment section below!