Your vitamin D levels might not be the first thing you think about when your health is lacking. Most of us know the importance of vitamin D and it’s role in preventing bone issues like osteoporosis and fall risk in the elderly, but that’s not all. This single vitamin plays numerous roles in your body, having the ability to affect your health in many ways. Read this article to inform yourself of the importance of not only increasing your sources of vitamin D, but possibly having to supplement for this vital nutrient as well.
Vitamin D’s Role In Our Body
We can receive vitamin D in two ways- our skin and through our diet. Sun rays, specifically UVB rays, strike and penetrate the skin. Our body then synthesizes vitamin D3, so it is the most “natural” form that our bodies can utilize. We can also receive vitamin D3 through our diet. Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a role in bone health, immune function, and cell growth just to name a few. We can get vitamin D2 from fortified foods or mushrooms. However, both forms need to be processed by the liver and kidneys to be changed into the “active” (aka usable) form.
Our body also needs vitamin D to absorb dietary calcium and phosphorus. Without it, our body can only absorb 10% of calcium and 60% of phosphorus. It also plays a role in cell communication, halting cellular proliferation, stimulating insulin production, and regulating genes.
What Are The Key Benefits Of Vitamin D?
Research has shown that vitamin D can help protect against :
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Fractures And Falls
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Type-2 Diabetes
- Muscle Aches
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
You’d think that if you get enough time in the sun and eat enough healthy foods, your vitamin D levels should be just fine. However, more than 50% of the population are still deficient in this vital nutrient. While getting sun and eating healthy sure do help, your body still may not have optimal levels to carry out its functions.
People At Higher Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency
- If you spend the majority of your time indoors, your skin isn’t receiving any rays to produce vitamin D.
- If you eat a poor diet, high in processed foods and low in fruits and vegetables, your vitamin D intake is going to be much lower than someone who eats an abundance of whole vitamin D-rich foods.
- People with darker skin pigmentation are more at risk because they contain a higher presence of melanin in their skin, reducing the body’s ability to produce vitamin D.
- The elderly are at higher risk because they usually don’t get outside as often, and their bodies may not be able to absorb the vitamin as efficiently as they used to.
- If you have a certain type of liver or kidney disease, it could impact the way vitamin D gets metabolized. This can affect the amount of active vitamin D that your body can use in bodily functions and processes.
- Gut issues can cause a decrease in absorption. This means that even if you are consuming high amounts of vitamin D, your body isn’t reaping any of its benefits because it’s not getting to where it needs to be. Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, optimal digestion and absorption of dietary fats is needed to increase absorption. So if you are consuming vitamin D, but don’t pair it with any dietary fats, a percentage of the vitamin D you consume could be going to waste.
Side Effects Of A Vitamin D Deficiency
- Depression/ Anxiety
- Hormone Imbalance/Disruption
- Lowered Immune Response
- Muscle Weakness and Pain
- Hair Loss
- Impaired Cognitive Performance
Sources Of Vitamin D And How To Increase Intake
Eat These Foods That Are High in Vitamin D
- Cod Liver Oil- over 100% Daily Value in one tablespoon
- Wild Caught Salmon- over 100% Daily Value in 3 ounces
- Mackerel- 76% Daily Value in 3 ounces
- Mushrooms (provides vitamin D2 instead of D3)
However, because many of our food sources lack vitamin D, even in whole foods (Read why food nutrition levels are decreasing), it’s important to focus on getting vitamin D from other sources as well.
Get Some Sunshine
Spend some brief time in the sunshine without sunscreen. Consider this a form of free vitamin D for yourself! However, be careful not to stay out longer than 15-20 minutes. After this time, sun exposure could be dangerous, causing skin damage like wrinkles, sun spots, and even skin cancer. Be sure to apply sunscreen if you’re outdoors for longer periods of time or in intense sun. Read our Sunscreen blog to get more information about safe measures to take to protect your skin.
Take a Supplement
We recommend that most people take a vitamin D supplement that contains between 800 to 2000 IUs daily. It’s important to know what your levels are at currently and know how well your body can metabolize it so you can get the correct dosage for your specific body. You should also take your vItamin D with a meal, especially one that is higher in fat since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Some supplements also offer a combination of vitamin D3 and K2 to increase the absorption.
Try Vitamin D Injections
You may want to opt for a quick Vitamin D Injection to enhance your levels. Because vitamin D usually does not act alone, including other cofactors with vitamin D can be really beneficial to your overall health. Some important cofactors that work with vitamin D include magnesium, vitamin K, zinc, boron, and vitamin A. When it’s delivered through an injection rather than consuming it, your body can utilize it much more effectively.
If you are worried about having a vitamin D deficiency, reach out to a functional medicine provider. If you are located near Kansas City, Functional Medicine Clinic, in2GREAT, can provide top-notch personalized care. They can test your vitamin D levels, and based on results they can recommend certain supplements or IVs to start getting your levels back on track. It may take a couple of months to reach optimal vitamin D levels, so reach out now to get started. You can contact them here or give them a call at (913) 308-0172.