How does this crucial vitamin get absorbed into your system? How do you incorporate vitamin D into your diet, and how much should we be taking?
For the answers to all your questions about vitamin D, keep on reading.
More than 42% of the US population is vitamin D deficient. We all need an adequate amount of vitamin D for healthy bones, teeth, cells, muscles, and disease immunity.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient required by the body. The vitamin is fat-soluble and promotes the absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorate in the intestine.
The vitamin occurs naturally in a few foods, but the primary way the body gets vitamin D is through sunlight. Your body has the ability to store vitamin D in its fatty tissues and save it for later use.
The primary need for vitamin D is to help build healthy teeth and bones. Calcium is the nutrient required for strong, healthy bones, and without the presence of vitamin D, your body struggles to absorb calcium.
It's not just your bones that rely on vitamin D for good health. You also need it to maintain healthy muscles and cell growth. Your metabolism and immune function also rely on adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Vitamin D can help your nervous system carry messages to and from your brain, and more recent research suggests it plays a significant impact on your mental health too. There appears to be a link between those with depression or anxiety and low vitamin D levels.
Almost all your cells have receptors for Vitamin D and can store it to use when the body needs it.
You get as much as 90% of your vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. When UV rays come into contact with your skin, it starts to synthesize vitamin D production.
How does this happen? The sun rays convert the naturally occurring 7-dehydrocholesterol in your skin into the active form of the vitamin called calciferol. This process first occurs in your liver and moves to your kidneys, transforming it into active vitamin D.
If you live in the northern hemisphere, it's unlikely you will get enough vitamin D from the sun alone, especially between the months of October and March. At this time of year, north of the equator there isn't enough sunlight for your body to synthesize adequate amounts of vitamin D.
D2 and D3 are both obtained from the diet. The fat in your gut enhances the absorption of dietary vitamin D. Very few foods have naturally occurring vitamin D; you'll find that many vitamin D-rich foods are fortified.
The other option for you to obtain adequate amounts of vitamin D is with a supplement. When you take a vitamin D supplement, the body processes it much in the same way as it does when you absorb the sun's rays. It is first processed by the liver, the kidneys then activate the supplement into calciferol.
The exact amount of vitamin D you require to stay healthy depends on a variety of factors:
The recommended daily intake by the National Institutes of Health for vitamin D for healthy adults below the age of 70 is 15 mcg (micrograms).
Some people may require a higher dosage of daily vitamin D, especially if they don't get much sun exposure.
The pigment in your skin also plays a role in your ability to synthesize vitamin D from the sun's rays. The darker your skin, the longer it takes you to produce the vitamin. You'll need more prolonged exposure to sunlight to get the same amount of vitamin D if you have darker skin.
You may be wondering about sun exposure and vitamin D. It's essential to wear sunscreen when you have long periods of exposure to the sun. However, sunscreen is a barrier to the UVB rays you need to produce vitamin D.
Spend no longer than 15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen. This is an adequate amount of time for you to absorb enough rays for your body to process into the vitamin. Keep your face out of direct sunlight to avoid premature aging and other sun-related damage.
The sun is not the most reliable source of vitamin D, which is why you should try and get it from your diet or by taking supplements.
There are a few diseases caused by vitamin D deficiency. These include osteoporosis in older adults and rickets in children. Rickets is very rare and tends to affect girls more than it affects boys.
Rickets cause bones to become soft and hinder their development.
Osteoporosis, on the other hand, makes bones brittle and can cause a higher risk of fracture. These afflictions are extreme cases of vitamin D deficiency.
Some of the more common vitamin D deficiency symptoms include:
Low vitamin D levels may also be linked to SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
Deficiency may not present all of these low vitamin D symptoms. If you find yourself suffering from any one of the symptoms, you should seek medical advice.
Your doctor will be able to run a simple blood test to determine if your vitamin D levels are sufficient.
Older women are particularly vulnerable to osteoporosis. The hormone estrogen is essential for building healthy bones, and this hormone starts to drop after women go through menopause.
Collagen is also responsible for strong and healthy bones; it starts to decrease as we age.
As you age, your body also finds it harder to synthesize vitamin D from the sunlight.
It's recommended that adults over the age of 70 up their vitamin D intake to 20 milligrams per day.
There are some vitamin D foods you can add to your diet to boost your daily intake.
Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and shellfish are all excellent sources of naturally occurring vitamin D. Cheese, mushrooms, beef liver, and eggs also contain vitamin D.
If you don't like the taste of fish, you can always take a fish liver oil supplement. Many foods you can buy are fortified with vitamin D; these include cereals, milk, yogurt, and bread.
To maintain optimal health, you should always eat a varied, balanced diet that contains plenty of nutritious foods.
Most people who live in the northern hemisphere will not get enough vitamin D from the sun.
The foods containing vitamin D only contain small amounts; you would have to eat many of those foods to get your adequate daily recommendation.
One of the easiest ways to ensure you get enough vitamin D is by taking a daily supplement. As deficiency is so prevalent, taking a supplement is one of the safest and easiest ways for you to incorporate enough vitamin D into your life.
For a high source of vitamin D, add water-soluble vitamin D drops into your water.
Having too much vitamin D in your system is way less likely than having a deficiency. However, because the vitamin is fat-soluble rather than water-soluble, it can make it more difficult for your body to excrete the excess.
It's very rare for people to have too much vitamin D as your body can never produce too much of the vitamin from the sun alone.
High levels of vitamin D will only occur if you have taken too many supplements.
Typical symptoms of too much vitamin D in the blood include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, and kidney problems. It raises the calcium levels in your blood which can cause long-term damage.
You should never exceed the daily recommendation of vitamin D and always consult your doctor before starting a new regime of supplements.
When you take a supplement, you know exactly how much vitamin D you are consuming each day. It's a great way to regulate your intake of the vitamin and ensure you get the recommended daily intake.
As nearly half the population are deficient in vitamin D, it could benefit you to take a supplement.
The positive effects of taking vitamin D daily may include improved moods, less fatigue, healthy bones, and a boost to the immune system.
Check out the NuMedica vitamin D supplement range here.
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