Vitamin D. You know you need it. But do you know why? Or how much? Or what it even is? If not, you’ve come to the right place.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a nutrient that we not only ingest from food, but our bodies synthesize it from sunlight. Once active in the body, vitamin D becomes raw material for making the hormone calcitriol, which supports calcium and phosphorous absorption and bone health.
Additionally, Vitamin D supports hundreds of processes in our body. In fact, virtually every cell and tissue in your body has D receptors, including cells in the immune system.
Ok. But why do I need Vitamin D, practically speaking?
Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be one reason people get more colds and flu in winter. I can personally attest to this.
I was often the first one in my family to get sick in the winter. I just assumed it was because I was run down and doing too much. So, I decided to have my Vitamin D levels checked in both the summer and winter months. When I compared the results, my winter months’ levels were drastically lower. Why?
I have three little and very active kids who love to play outside. This made it easy for me to get sufficient Vitamin D during the summer. However, once cold winter hit, we all moved inside. The sun and I were no longer hanging out regularly, and my Vitamin D level quickly dropped.
Vitamin D does far more than just help ward off colds. Vitamin D’s immune-boosting power may also help explain the protective relationship between sufficient D levels and reduced risk of some cancers.
Wait! There’s more…
Inadequate vitamin D is also associated with an increased risk for Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular issues. D deficiency is associated with a 64 percent increased risk of myocardial infarction, as well as a higher chance of hypertension, congestive heart failure, and peripheral vascular disease.
Okay, you got my attention. So how much Vitamin D do I need?
The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) advises a blood level between 50 and 80 ng/mL.
The Endocrine Society has a slightly smaller recommendation, a minimum vitamin-D blood level of 30 ng/mL — and between 40 and 60 ng/mL for optimal health. The Endocrine Society estimates 70 percent of the world’s population is D deficient. “This includes people living where sunshine is plentiful year-round,” says P. Michael Stone, MD, MS, a family physician in Ashland, Ore., and IFM faculty member.
Where can I get Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means it requires dietary fat to be absorbed by the body. But in His infinite wisdom, God paired vitamin D with foods that already had healthy fats in them: egg yolks, cheese, cod liver oil, beef liver, and fatty fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, herring and mackerel. Nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados are also good sources of healthy fats. Even still, the amount of vitamin D in these foods relative to our needs is quite small.
In the U.S., many people get the bulk of their dietary vitamin D from foods that are fortified with it, including milk, cereals and some brands of yogurt and orange juice. In general, even with fortified foods, diet usually doesn’t provide enough vitamin D.
The easiest way to boost your Vitamin D levels is to get outside and let the sun do its work.Keep in mind that the amount of sun exposure it takes for your body to synthesize vitamin D depends on skin tone. Those with fair skin may need as little as 10 to 15 minutes of direct, unprotected sun exposure on a summer day to make several thousand IUs. For those with darker skin tones, it can take up to two hours.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I believe I am a Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) sufferer, which is associated with low Vitamin D levels. In addition to starting on Vitamin D supplementation, I started using a Light Therapy Lamp. I’ll be writing more on SAD and using light therapy to combat it. – Matthew
When and how should I supplement Vitamin D?
If you can’t sufficiently raise your vitamin D levels with whole foods and sunshine, it might be time to supplement.
The IFM recommends the following supplement dose based on measured blood levels of vitamin D:
Retest in three to six months. If your numbers have improved, lower your dose accordingly. If not, ask your doctor about testing for genetic, intestinal, and/or parathyroid issues that may slow or inhibit your body’s ability to convert or absorb vitamin D.
Choosing a Supplement
The good news is vitamin D is easy to find and not that expensive. To ensure the quality of your supplement, choose one that doesn’t contain GMO oils. I’m partial to Integrative Therapeutics, Metagenics, and Pure Encapsulations supplements.
Choose vitamin D3. D3 is 85 percent more effective than D2 in raising blood levels of vitamin D. So choose D3.
Also take vitamin K2. Vitamins D3 and K2 work together to strengthen bones. In addition, adding high doses of D on its own can deplete vitamin K2 in the body. When taking D, it’s also important to get adequate amounts of magnesium to ensure you can absorb calcium effectively.
Vitamin D Wrap Up
As you can tell, Vitamin D has been shown to produce marked improvements in several health conditions. So make sure you get your Vitamin D level checked and try to keep it between 50 and 80 ng/mL to generate optimal health benefits.
Now you have an even better excuse to find time to play in the sun… it’s good for your mental and physical health.
NOTE: This article was adapted for Home Fitness Gurus. It was originally written by Lisa Stogner and first appeared on BodyTithe.com.