We’ve often heard that Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. That’s because upon exposure to the sun, our bodies manufacture Vitamin D. But, we can also get it from food and supplements.
But why is Vitamin D so important? There are several reasons for us to maintain a healthy level of this vitamin, that isn’t actually a vitamin, but a hormone.
- It helps to maintain healthy teeth and bones – Vitamin D helps to regulate our blood calcium and maintain phosphorus levels, both important for the health of our bones and teeth. If not for Vitamin D, most of our calcium would be excreted through the kidneys before it can be used. When children are Vitamin D deficient, it shows up as an extremely bow-legged appearance due to the softness of their bones with a condition called rickets. In adults, it shows up as osteomalacia, also a softening of the bones that will lead to osteoporosis and muscle weakness.
- It supports the brain, nervous system and immune system
- It helps to regulate insulin levels and manage diabetes – Several studies have shown that there is an inverse relationship between blood levels of Vitamin D and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Vitamin D deficiency may negatively impact insulin secretion and glucose tolerance. In one study it was found that infants who were given 2,000 IUs of Vitamin D daily had an 88% lower risk of developing Type 1 diabetes by age 32.
- It supports cardiovascular health and lung function
- It protects our bodies against diseases like:
- Cancer – Several forms of cancer including breast cancer have been linked to Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is instrumental in regulating cell growth and inter-cell communication. There are some studies that suggest that Vitamin D can reduce cancer cell progression, by slowing the growth and development of new blood vessels in cancer sites and thereby encouraging cancer cell death, reducing cancer cell reproduction and therefore metastases. Vitamin D influences many gene expressions so when there is a deficiency, that expression could be impaired leading to the mutations that develop into cancer sites.
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Multiple sclerosis
- It protects against the development of some allergies – infants with low Vitamin D levels are at higher risk of developing allergic diseases like eczema, asthma, and atopic dermatitis. Vitamin D may increase the anti-inflammatory properties of glucocorticoids, which may be useful in the treatment of steroid resistant asthma.
- It supports a healthy pregnancy – Women who are Vitamin D deficient may be at higher risk of developing preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and bacterial vaginosis. However, having too high a level of Vitamin D is associated with an increased risk of the child developing food allergies within the first two years of life.
Vitamins cannot be made by our bodies so they must come from an outside source. But in the case of Vitamin D, when the sunlight hits our skin, our bodies can synthesize Vitamin D for our use. If we spend approximately 5-10 minutes several times a week with skin exposed to the sun without sunscreen, we probably can make enough Vitamin D to keep us healthy as long as we aren’t terribly deficient to begin with. Vitamin D is not stored in the body and breaks down quickly so we have to constantly replenish our supply. Much of the global population is living in a state of Vitamin D deficiency.
As a society, we don’t spend as much time outside as we once did. And when we are outside, we slather ourselves with sunscreen, blocking any opportunity for our skin to absorb the sunlight. Eating the nutrient deficient food of the Standard American Diet (SAD) also contributes to our deficiency. It’s important to find out if you are deficient in Vitamin D.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I found out that I was quite deficient in this essential hormone. That, along with other poor lifestyle choices, likely contributed to that condition. It was a wake-up call for sure. I am no longer Vitamin D deficient. This can be done through a simple blood test.
To maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D, this supplementation guideline can help:
Infants (0-12 months) – 400 IUs or 10 mcg
Children (1-18) – 600 IUs or 15 mcg
Adults (to age 70) 70-600 IUs or 15 mcg
Adults (over 70) 70-800 IUs or 20 mcg
Pregnant/lactating women – 600 IUs or 15mcg
Deficiency can occur for a number of reasons. Darker skin and sunscreen use inhibit the absorption of UVB rays which are the rays needed for Vitamin D production. Sunscreen with SPF of 30 can reduce your absorption of sunlight by up to 95%. Skin needs to be uncovered and without sunscreen to absorb what is needed for Vitamin D production. If your lifestyle or your geography impedes your ability to be out in the sun, you should probably be getting your supply from food sources or supplementation.
Signs of Vitamin D deficiency include:
- susceptibility to infection
- painful bones and back
- slow wound healing
- hair loss
- muscle pain
Prolonged Vitamin D deficiency can result in:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers or dementia
- Cancers of the breast, colon and/or prostate
It is important to get your Vitamin D level checked as part of your health maintenance. Again, most of the world’s population is thought to be deficient in this vital hormone. It’s easy to reverse the deficiency if you know it’s an issue. Knowledge is power.
As a health coach, I work with women who are facing serious health challenges like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes or who have been diagnosed as having a precursor to a serious health issue such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar. I help them make food and lifestyle changes so they can get healthy, live longer and enjoy a fuller, happier, more energetic life. If you would like to have a free consultation about the health challenges you have and the improvements you would like to see in your health, click here to schedule a no strings attached call.