Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because sunlight can turn excess cholesterol in our skin into Vitamin D. When our body climbs above mediocre levels of Vitamin D, mood is enhanced and our bones are strengthened.
During the winter, the majority of people become deficient in Vitamin D. Lack of sun is generally the cause. When this happens, supplements can fill the gap. Foods rich in Vitamin D include Fatty meats and fish, cheese, eggs, mushrooms and milk.
Unfortunately, food consumption of traditional sources of Vitamin D are losing ground as plant based diets emerge in popularity.
The easy solution is to take a supplement. This can be done in combination with other vitamins and minerals or as a stand-alone nutrient.
Vitamin D offers these six critical benefits for physical and mental health:
- Strengthens bones
As explained by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, vitamin D is necessary for building strong bones and muscles. “Without vitamin D, our bodies cannot effectively absorb calcium, which is essential to good bone health,” their official website states. In fact, studies have shown that vitamin D is essential for bone health. The clinical disease condition that results from Vitamin D deficiency is rickets, which is rare. However, the subclinical results of only slightly deficient Vitamin D levels results in the body functioning at less than optimum levels. Osteomalacia and osteoporosis are among the most important results of chronic subclinical deficiency.
- Strengthens Immunity
Research has found that vitamin D can strengthen immunity, providing nutritional support against bone disease, respiratory disease, mental disease, heart disease and cancer. The role that Vitamin D plays in the body’s defense against viral infections is just now emerging in scientific literature.
- Reduces depression
Exposure to sunlight is believed to increase the brain’s release of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin. There are now several correlations between Vitamin D deficiency and depression.
- Boosts weight loss
A scientific study linking higher levels of belly fat and larger waistlines with reduced Vitamin D levels. The study found that supplementing with Calcium and Vitamin D triggered healthy weight loss.
- Fights inflammation
There is an emerging connection between Vitamin D deficiency and chronic diseases of aging, especially those that suffer from asthma, IBD, kidney and liver disease.
- Strengthens muscles
There is a positive connection between Vitamin D sufficiency and healthy muscle strength and function. In an aging population this helps prevent the likelihood of falls, general aches and pains and decreased mobility.
In addition to the Vitamin D that we ingest in the foods we eat, the US government recommends that we supplement with additional Vitamin D each day. Their recommendations are quite conservative, ranging from just 10mcg to 25 mcg (400-1000 IU). Most health care practitioners recommend two to five times these quantities.
Those people that battle such diseases as osteoporosis, Crohn’s disease, Celiac, Sprue, have had surgical resection of the bowel or stomach, that eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, who work indoors or live at latitudes above 35 degrees north or south are at most risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
In my Naturopathic practice, I have met many patients that were taking up to 50,000 IU of Vitamin D each day, but who were unable to reach Vitamin D sufficiency.
In these cases, my patients have found success using the skin as a medium for supplementation with Vitamin D.
On one occasion, a patient came to my office smelling of fish oil. She had decided that since her body wasn’t absorbing enough Vitamin D orally or from exposure to sunlight, she would rub the Vitamin D fish oil on her skin each day.
While this is not a very sustainable approach to Vitamin D supplementation, those of you with stubborn Vitamin D deficiencies may choose to prick a soft gel filled with Vitamin D and rub the contents on your skin. Vitamin D soft gels of often filled with neutral smelling vegetable oil that will keep you from having to social distance all the time.
Healthy food sources of Vitamin D include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, beef liver, Vitamin D fortified dairy products, mushrooms and egg yolks. This is the reason that many vegetarians struggle to maintain Vitamin D sufficiency.
Other risk factors for Vitamin D deficiency include staying indoors, dark skin, people over 65, obesity, and living at high latitudes.
If you are wondering whether you are Vitamin D sufficient you can ask your Doctor for a Vitamin D test. For less than $60.00 you can find DIY or mail in lab tests for Vitamin D. Vitamin D sufficiency is achieved by having blood levels of between 30-80 mcg/deciliter of blood.
I like to think that Vitamin D provided a source of inspiration to the Beatles for their song, “Here comes the Sun,” and Sheryl Crow for her song, “I’m gonna soak up the sun.”
Dr. Mark Pedersen ND
Director, Customer Innovation