How do I know if this supplement is important to me?
Everywhere you look, there are suggestions that you need Vitamin D. Not only are Doctors recommending it. But also, health articles are written about it, and podcasts are talking about it. It sounds like a miracle supplement; in fact, it appears like a cure-all for everything that ails you. Hundreds of studies suggest vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that we (mostly) get from the sun, but also from certain foods, and of course, from supplements. Actually, vitamin D refers to a group of compounds:
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) can be made by plants (such as mushrooms) and yeasts.
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) comes from animal products like fish, egg yolks, and cheese. We also make vitamin D3 on the surface of our skin when we’re exposed to sunlight.
- Calcifediol (25-hydroxy vitamin D) is the form of vitamin D that’s measured in blood tests. It actually starts out as vitamin D3, but once vitamin D3 enters your bloodstream your liver converts it into calcifediol.
- Calcitriol (1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D) is the most metabolically active form of vitamin D. It’s created in your kidneys from calcifediol. Unlike its precursor vitamin D3, calcitriol is no longer considered a vitamin: It’s a hormone.
What does Vitamin D do?
Recent research suggests that nearly every cell of our body has receptors for vitamin D. Not surprisingly, it has wide-ranging effects on the body. In fact, vitamin D helps support the following:
- immune system
- cell function
- blood sugar regulation
- bone health
- calcium absorption and circulation
- normal blood pressure
Diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency
As you can imagine, the more progressed a deficiency is the more likely health issues will appear. In fact, extreme deficiencies the risk of premature death, infections and other diseases occur. Some diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency are the following:
- Osteoporosis, and general weakening or softening of the bones
- Immune dysfunction, such as autoimmune conditions and increased susceptibility to infection
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cancer, especially cancer mortality
Note: Vitamin D deficiency contributes to the severity of the above issues do not cause it. However, the problem is there is no clear evidence that improving vitamin D status alone improves or reverses these conditions. Though we do know that vitamin D deficiency is related to these conditions.
How do I know if I need Vitamin D?
You can pretty much count on needing to supplement with vitamin D. Especially if you answer “yes” to the following questions:
- Live far from the equator, and/or experience winter? It’s nearly impossible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight during certain seasons—usually the colder months—even if you spend lots of time outside.
- Have darker skin? Melanin—the pigment that makes skin dark—reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D when it’s been exposed to sunlight. In the US, 89 percent of Blacks and 69 percent of Hispanics are deficient in vitamin D.
- Fall into the “50+” age category? Age decreases the body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D on the skin.
- Have a chronic illness, malabsorption issues, or have a BMI that categorizes you as “obese”? People with certain illnesses, malabsorption, or obesity don’t necessarily have trouble making vitamin D on the skin, but they’re more likely to have issues absorbing and metabolizing it.
- Tend to cover up when you go outside (either with clothing or sunscreen)? Wearing clothing that covers most of your body—for religious, style, or health reasons—or wearing sunscreen, protects your skin from UVB and UVA light, blocking vitamin D synthesis. Burn or skin cancer survivors may be especially prone to slathering up with SPF.
- Just not go outside much (during daylight)? Whether due to illness or shift work, if you’re not able to go outside when the sun is highest, you’ll miss the window for optimal vitamin D synthesis.
Does age contribute to vitamin D deficiency?
Age-related changes that occur contribute to the likelihood of inadequate stores of the vitamin as well as the need for vitamin D as we age. I will also add that there is also a decrease in calcium absorption and the need for higher calcium intake.
When possible, get a blood test to confirm suspected deficiencies. (That goes for other nutrients too—like iron or vitamin B12—not just vitamin D.) And remember that in the presence of other deficiencies, we should be careful about supplementing with high doses of vitamin D.
Consult a doctor to help you determine if there’s a deficiency, and if so, what dose to take to remedy it.
Suggestion to improve vitamin D with diet
- Spend time in the sun
- Take a supplement
- Increase intake with certain foods. For example, seafood, mushrooms, egg yolks, fortified foods, exercise and ultraviolet lamp if you spend a lot of time indoors.
- Ultraviolet lamp
If you are interested in other health issues like diabetes, tiredness or foods that help muscle spasms check out links below.
- Diabetes? Now what!
- Tired – causes and solutions
- Foods That Help with Muscle Spasm
- Looking for fitness advice? Check out Get moving with your health and Over 50 – You get one body.
Please feel free to share your insight and experiences in the comments.