Vitamin D deficiency is an unknown epidemic. It’s estimated that over a billion people throughout the world are deficient in this important vitamin. Beyond the fact that most people don’t get enough Vitamin D to support their health, here are some other things you should know.
- Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin, but it’s actually a hormone made from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to sunlight.
- One of the most important functions of Vitamin D is to stimulate the absorption of calcium in your body. Inadequate amounts can lead to rickets and other bone-related conditions, such as osteomalacia and osteoporosis. More recently, scientists are finding that Vitamin D affects your immune system to promote anti-tumor activity.
- A deficiency of Vitamin D may increase your risk for diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, colds and flus and certain types of cancer.
- There are two main forms of Vitamin D; D2, or ergocalciferol; and D3, or cholecalciferol. Vitamin D3 is better absorbed and is found in fatty fish and egg yolks. Vitamin D2 is found in mushrooms, yeasts, and certain plants. Either form may be found to foods as a supplement.
- Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. This means that excess amounts stay in your body, and is not excreted in your urine. This also means that Vitamin D can be toxic if you take too much.
- Unfortunately, most people don’t get enough Vitamin D from the sun. In addition, Vitamin D isn’t found in very many foods, unless it’s been added (fortified). For that reason, many people need to take supplements to get enough. The recommended dose is 200-400 i.u per day, however, many health providers believe that you can safely take up to 2,000 – 5,000 i.u. a day without a problem.
- Living in a northern climate, the use of sunscreens, poor air quality, and even age—you’re less able to convert sunlight into D—all contribute to the amount of Vitamin D you’re able to absorb from the sun. The time of year also plays a role in how much Vitamin D you’re able to convert from sunlight. If you live far from the equator, the sun isn’t strong enough in the winter for your body to produce Vitamin D. However, in the summer, it may take only 10 to 20 minutes of exposure to the sun to make sufficient amounts of Vitamin D for good health.
- Your health care provider can determine the level of Vitamin D in your blood with a simple lab test.
The bottom line is that this fat-soluble sunshine vitamin is vital for good health. Even though your body can store it for long periods of time, many people are deficient in Vitamin D, requiring supplementation.
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Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.