Vitamin D and Its Role in our Bodies

Vitamin D

Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, Vitamin D is produced in the human skin in response to sunlight. Exposing one’s hands, face, arms and legs to sunlight at least twice a week, the skin will be able to produce enough of the vitamin.

Vitamin D absorbs calcium in the gut and ensures that there are enough serum calcium and phosphate concentrations that help enable normal bone mineralization as well as to prevent hypocalcemic tetany.

With a compound of vitamins D1, D2 and D3, this vitamin is fat-soluble and is present in only a few kinds of food. Given its compounds, it is a vitamin that helps ensure the body’s overall stable health. It has recently been found that Vitamin D is also highly beneficial for the lungs, the heart, the brain, and the muscles.

The science

Vitamin D is not what people think it is – because it can be synthesized by the body, it is not an actual vitamin. Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D works as a hormone, and all cells in the body possess a receptor for it. It is part of a family of lipids known as secosteroids, possessing a similar structure as steroids.

Where to find Vitamin D

This vitamin is beneficial in many ways – it helps regulate calcium and phosphorous as well as plays an important part in maintaining proper bone structure. It also helps in protecting an individual from obtaining colds as well as fights serious conditions such as depression.

Below are a few examples of where vitamin D can be found:

Sunlight
As earlier mentioned, getting enough time under the sun is the most reliable way for people to gain vitamin D. The necessary amount of time to gain a sufficient amount depends on an individual’s age, skin type, season and time of day.

Fortified milk
Except for ice cream and cheese, almost all types of cow’s milk are fortified with vitamin D. An 8-ounce glass of milk has just the right amount to sustain an individual’s need for this vitamin.

Orange juice
A glass of fortified orange juice can provide an individual with a good amount of vitamin D. Some brands of orange juice can give an individual just the right amount of vitamin D they need for the day.

Fatty fish
Common fish that are good sources of vitamin D include salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and eel. Aside from gaining vitamin D when consuming this, an individual also benefits from getting omega-3 fatty acids which help in keeping the heart healthy.

Canned tuna fish
If an individual does not have access to fresh fish, they may also obtain vitamin D from canned tuna. Canned tuna fish and canned sardines contain vitamin D and are less expensive than fresh fish.

Mushrooms
Similar to humans, certain types of mushrooms have the ability to produce vitamin D when they are exposed to ultraviolet light. Some brands of canned mushrooms contain a good amount of the vitamin and can be found in any grocery store.

Egg yolks
Given that eggs are popularly used in almost any dish, they are a very accessible way of obtaining vitamin D which is contained in the yolk. It is important to take note that one egg contains high levels of cholesterol, so just the right amount will suffice for an individual.

Beef liver
Beef liver contains a myriad of nutrients. Aside from vitamin D, an individual may also benefit from it while obtaining vitamin A, iron and protein. It is also important to take note that it is high in cholesterol, so the individual must consume this with caution.

Supplements
Given that not many kinds of food contain a high amount of vitamin D, so if an individual is in desperate need of it, it is ideal to turn to supplements. Thankfully, they are highly accessible and very affordable.

Health benefits

Promotes healthy bones
An individual needs to maintain a healthy bone structure. This vitamin regulates the calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood which benefits the body in a significant amount of ways.

Reduces respiratory infections
Taking a good amount of vitamin D prevents airway infections in both children and adults. These infections may be caused by the flu, colds or asthma attacks. For pregnant women, taking this vitamin may help reduce the risk of obtaining these infections after childbirth.

Reduces cavities
Some clinical research suggests that taking vitamin D helps reduce the risk of cavities in children and adolescents.

Prevents tooth loss
People may lose teeth when they reach a certain age. Consuming calcium and vitamin D3 may help prevent this.

Reduces the risk of heart failure
Studies show that people who have low levels of the vitamin have a higher risk of developing heart failure. Taking vitamin D supplements can help reduce this risk.

Controls phosphate and calcium levels
Both calcium and phosphate are essential in helping the body function properly. While calcium is important for the function of cells, nerves, bones, and muscles, phosphate is also found in all the body’s cells. With the absorption of vitamin D, the performance of these properties is enhanced.

Helps fight cancer
Research has shown that a high amount of vitamin D can slow the progression of certain types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Aside from that, it may help protect an individual from cancers of the prostate, lung, skin, and lymphoma.

It was also discovered after years of experiments that those with high amounts of vitamin D in their system had a lower risk of developing cancer.

Decreases the risk of diabetes
For those who have type II diabetes, vitamin D deficiency is highly likely, which may cause negative changes in glucose tolerance and insulin secretion. According to research, a healthy amount of vitamin D daily will decrease the risk of developing diabetes.

Pregnancy
Women with higher levels of vitamin D have higher chances of getting pregnant and a decreased risk of miscarriages.

Childhood health
Children need to consume the necessary amount of vitamin D as a deficiency of it may lead to numerous childhood diseases and allergic diseases.

Weight loss
Given that vitamin D contains high amounts of calcium, it can act as an appetite suppressor. Vitamin D-rich supplements decrease the risk of heart diseases for people who are overweight or trying to lose weight.

Prevents disabling fractures
When people age, the risk of having osteoporosis and breaking bones becomes higher. Having the right amount of vitamin D will help an individual lower their chances of fracturing their bones in case they come across an accident.

Treats rickets
A skeletal disorder known as ‘rickets’ is caused by vitamin D, phosphate and calcium deficiency, resulting in some abnormalities in the bones. Doctors usually recommend a regular dose of vitamin D to help treat this disorder.

Treats rachitic rosary
The rachitic rosary is a type of condition that manifests as bead-like bumps on the joints of the ribs and their cartilages. People who suffer from this are usually those who already have rickets, scurvy, and chondrodystrophy due to their lack of calcium. Doctors prescribe vitamin D as a natural way to treat this problem to help absorb calcium in the body.

Side effects and precautions

Oral and Shots
When vitamin D is taken orally or through shots in the muscles, it is mostly safe especially when consumed in recommended amounts. There are usually no side effects, however, unless it is needed for special medical issues, if vitamin D is taken in high amounts, some effects may include:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • Headache
  • Appetite loss
  • Dry moth
  • Metallic taste
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • High levels of calcium in the blood

Precautions

  • For pregnant and breastfeeding women, it is possibly unsafe to consume vitamin D in high amounts.
  • For children, long-term negative effects may take place when high doses of vitamin D is consumed.
  • Taking vitamin D when suffering from atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) may worsen the condition, especially those who have kidney disease.
  • It is not recommended for people who suffer from histoplasmosis (fungal infection) to take vitamin D as it increases calcium levels. This may lead to kidney stones and other serious problems.
  • Taking vitamin D when an individual suffers from tuberculosis may pose higher risks and complications of kidney stones.
  • People suffering from sarcoidosis, a disease that causes inflammation in body organs such as the lungs and lymph nodes, may have higher risks of obtaining kidney stones and serious problems when taking vitamin D.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is a common issue to have, and about 1 billion people in the entire world suffer from this.

Some risk factors for having vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Having dark skin
  • Old age
  • Being overweight
  • Lack of fish or dairy
  • Living far from the equator where there is little sun exposure
  • Constantly using sunscreen
  • Spending most days indoors

Because the symptoms are subtle, most people do not realize that they are suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. It may be a little difficult to detect, thus it is not easy to recognize them easily.

Suffering from this issue may harm an individual’s quality of life. It is important to do thorough research and proper consultation with a medical professional to ensure that it is treated necessarily.

Below are some signs and symptoms:

  • Often getting sick or infected – Vitamin D helps in keeping the immune system strong so that the body can fight off common viruses and bacteria. If an individual finds themselves often getting sick, it may be time to pay a visit to the doctor is low vitamin D levels may be a possible factor.
  • Fatigue and tiredness – Vitamin D deficiency may cause an individual to have fatigue and tiredness. This may harm the individual’s energy level, causing a low quality of life. Taking supplements may help in combating this.
  • Bone and back pain – Because vitamin D helps in absorbing calcium, having a low amount may cause bone and severe lower-back pain.
  • Depression – Studies have shown that low vitamin D dosages may have an association with one’s mood and may cause depression.
  • Muscle pain – A vitamin D deficiency may potentially cause muscle pain in both children and adults.
  • Hair loss – When someone suffers from a severe loss of hair, it may be a sign of nutrient deficiency. In women, hair loss has been linked to low vitamin D levels.
  • Bone loss – Low bone mineral density may indicate that an individual’s bones lack calcium and other important minerals which may lead to fractures. Adequate vitamin D intake may be beneficial in protecting the bones and reducing the risk of fractures.
  • Slow healing of wounds – A sign of low vitamin D may manifest in the slow healing of wounds after one undergoes surgery or injury. With the lack of the vitamin, the healing process may be compromised.

Treating vitamin D deficiency

If an individual is concerned about having a vitamin D deficiency, it is ideal that they visit a healthcare professional and undergo a simple blood test.

It is recommended for an individual to inquire for the 25- hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D, which accurately measures an individual’s current vitamin D status obtained from the diet, supplements, and the sun.

It is important to keep in mind that one’s 25(OH)D level changes by seasons depending on how much time one spends under the sun.

An individual’s medical conditions and the severity of their deficiency is an important factor in the right amount of vitamin D needed to correct the deficiency.

Given that vitamin D2 supplements do not help in increasing the levels of vitamin D, vitamin D3 is the best choice for supplements. It is recommended that this be taken with a meal containing fat. Taking it on an empty stomach may not be as effective.

To keep the blood levels in check, an individual needs to have a regular blood test to make sure that vitamin D levels are progressing.

Preventing vitamin D deficiency

Food can only provide people with 20% of vitamin D intake. Sunlight and supplements are the primary sources of the vitamin to get a sufficient amount. It is important for an individual to consult their healthcare provider for a regular supplement, recommended sun exposure and food containing vitamin D. It is important to monitor blood levels and make adjustments to one’s lifestyle to prevent the deficiency from occurring.

Vitamin D supplements

Below are some of the best vitamin D supplements available in the market.

TRANSPARENTLABS RAWSERIES VITAMIN D3
TransparentLabs Vitamin D3 works well for individuals who work long hours indoors and do not get enough sunlight. RawsSeries Vitamin D3 provides enough vitamin D to boost one’s strength, testosterone, mood, and bone density when an individual’s lifestyle restrains them from getting any sun.

This product does not contain any artificial sweeteners, coloring, and preservatives.

Each capsule contains just enough vitamin D needed for a day as it is composed of safflower, glycerin, water, and sunflower oil.

NORDIC NATURALS VITAMIN D3
The capsule is made out of gelatin, flavored with orange extract and preserved with rosemary, keeping the supplement fresh. Each soft gel contains 5000 IU of vitamin D3, dissolved in olive oil and omega-9 fatty acid oleic acid which promotes a healthy heart.

This may be a great choice for any individual, given that Nordic Naturals is known for excellent lab tests.

CARLSON LABS D3
Composed of safflower and corn oil to dissolve the fat-soluble vitamin D3, this supplement, although simple, delivers a sufficient amount of vitamin D.

Recommended dosage

As seen above, the dosages of vitamins are based on International Units (IUs) per day. The following numbers have been suggested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

  • Infants (up to 12 months) – 400 IU
  • Children (1-8 years old) – 600 IU
  • Young adults and adults – 800 IU
  • Pregnant women – 600 IU

Typical dosage is usually a few thousand IUs per day, however, individuals must consult a doctor regarding this as certain medical and health conditions are important factors to gain ideal results.

Reminder

Vitamin D plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Its importance is crucial in avoiding a negative quality of life, so an individual needs to monitor this with care.

Quick facts

  • Sunlight’s healing rays do not penetrate through glass, so sitting inside a car or at home does not allow the body to generate vitamin D.
  • The further an individual lives from the equator, the longer they need to spend under the sun to generate vitamin D.
  • Sunscreen products block the body’s ability to generate vitamin D. This may cause certain diseases.
  • Generating too much vitamin D from sunlight is impossible – the body self-regulates and only generate what it needs.
  • Vitamin D is activated by the kidneys and liver before it is used by the body.
  • If an individual’s sternum is painful when it is pressed firmly, it may be a sign that they are suffering from chronic vitamin D deficiency.