IMPORTANCE OF VITAMIN D
It pays to understand the role many vitamins play in staying healthy.
One vitamin that is crucial to great well-being in countless ways and yet underestimated is vitamin D. Commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is often associated with exposure to sunlight. Its main job is to help the body absorb calcium from the intestines. This calcium is necessary to help “mineralize the skeleton” over the course of one’s lifetime and is a critical mineral for forming the hardened bone that keeps the body strong and healthy.
HOW DO WE GET VITAMIN D?
Simply put, we get Vitamin D from foods, the Sun, and supplements.
One great source of Vitamin D is the foods we consume. There are many good sources of dietary vitamin D that can be readily incorporated into a healthy diet. Some of these sources include egg yolks, salmon, sardines, tuna, swordfish, and beef liver. Products like milk, cereal, and some orange juices are vitamin D2- and D3-fortified.
Another Means of getting Vitamin D is the Sun. When exposed to the sun, our skin can manufacture its own vitamin D. “We each have vitamin D receptor cells that, through a chain of reactions starting with the conversion of cholesterol in the skin, produce vitamin D3 when they’re exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) from the sun,” says Yale Medicine dermatologist David J. Leffell, MD, chief of Dermatologic Surgery.
While sunlight exposure is beneficial, not everyone benefits from the sun at the same level. Sun exposure near the equator is far different than the amount of sun someone at the North Pole will receive. Darker skin also absorbs less vitamin D than paler skin. Even in sunny areas of the world, people tend to spend much more time indoors, in air conditioning, to escape some of the uncomfortable heat produced in sunnier climates. Even those who enjoy being outdoors as much as possible tend to smear their exposed skin with sun-screening lotions.
If you are not getting your fair share of Vitamin D from the Sun, another means to get vitamin D is by taking supplements. These come in both pill and liquid form. They are generally recommended for people with fat absorption issues, lactose intolerance, and milk allergies, as well as for people with darker skin tones or even those who are always indoors either because of the nature of their work or as a result of some medical condition.
EFFECTS OF VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
Vitamin D is essential for strong, healthy bones, a well-functioning brain, and even maintaining enough stamina to make it through the day doing normal activities. If the body becomes Vitamin D deficient, one runs the risk of developing some health problems such as, heart disease, breast and colon cancer, diabetes, increased rates of bone loss or even osteomalacia (‘soft bones’) in adults and rickets (a deforming bone disorder). Fatigue, bone and muscle pain, weakness or muscle cramps may all be early signs of a deficiency.
HOW DOES THE BODY PROCESS VITAMIN D?
After vitamin D is absorbed through the skin or acquired from food or supplements, it gets stored in the body’s fat cells. Here it remains inactive until it’s needed. Through a process called hydroxylation, the liver and kidneys turn the stored vitamin D into the active form the body needs (called calcitriol), which could be used by the body.
EFFECTS OF TOO MUCH VITAMIN D.
Just like many things, too much vitamin D can be harmful. Excess Vitamin D in the body causes Vitamin D toxicity. It does occur as a result of too much Sun or food, rather it is caused by too much intake of Vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is stored in fat. So, if you have ingested doses of multivitamins larger than your body fat, you have less available storage, which means vitamin D goes into your blood and you may absorb too much calcium, creating a toxic situation.
By being outdoors, you get a fair amount of sun exposure that gives an amount of Vitamin D, but during cloudy and rainy days, this source of Vitamin D is scarce in supply, for this reason, make sure your diet includes sources of vitamin D from foods or supplements.