Your Long-Lost Friend Vitamin D: Why It's More Than Just A Vitamin
Vitamin D stands apart from all other vitamins. In fact, it is a steroid hormone from cholesterol naturally produced by our bodies when our skin is exposed to the UV rays of the sun. For this reason, it has earned its nickname “the sunshine vitamin”.
While sun exposure is a great source of Vitamin D, it may not always be enough to fully meet our body's needs, making it necessary to obtain it from food sources and supplements.
Yet, only a handful of foods contain significant amounts of this essential vitamin, and its deficiency is alarmingly prevalent.
In this article, we will uncover the most important information you need to know about Vitamin D.
So What Exactly Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that it dissolves in fats and oils and is stored in our bodies for a long time.
There are two main dietary forms:
- Vitamin D3 – is found in foods, like fatty fish and egg yolks
- Vitamin D2 – is found in some plants, mushrooms, and yeasts
Of these two, D3 is known to be almost twice as effective at increasing blood levels of Vitamin D than D2.
How Does It Work In Our Body and What Are The Benefits?
Vitamin D needs to undergo two conversion steps in order to become active in our bodies.
First, it is turned into calcidiol (in our liver), the storage form of the vitamin, which is then converted into calcitriol (mainly in our kidneys), the active, steroid-hormone form of Vitamin D.
Calcitriol interacts with the Vitamin D receptors found in nearly every cell in our body, turning genes on or off, much as other steroid hormones do.
It works by regulating the levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. This helps to keep our bones strong and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. It also helps to regulate the immune system and has been shown to improve mood and cognitive function. This is why a lot of people get seasonal depression when winter comes. No sun, no fun.
Where You Should Get Vitamin D From?
If you live in an area with abundant sunshine, it's most likely that you can get all the Vitamin D you need by simply sunbathing a few times per week. Keep in mind, that by exposing a large part of your body to the sun, you will produce more Vitamin D.
Make sure to use sunscreen when staying in the sun for long periods. While sunshine is healthy, sunburns can cause premature skin aging and raise your risk of skin cancer.
As Vitamin D gets stored in our bodies for weeks or even months, you may only need occasional sunshine to keep your blood levels adequate.
However, a lot of people live in an area without enough sunshine for the most part of the year, thus it is absolutely essential to get Vitamin D from foods and supplements, especially during seasons with limited sun exposure.
Vitamin D-rich Food Sources
Foods that are rich in Vitamin D are mostly fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, swordfish, and trout. But you would have to eat them almost every day to get enough of the sunshine vitamin. Fish liver oil, such as cod liver oil, is the best dietary source of Vitamin D3, containing over double the recommended daily intake in just one tablespoon.
Other foods that harbor Vitamin D are mushrooms, egg yolks, and yeasts, although in very minimal amounts.
Many people don't get enough Vitamin D from their diet or from sunlight, which is one of the main sources of this vitamin. That's why taking Vitamin D supplements is a good idea, especially if you don't get much sun exposure, have dark skin, are older, or have other factors that limit your Vitamin D levels. Having enough of this nutrient can give you extra support for a healthier you!
Symptoms of Deficiency
Did you know that Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies? It's like a silent epidemic.
If you're someone who lives in an area with high pollution or a big city where buildings block the sunlight, use sunscreen regularly, or spend most of your time indoors, you're likely to be Vitamin D deficient.
Severe deficiency can result in rickets, causing incorrect growth patterns, muscle weakness, bone pain, and joint deformities. While mild deficiency may cause weak, sore, or painful muscles, fatigue, weakness, aches, cramps, and mood changes, such as depression, some people may have no symptoms at all.
It is important to note that Vitamin D deficiency can be silent and may take years to surface. Regular monitoring of your Vitamin D levels and taking preventive measures can help avoid deficiency and maintain overall health.
How much Vitamin D Do We Actually Need?
The recommended amount varies from expert to expert. Some say people should consume 600-800 International Units (IU) per day, some say that it's safe to go up to 4000 IU per day. The truth is, the only way to know exactly how much Vitamin D you need is by having your blood levels measured.
Can You Overdose Vitamin D?
Overdosing on this sunshine vitamin is a myth. Vitamin D toxicity is very rare and only happens if you take very high doses for extended periods. The main symptoms of toxicity include confusion, depression, vomiting, abdominal pain, lack of concentration, and high blood pressure.
Vitamin D toxicity happens rarely, but it is possible and it can lead to an increase in your body calcium levels. Usually it happens, if you take very high doses of Vitamin D sumplements for extended periods. However, this is unlikely to happen through diet or sun exposure because our bodies regulate the amount of Vitamin D produced through sunlight.
The main symptoms of toxicity include dizziness, confusion, depression, appetite loss, vomiting, thirst, fatigue, nausea, lack of concentration, depression, and high blood pressure.
Tips For Optimizing Vitamin D Levels
To optimize your vitamin D levels, it's important to focus on a balanced diet that includes Vitamin D-rich foods. But keep in mind that nutrients usually don't work in isolation but depend on one another. An increased intake of one nutrient may increase your need for another. Vitamin D works with magnesium and vitamins A and K to promote health.
Some researchers claim that fat-soluble vitamins work together and that it’s crucial to optimize your vitamin A and K intake while supplementing with vitamin D3. This is especially important for vitamin K2, another fat-soluble vitamin that most people don’t get enough of.
Magnesium which is another important mineral often lacking in the modern diet may also be important for Vitamin D function.
If you don't spend much time in the sun and rarely eat fatty fish, try out supplements. Getting enough Vitamin D can go a long way to boosting your immune system and overall health. Here at VPLab, we are proud of our Vitamin D3 2000 IU and 4000 IU, and our D3 gummies designed for both – adults and kids.