Sufficient levels of vitamin D are essential to achieving optimal health. Vitamin D helps us fight infections, reduce inflammation, and helps regulate minerals that keep our bones, muscles, and teeth healthy.
While direct sunlight typically provides adequate amounts of vitamin D, in winter months, we run the risk of developing a deficiency. Unfortunately, too many of us spend the majority of our days indoor, and we do not get enough sunlight. With nearly one billion people worldwide suffering from vitamin D deficiencies, supplementation is crucial as numerous health complications and illnesses can result if levels are low. Here’s what you should know:
Sources of Vitamin D
As humans, our main source of vitamin D has been synthesis in the skin from cholesterol after exposure to the sun's UVB rays. Exposing one’s body to sunlight in summer months for 10 to 15 minutes can produce 10,000 to 20,000 IU of vitamin D3 within 24 hours. However, sunscreen, darker skin pigmentation, and clothing can reduce one’s ability to make vitamin D.
But the sun isn’t the only source of vitamin D. It can also be found in foods such as grass-fed dairy, liver, fatty fish (sardines, mackerel, and tuna), and mushrooms.
Supplementation may be necessary for some--especially those of darker skin tones and those living at higher latitudes. It is recommended to take at least 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily to maintain summer levels. (It is not recommended, however, to take more than 8,000 IU per day as vitamin D toxicity can result).
Vitamin D and the Body
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with a host of health issues. Studies reveal a potential link between low vitamin D and a higher risk of cardiac events and certain types of cancers. A person’s vitamin D levels have also been linked to multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, gut and lung infections, and even obesity. Additionally, children are at risk for developing rickets--a bone weakening disease.
A notable benefit of vitamin D is that it has been shown to increase the number and diversity of microbes in our gut therefore reducing whole-body inflammation.
When it comes to infections, vitamin D also activates the immune system’s T-cells that identify and attack bad pathogens.
While it’s nearly impossible to receive adequate vitamin D from the sun this winter, supplementing is an easy way to maintain sufficient levels. And maintaining sufficient levels is crucial to warding off colds and other illnesses this winter. At Total Body Health, we can test your vitamin D levels and recommend proper levels of supplementation to meet your individual needs.