Vitamin D is Absolutely Essential for Optimal Health
This may sound extremely clichéd, but Vitamin D is unlike any other vitamin out there. Perhaps the main reason for that is because it is actually a hormone! Specifically speaking, Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that is produced from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to the rays of the sun. This is the reason why Vitamin D is commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”.
Even though you can get an ample supply of Vitamin D from sunlight, it would be wrong to state that sunlight alone is sufficient to fulfill your daily requirement for Vitamin D. People have become more inclined to staying indoors than they ever were. They are people who literally go days without seeing the sun for a second. As sunlight exposure decreases, it becomes imperative for people to receive their supply of Vitamin D from alternative sources such as food and supplements.
Why take all this trouble for Vitamin D? Well, Vitamin D is indispensable if you are trying to achieve optimal health. Hence, consuming foods enriched with Vitamin D or taking Vitamin D supplements is absolutely necessary if you want to remain healthy. It is worth noting that there are only a handful of foods that contain Vitamin D, which is why taking the supplements become even more important.
What Is Vitamin D?
Before we dig deeper into the specifics about Vitamin D, it is important to attain a basic understanding of what this vitamin really is and how it functions inside the human body. Vitamin D is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins (A, E and K are the rest). It can, therefore, be stored in oil or body fat for a relatively long period of time.
Forms of Vitamin D
There a total of four forms of Vitamin D but only two forms are found in foods. They are:
- Vitamin D3: These are mainly sourced from animal foods such as fat laden fish and egg yolks.
- Vitamin D2: These can be found in certain types of mushrooms.
Of these two, Vitamin D3 is the one that we should be really concerned with it has twice as effective as Vitamin D2 in increasing the overall amount of Vitamin D in the blood.
What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?
A Major Health Problem
Did you know that Vitamin D deficiency is one of the biggest nutrition-related health problem faced by people around the world? It is a very common nutrient deficiency and some people are more prone to it than others.
Likelihood of Suffering from Vitamin D Deficiency
On average, 41.6% of people are susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency. However, the number is much higher in people of certain races such as the Hispanics who have a 69.2% likelihood of experiencing this deficiency. Moreover, elderly people are at greater risk of being Vitamin D deficient than those who are in their youth or are going through their middle ages. In addition to that, people with specific medical conditions have a greater chance of suffering from Vitamin D deficiency. For instance, 96% of people who have experienced a heart attack have low levels of Vitamin D in their blood.
List of Symptoms
It is really difficult to diagnose the symptoms of Vitamin D mainly because it is a silent epidemic. In other words, the symptoms are subtle and cannot be easily detected even by the most experienced healthcare professionals. You should also be aware of the fact that Vitamin D deficiency does not always lead to symptoms. When it does, the following problems can be experienced:
- Bone pain
- Muscle weakness
- Frequent bone fractures
- Frequent and unexplained fatigue
- Inability to think clearly when required
- Reduced mineral density in the bones
The aforementioned list does not include the most well-known symptom of Vitamin D deficiency, rickets. This is a disease that affects children, especially those suffering from malnutrition in developing countries. Rickets causes the bones to soften to the point where it becomes deformed.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need Per Day
Do You Have Vitamin D Deficiency?
Determining how much Vitamin D is needed by your body depends on whether you are deficient or not. The simplest and most effective way of finding that out is by having your blood level measured.
Vitamin D RDA in the U.S.
In addition to that, age is a major factor in deciding your daily recommended Vitamin D dosage. In the United States, the daily recommended dosage is as follows:
- 400 IU (10 mcg) for infants (from birth to 12 months)
- 600 IU (15 mcg) for children and adults
- 800 IU (20 mcg) for pregnant women, lactating women and elderly people above the age of 70 years.
Is the RDA Not High Enough?
Some experts believe that this daily recommended dosage is not enough to satisfy the body’s demand for Vitamin D and that a much higher amount of Vitamin D should be consumed to enable the body to achieve optimal health and facilitate disease prevention.
4000 IU of Vitamin D is a Safe Intake
It has been suggested that 4,000 IU or 100 mcg is a safe upper limit. This is the perfect amount for people who are suffering from Vitamin D deficiency. It is not uncommon for doctors to recommend a higher dosage than that.
Vitamin D3 capsules are easily available in supermarkets and health food stores. You must make sure that you are taking in Vitamin D3 and not Vitamin D2.
Top 10 Health Benefits of Vitamin D
The world is slowly but surely learning about the various benefits of consuming vitamins. But how exactly does Vitamin D benefit us all? Here are 10 ways in which Vitamin D can make you a stronger, healthier and happier individual:
Strengthens Your Immunity
Real strength lies in an impenetrable immune system. You can come close to achieving this with Vitamin D. It is a natural booster for the immune system. It enhances your immunity by providing immune cells the energy required to function efficiently. Did you know that the immune cells in your body have a special receptor just for Vitamin D?
It has been suggested that inflammation is the cause of a number of cancers. Besides, we know for sure that inflammation can lead to a number of other terrible medical conditions such as arthritis, laryngitis, gingivitis etc. Vitamin D is nature’s antidote for inflammation. It naturally reduces your inflammation.
Acts as a Natural Radiation Blocker
It is important for people to start thinking of ways in which they can protect themselves from low-level radiation. Stocking up on Vitamin D is a great idea if you don’t want radiation to harm your body. Vitamin D3 has the ability to prevent and reverse a number of radiation-induced health complications.
Helps You to Lose Weight
Vitamin D can be immensely helpful when it comes to burning calories. If you consume Vitamin D, exercise regularly and maintain a balanced diet, you are very likely to lose weight within a short amount of time. This weight loss is going to be completely natural and organic. Hence, you don’t have to worry about falling ill or becoming weak.
Boosts the Strength of Your Bones
Vitamin D is extremely important for enabling the absorption of calcium in your body. In the absence of calcium, your bones will weaken and become softer. This could lead to conditions such as osteoporosis, which is a very painful and risky health complication. To avoid this, you need to consume as much Vitamin D as you safely can.
Decreases the Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
As mentioned previously, the absence of Vitamin D in your body could lead to arthritis. As your body ages, it needs regular vitamin intake in order to prevent cells from breaking down rapidly. This is why it is imperative for you to take good care of your health during your days of youth. If you can manage that by taking Vitamin D supplements, you can prevent the onset of painful conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Reduces Cancer Risk
This is a major benefit of Vitamin D and one that deserves more discussion. There was a time when cancer was a complete mystery, but the same cannot be said today. Advancements in medical science have enabled researchers to gather some idea about what causes cancer. These researchers have identified Vitamin D deficiency as one of the conditions that can increase cancer risk. Therefore, if you want to make yourself less vulnerable to this terminal disease, then you should, by all means, focus on increasing your daily intake of Vitamin D.
Protects You from Type II Diabetes
Pre-diabetics should seriously consider adding more Vitamin D to their diet whether it is in the form of Vitamin D rich foods or Vitamin D supplements. This is because the hormone plays an active role in regulating the insulin level in the body. It actually helps the pancreas to secrete the chemical in the right amount. Hyperglycemic patients have been known to benefit from Vitamin D.
Protects You from Heart Disease
Vitamin D may not be the cure or vaccine for heart disease, but it can certainly reduce the probability of you having a cardiac arrest. Plenty of studies have clearly shown that higher levels of Vitamin D in the blood can contribute to a lower risk of heart disease. It is worth mentioning that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, which makes Vitamin D even more significant in your life.
Improves Alertness and Emotional Stability
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Vitamin D is amazing because not only does it keep your body healthy, but it also plays a major role in ensuring that your mind remains alert and that you stay emotionally stable. Research shows that Vitamin D establishes positive neural connections in the brain that allow you to stay optimistic and sharp. There is also ample evidence to suggest that Vitamin D helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
What Are the Best Sources of Vitamin D?
If you want to ensure adequate intake of Vitamin D, then you should be exposed to the following sources of this nutrient on a regular basis:
As you are already aware, sunlight makes the body produce more Vitamin D. However, you can’t be out in the sun all day long because it may lead to skin cancer.
There are some foods that are rich in Vitamin D, but it is unlikely that you will be eating them every single day of the week. Hence, a smarter option is to rely on Vitamin D supplements. These are available and are perfect for helping you maintain high Vitamin D levels in your blood.
This is the most commonly recommended food for increasing your intake of Vitamin D. Salmon, trout, tuna, eel and mackerel can all be labeled as fatty fish. Unless you are a vegan, you wouldn’t really have a problem in having a delicious salmon meal for lunch or dinner.
Not all mushrooms help you stock up on Vitamin D. Portobello mushrooms, for example, are a great option for vegans looking for a reliable and tasty source of this nutrient. You will be amused to find out that mushrooms, much like human beings, have the ability to produce Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.
Most brands of cow milk in the supermarkets are fortified with Vitamin D. That being said, you shouldn’t count on cheese and cream to supply you with this essential nutrient. If you are not a fan of cow milk, you could try certain brands of soy and rice milk that are enriched with Vitamin D.
Eating eggs is a very convenient way of deriving Vitamin D from food. Most people have eggs during breakfast or eat it when they are enjoying their desserts. This should not however tempt you to have too many eggs because the yolks contain a significant amount of cholesterol which can be bad for your heart if consumed in excess.
If milk, meat and mushrooms are not your thing, then you could have a glass of fresh orange juice every morning during breakfast to make sure that your body is not deprived of Vitamin D. There are many brands out there which sell high quality, fortified orange juice at a reasonable price.
Side Effects and Dangers of Vitamin D
Too much of anything isn’t good, and Vitamin D is no exception to this rule. If you are taking Vitamin D in doses higher than 4,000 IU per day for an extensive period of time, then you are likely to experience the following conditions:
- Kidney Disease
- High levels of calcium in the blood
- Artherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Hyperparathyroidism (overactive parathyroid)
Is Vitamin D Supplement Recommended?
Vitamin D supplements can significantly contribute to improving your health, especially if you have a deficiency. Hence, there isn’t any reason why adults and children shouldn’t take Vitamin D supplements.
Furthermore, people with the following conditions have a greater need than the average person to be on Vitamin D supplementation:
- Men and women on steroids
- Patients with chronic kidney disease
- Patients with parathyroid disease
- Elderly people above the age of 70 and those susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease
- Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
- Postmenopausal women
The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any specific medical issue.