Did you know Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and autism?
And that’s not all! Recent studies have also linked this remarkable vitamin to the prevention and potential cure of many other devastating and weakening conditions including cardiovascular disease, blood pressure issues, high cholesterol levels, neurological system disorders, kidney failure, reproductive system disorders, muscle weakness, obesity, disorders of the skin, and even tooth decay.
The problem is 85% of us aren’t getting enough of this “sunshine vitamin” which helps fight bone loss, infection, and abnormal cell growth. In a recent study, it showed that almost half of the population of adults in the US were vitamin D deficient (1 billion people worldwide). If you shun sun, suffer from milk allergies, or adhere to a strict vegan diet, you may be at risk for Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. It also occurs naturally in a few foods– including some fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks — and in fortified dairy and grain products.
Why Are We So D’- ficient?
Many years ago, most of us worked outside in the sun, and absorbed approximately 10,000-20,000 IU of Vitamin D in 15 minutes. That is much more than the current FDA requirements of between 200 and 400 IU. But for the last few years, the medical establishment has been screaming that “sunlight is dangerous for your health”.. and telling you to cover yourselves with sunscreen, even though there is no real evidence to show the sun’s UV rays when used WISELY cause cancer. A study that linked vitamin D deficiency to catching more colds blamed increasing use of sunscreen and long sleeves following skin cancer- prevention campaigns for the sudden decline in this vitamin. Using a sunscreen with as little as a 15 – factor cuts the skin’s vitamin D production by 99%!
What’s more, many of us have indoor jobs, and from September to April in the northern latitudes, the sky can remain quite gray, making it nearly impossible for you to gain enough sun to create natural Vitamin D. Especially if you are overweight, pregnant, elderly, and dark skinned.
Why dark skinned? The pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Why the elderly? As people age, their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing their risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Why if you are overweight? Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, hormone-like vitamin, it is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. In common words, body fat acts as a “sink” by collecting it. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D. Same holds true to people with higher body weights due to muscle mass.
More About Vitamin D and What It Is:
You may be surprised to learn that vitamin D is completely different from most other vitamins.
It is actually a hormone, a steroid hormone that is produced out of cholesterol when your skin is exposed to the sun. Vitamin D is one of the fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that it dissolves in fat/oil and can be stored in the body for a long time. There are two main forms, D2 and D3, of which D3 is much more effective.
In order for Vitamin D to be “activated” in the body, it must be converted to its storage form of the vitamin by the liver then be converted into steroid hormone form by the kidneys. The steroid hormone form (Calcitriol) of vitamin D travels around the body, going into the nuclei of cells. There it interacts with a receptor called the Vitamin D receptor, which is found in almost every single cell of the body.
When the active form binds to this receptor, it turns genes on or off, leading to changes in the cells. This is similar to how most steroid hormones work.
It is well known that vitamin D affects various cells related to bone health, for example telling the cells in the gut to absorb calcium and phosphorus. But scientists have now found it to be involved in all sorts of other processes, including immune function and protection against cancer.
Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency
***The only way to know for sure if your Vitamin D deficient is via blood testing. However, there are some signs and symptoms to be aware of as well.
- Excessive Sweating: If you have a sweaty forehead or “glowing” while your activity level remains steady, your temperature is close to normal and you’re in a moderate temperature environment, you may want to consider a vitamin D test.
- Noticeable/Unexpected Weakness: Muscle strength isn’t just a matter of pumping iron. While having Vitamin D deficiency can leave you feeling overly exhausted, even when you’re able to get enough shut-eye, proper vitamin D intake helps you maintain power in ever fiber of your being, whether young or old.
- Broken Bones: You stop building bone mass around age 30, and a lack of vitamin D can speed up or worsen osteoporosis symptoms.
- Chronic Pain: Some experience aches and pains in the bones. Those who are diagnosed with arthritis or fibromyalgia may actually be shy of enough VD3, as a deficiency can cause joints and muscles to ache. Also, adequate VD3 can prevent post-workout pain and increase the speed of muscle recovery.
- A Down-In-The-Dumps Mood: A depression diagnosis is often actually linked to a shortage of VD3. Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with brain elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure.
- You Have Darker Skin: African Americans are at a greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, because if you have dark skin, you may need as much as 10 times more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D as a person with pale skin! You’re skin pigment acts as a natural sunscreen, so the more pigment you have, the more time you’ll need to spend in the sun to make adequate amounts of vitamin D.
- Gut Trouble: Remember, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means if you have a gastrointestinal condition that affects your ability to absorb fat, you may have lower absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D as well. This includes Crohn’s, celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and inflammatory bowel disease.
It’s estimated that over 95% of US senior citizens may be deficient in vitamin D, not only because they tend to spend most of their time indoors but also because they produce less in response to sun exposure (a person over the age of 70 produces about 30% less vitamin D than a younger person with the same sun exposure).
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need for Optimal Health?
When it comes to vitamin D, you don’t want to be in the “average” or “normal” range, you want to be in the “optimal” range. The reason for this is that as the years have gone by, researchers have progressively moved the range upward.
The best way to optimize your vitamin D levels is through appropriate sun exposure. You want to stay in the sun about half of the time you suspect it would take you to get a mild sunburn (so if you tend to get sun burned after 30 minutes, you’d want to stay in the sun for about 15 minutes). But how long you need to stay in the sun varies greatly depending on other factors also, such as diet, skin color, latitude & altitude, age, ozone layer, season, weight, cloud cover, time of day, etc.
Keep in mind you need to expose a large part of your body. If you’re only exposing your face and hands then you will produce less vitamin D. Also, if you stay behind glass or use sunscreen, then you will produce less or none at all. If you do decide to get your vitamin D from the sun, make sure to never burn. Sunshine is healthy, but sunbruns can cause premature aging of the skin and raise your risk of skin cancer.
If you’re staying in the sun for a long time, consider going without sunscreen for the first 10-30 minutes or so (depending on your sensitivity), then apply it before you start burning.
Vitamin D gets stored in the body for a long time, so you may only need occassional sun to keep your blood levels adequate.
However, not everyone lives where there is sun year round. In these cases, getting vitamin D from foods or supplements become absolutely essential, especially during the winter months.
Foods With Significant Amounts of Vitamin D3:
- Cod Liver Oil
- Beef Liver
- Whole egg (found in the yolk)
- Dairy products and cereals are often fortified with vitamin D
- Some rare mushrooms
Health Benefits of Getting Plenty of Vitamin D:
Vitamin D has received considerable mainstream attention in recent years and decades.
Research on it has gotten lots of funding, and hundreds of studies have been done.
Here are some potential benefits of getting plenty of vitamin D:
- Osteoporosis, falls and fractures: Higher doses of vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis, falls and fractures in the elderly (30).
- Strength: Vitamin D supplementation can increase physical strength, in both upper and lower limbs (31).
- Cancer: Vitamin D may help prevent cancer. One study showed that 1100 IU per day, along with calcium, reduced cancer risk by 60% (32, 33).
- Depression: Studies have shown vitamin D supplementation to cause mild reduction in symptoms in people with clinical depression (34).
- Type 1 diabetes: One study in infants found that 2000 IU of vitamin D per day reduced the risk of type 1 diabetes by 78% (35).
- Mortality: Some studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation reduces people’s risk of dying during the study periods, indicating that it may help you live longer (36, 37).
This is actually just the tip of the iceberg.
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to all sorts of diseases, and supplementation has been shown to have numerous other benefits.
*Increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year.
So, try to take a break from work, watching tv, or laying inside all day and enjoy the summer sun while taking a walk outside, going to the beach, or even just laying outside your house!
“Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.”