Vitamin D or the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight is a fat-soluble vitamin in a family of compounds that includes vitamins D1-3. It’s function can affect as many as 2,000 genes in the body. It is extremely important we have enough Vitamin D as it helps our immune system. This vitamin is usually deficient in most adults. It is not about being in the range, but being in the optimal range of Vitamin D; which should be around 120-150nmol/L.
Benefits of Vitamin D:
- Regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorous.
Not enough Vitamin D will increase risk of bone fractures, soft and fragile bones and osteoporosis.
- Helps boost immune system function and fights disease.
It reduces risk of MS, can decrease your chances of a heart disease, reduce colds and flus.
- It is great at regulating mood and reducing depression symptoms. Those with sub-optimal levels of Vitamin D have significantly increased levels of anxiety, stress and depression.
How do you get enough Vitamin D
Your body produces vitamin D naturally when it is directly exposed to sunlight. A little can go a long way. All you need is 10-15 minutes a day of midday, pre-sunscreen sun exposure, especially if you have fair skin.
Besides getting vitamin D through sunlight, you can also get it through certain foods and supplements to ensure adequate levels of the vitamin in your blood.
Beware of Deficiency
Many lifestyle and environmental factors can affect your ability to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D through the sun alone. These factors include:
- use of sunscreen
- spending more time indoors
- living in big cities where buildings block sunlight
- having darker skin
These factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency in an increasing number of people. That’s why it’s important to get some of your vitamin D from sources besides sunlight.
The symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency in adults include:
- general tiredness, aches and pains, and a general sense of not feeling well
- severe bone or muscle pain or weakness that may cause difficulty climbing stairs or getting up from the floor or a low chair, or cause the person to walk with a waddling gait
- stress fractures, especially in the legs, pelvis, and hips
- weak immune system and frequent colds/flu
You can find out if you have adequate amounts through a simple blood test through your GP. If you don’t have optimal levels (under 100ng/mL) you should take daily Vitamin D supplements and get enough sunlight.
Doctors can diagnose a vitamin D deficiency by performing a simple blood test. If you have a deficiency, your doctor may order X-rays to check the strength of your bones.
Very few food sources contain natural Vitamin D, some has been fortified these include:
- egg yolk
- milk (fortified)
- cereal (fortified)
- yogurt (fortified)
- orange juice (fortified)
It can be hard to get enough vitamin D each day through sun exposure and food alone, so taking vitamin D supplements can help.