Vitamin D has been called the “sunshine vitamin”. It regulates the functions of over 200 genes and is essential for growth, development, and immune health. We receive vitamin D from sunlight, certain foods, or from supplements. Only a handful of foods provide this vitamin in sufficient amounts, and deficiency is fairly common. This makes D one of the few cases where a supplement may be necessary.
Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin, it is a fat soluble pro-hormone. It was accidentally classified as a vitamin during the early part of the 20th century. A vitamin is a substance your body requires in small amounts on a regular basis but that it can’t produce on it’s own. Unlike other vitamins, your body can make this “sunshine vitamin” on its own, as long as you get enough sunlight.
Our bodies were designed to make vitamin D from sunlight. If you get enough sun exposure, you should be okay without supplementation. In some countries, spending 20-30 minutes in the sun each day provides all the D you need. Yet in many places the sun isn’t as strong, and people spend their days mostly indoors or covered with clothes. In these cases sunlight alone can’t fulfill our requirements and supplementing this “sunshine vitamin” is important for optimal health.
If you don’t get enough vitamin D from the sun then you need to get it from your diet and/or from supplements. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good dietary sources of vitamin D. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and herring are great sources. Mushrooms, beef liver, and organic egg yolks are also good sources of vitamin D. The best dietary source of vitamin D is cod liver oil. Vitamin D-rich foods are actually pretty rare. Because of this, many common foods, like milk, cereals, and butter, are fortified with vitamin D to help meet the recommended intake. In fact, most of the vitamin D in a western diet comes from fortified foods. The trouble with fortifying foods with vitamins is that the vitamins used are synthetic. Additionally, many of the fortified foods are highly processed and lack real nutrition.
Vitamin D can also be obtained from supplements.
This is fortunate, since vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies. In the United States, more than 40% of the general population is vitamin D deficient.
Dark skin prevents the synthesis of vitamin D from sunlight. The vitamin D deficiency rate in African Americans is at a very high rate of 82%. Because of this, supplementation of this “sunshine vitamin” might not only be useful, but necessary, in many cases.
Vitamin D is stored in the body. If you get a lot of vitamin D at certain times, you might need less or none at all at other times.
The biggest documented health effect of vitamin D is how it helps calcium improve and maintain bone health. Yet, vitamin D is also involved in regulating your immune and neuro-muscular systems. It also helps regulate insulin production and the secretion of thyroid-stimulating hormone, among many other important functions.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to immune deficiencies, depression, obesity, diabetes, fibromyalgia, hypertension, chronic pain, fatigue, lower back pain, bone pain, learning disabilities, cognitive decline,and Alzheimer’s. Current research indicates vitamin D deficiency plays a role in causing seventeen varieties of different cancers as well as heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases, birth defects, and periodontal disease.
Low vitamin D levels is also associated with other non-communicable diseases and with increased susceptibility to infectious disease; notably, upper respiratory tract infections. Many health experts are now suggesting that low levels of vitamin D may be linked to COVID-19 infections, decreased immune health, and fatalities. New research has suggested that the rate of infection and deaths appeared to be much higher in areas where people had lower amounts of vitamin D in their systems. This finding was especially significant in Europe.
Researchers at Northwestern University analyzed patient data from 10 countries. The team found a correlation between low vitamin D levels and hyperactive immune systems. Vitamin D strengthens innate immune health and prevents overactive immune responses.
How much Vitamin D supplement with?
Daily recommendations for adults suggest 400–800 IU per day, or 10–20 micrograms. However, some studies suggest that a higher daily intake of 1000–4000 IU (25–100 micrograms) is needed to maintain optimal blood levels. Some health experts suggest that higher doses of vitamin D are best to be taken with additional supplementation of vitamin K2. The concern is that high vitamin D intake may promote blood vessel calcification and heart disease among those who are low in vitamin K. Scientists don’t know yet whether high vitamin D intake is harmful when vitamin K intake is inadequate. Evidence suggests it might be a concern, but a definite conclusion cannot be reached at this point.
If you would like to check for nutritional deficiencies we do offer comprehensive blood tests to get a clear picture of what you may be in need of to achieve optimal health. We also carry a large selection of high quality nutritional supplements and herbal formulas. Contact us to set up a consultation, an appointment for testing, or to order supplements.