Vitamin D: Are you getting enough?
A published Vitamin D guest blog written by Dr. Tania (Chinese Medicine) of Bnourishd.
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin. It’s sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because our skin makes it when exposed to the sun.
It’s also the most common nutrient deficiency!
Like most vitamins, vitamin D has many functions in the body. It’s mostly known for its ability to help build strong bones. But, vitamin D is also important for a healthy immune system, digestive system, heart and mental health, blood sugar regulation, fertility, and resistance to cancer.
Vitamin D in the body
Vitamin D (calciferol) isn’t “active” in our bodies. To do its wonders, it first needs to be converted into the active form. This is a two-step process. First the liver converts it into 25(OH)D (calcidiol). Then, that is converted into 1,25(OH)D (calcitriol) in the kidneys. It’s this third, calcitriol, form that’s active in the body.
Vitamin D acts like a hormone! That means it’s produced in one part of the body (e.g. the skin), and travels through to act on another part (e.g. the bones).
Vitamin D for bones
Vitamin D is most known for its importance for bone health. Bones are alive and are constantly remodeling themselves. This means they, as all tissues, need a constant supply of nutrients. When we don’t get enough vitamin D (and calcium)regularly, bones can become weak and brittle.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium more efficiently. And the mineral calcium is one of the major players to “mineralize” and strengthen our bones.
Vitamin D, the immune system, and inflammation
Several studies have shown a link between low levels of vitamin D and immune-related conditions like atopic dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis. In the lab, vitamin D seems to have “anti-inflammatory” and “antioxidant” properties.
Vitamin D and digestive diseases
Since vitamin D is fat-soluble, it’s absorbed along with fat in the diet. So, people who don’t eat or absorb enough fat are at risk of lower vitamin D levels. This can include people with many digestive issues such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s & colitis, as well as people who have had gastric bypass surgery.
Also, a healthy vitamin D status seems to go hand-in-hand with a healthy gut. For example, there is a link between sub-optimal vitamin D, gut microbiomestatus, gut inflammation, and diseases of the gut like IBD and colon cancer.
Vitamin D and cancer
It’s not just colon cancer that’s associated with low levels of vitamin D. Higher levels of vitamin D are associated with lower risk for prostate, and breast cancers.
In the lab, cancer cells don’t seem to do as well when exposed to higher levels of vitamin D. They don’t divide or invade other tissues as well; and, they seem to die easier.
It’s unclear whether supplementing with vitamin D would reduce the risks of cancer in people.
Vitamin D for mental and brain health
Cells in key areas of the brain have “receptors” for vitamin D. Vitamin D also has a role in circadian rhythms and sleep, affects growth of nerve cells, and impacts the developing brain.
Sources of vitamin D
There are three main sources of vitamin D – sun exposure, foods, and supplements.
Sources of vitamin D – Sun exposure
Our skin contains “pre” vitamin D. When exposed to UV rays from the sun, this “pre vitamin”is converted into vitamin D (calciferol).
In fact, vitamin D levels decline in people throughout the winter.
The problem is that too much UV radiation can contribute not only to skin cancer, but also to dryness and other cosmetic changes in the skin over time.
Sources of vitamin D – Foods
Vitamin D is not naturally found in very many foods. The best sources include fatty fish and fish liver oils. Some is also found in beef liver, some cheeses, and egg yolks. Because these are animal sources, they are in the D3 form. Some is even already converted into 25(OH)D which is thought to be 5 times more potent than the regular D3 form.
Naturally occurring plant sources of vitamin D2 are some mushrooms that have been exposed to the sun. That’s about it.
Some of these vitamin D fortified foods include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. Check your labels to find out if yours has been fortified with vitamin D (it will be listed as an ingredient). You can also check which form of vitamin D was added: D2 or D3.
Vitamin D deficiency
Studies show that between 30-80% of people simply don’t get enough vitamin D. This deficiency is so common that some researchers have called it a “public health concern” and a “global problem.”
Vitamin D has many health-promoting roles in the body. Most of the evidence is for bone health, but it’s also associated with a healthy immune system, digestive system, heart and mental health, blood sugar regulation, fertility, and resistance to cancer.
Vitamin D is also the most common deficiency.
We can get vitamin D from sun exposure, some foods, and supplements.
The best way to know how much vitamin D you need is to have your blood tested if you’re at risk. If you don’t have a test or professional recommendation, following the label directions on your vitamin D supplements can be a safe way to get enough.
Please credit the guest speaker, Dr. Tania (Chinese Medicine) of Bnourishd.
Please check out the website! https://bnourishd.com.au/
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