Are you getting enough vitamin D?
Vitamin D is known as our “sunshine vitamin” and plays a crucial role in our overall health. Vitamin D is a very unique nutrient as it functions as a hormone, meaning that it acts as a messenger in the body helping to control and coordinate other bodily processes. This small but mighty vitamin plays an important role in calcium absorption, bone health, immune system optimization, brain function, muscle function, and so much more. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with numerous health concerns such as fatigue, osteoporosis, poor immune function, cognitive decline, fertility complications, cardiovascular issues, and the list goes on and on.
So how does our body get vitamin D? We can get a small amount throughout our diet, but the majority of vitamin D is created by the body with the help of UVB rays from the sun. This is why vitamin D is referred to as “the sunshine vitamin”. When the UBV rays from the sun come in contact with our skin, they react with the cholesterol in our skin cells and convert the rays into vitamin D. This is why many of us believe that we “stock up” on vitamin D in the summer months. However, this usually is not the case. The amount of vitamin D we synthesize from the sun is based on the amount of skin exposed to sunlight, the time of day that skin is exposed, the length of time of exposure, and the pigmentation of our skin. We also need to consider that the majority of us are wearing sunscreen to protect ourselves from sunburns which blocks the UVB rays from penetrating our skin, and thus, stunts vitamin D synthesizes.
As stated before, some vitamin D can be obtained through food. Some foods sources include, beef liver, cheese, egg yolk, some mushrooms, and fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon and tuna.
Despite vitamin D being super important for overall health, did you know that almost half the population worldwide is deficient in vitamin D?! And you better believe that that statistic only increases the further you get from the equator (Hello Canada!). Another little, not so fun fact, is that our ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases as we age which makes it even more important to ensure we are getting adequate intake. Others who are at a higher risk of having a vitamin d deficiency are those with darker skin (making it harder for the body to synthesize the vitamin from the sun), the aging population, those with a high BMI and those who have chronic conditions that impact their ability to absorb the nutrient.
So how do you know if you are deficient in vitamin D and how to do you correct that deficiency? Your vitamin D levels can be determined through a simple blood test and deficiencies can be easily correct with proper supplementation. Vitamin D supplements are relatively inexpensive and come in many forms. The best absorbed form of vitamin d supplementation is a liquid form that has been emulsified in a fat carrier oil. Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, pairing it with a fat carrier oil significantly increases absorption.
Concerned about your vitamin D levels? Reach out to a member of your health care team to have your levels assessed. This ensures that you are supplementing appropriately and safely.
Dr. Denise Patterson, ND
Note: This blog entry is for general informational purposes only, and does not constitute practice of naturopathic medicine or other professional healthcare services including the giving of medical advice. No doctor patient relationship is formed. Use of this material is at user’s own risk. Readers should not disregard or delay obtaining medical advice for any medical conditions they may have and should seek assistance from a trusted medical care professional for any condition. This blog entry does not speak on behalf of naturopathic medicine and does not represent the profession as a whole.