Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because your body synthesizes it by using natural sunlight. Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because your body synthesizes it by using natural sunlight. Vitamin D is naturally found in only egg yolk and fatty fish. Other foods must be synthetically fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D is most commonly beneficial for muscle and bone health but it is also beneficial for other aliments such as diabetes, depression, autoimmune disease, heart and brain health.
Vitamin D is also referred to as “calciferol”. It has this name because Vitamin D helps draw calcium from food and puts the calcium into your blood stream. Vitamin D then works hand in hand with Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 will take the calcium from your blood and deposit it into your bones and teeth. If this balance is not correct, then calcium will accumulate in your blood resulting in hardening of the blood vessels.
There are two sources of Vitamin D. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is derived from plant sources and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is derived from sunlight and animal sources. Supplemental Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so any excess will get stored in your fatty tissue. Supplementing with too much Vitamin D can cause your body to store excess calcium in your blood. Symptoms of high blood calcium levels (also known as hypercalcemia), are digestive issues, tiredness, bone loss and in extreme cases, kidney damage.
Most supplements come in the form of Vitamin D3. Although Vitamin D2 and D3 are absorbed and metabolized equally, it has been found that Vitamin D3 is more effective than Vitamin D2 at raising you Vitamin D blood levels. Vitamin D supplements can contain either Vitamin D2 or D3 although most over-the-counter supplements are Vitamin D3. Note that you cannot get too much Vitamin D from sunshine; only through supplementation.
Vitamin D has a number of health benefits but most notably bone health, reduces inflammation, glucose metabolism and immune support.
- Muscle and Bones
You need Vitamin D to absorb calcium to support strong muscles, bones and growth in children and young adults.
Vitamin D helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Vitamin D may reduce the risk of cancer, particularly colon, breast and skin cancers.
Vitamin D helps reduce insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetes.
- Autoimmune Disease
Vitamin D may help prevent autoimmune diseases and it is common for those with autoimmune diseases to be deficient in Vitamin D.
- Anxiety and Depression
Vitamin D helps alleviate mental health and other mood disorders.
- Infections and Viruses
Vitamin D helps strengthen our immune systems and fighting off viral infections.
Sources of Vitamin D
You can get Vitamin D from various foods, supplements and through sun exposure. Sun exposure is the most natural way of getting Vitamin D. The darker your skin complexion, the more difficult it is to absorb the sun’s rays to synthesize Vitamin D.
You make Vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sun light. Ultraviolet B sunlight is the component that helps synthesize Vitamin D in our skin. This is the best and most natural way to get Vitamin D. Ultraviolet B sunlight is maximum during mid-day. Anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes per day, over a large portion of your body should be sufficient exposure. Those with lighter skin complexions require less sunlight than those with darker complexions.
Vitamin D is not found in many foods. Fatty fish and animal products are the most common. Most other foods that contain Vitamin D are fortified with it. If you are a vegetarian or a plant-based eater, you most likely need to supplement with Vitamin D (or get sufficient sunlight exposure).
- Fatty fish (salmon, halibut, mackerel, trout, tuna)
- Animal products (red meat, liver, eggs)
- Dairy (Milk, Cheese, Soy Milk, Yogurt, Margarine)
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified orange juice
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
If you don’t consume Vitamin D enriched foods, are not exposed to sunlight and/or of dark pigmentation, then you are more prone to be Vitamin D deficient. You can easily be tested for Vitamin D through a simple blood test. A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates a deficiency. Symptoms may include, but not limited to the following:
- Getting sick often
- Muscle weakness
- Bone or back pain
- Fatigue and Tiredness
- Slow wound healing
- Hair Loss
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
- Low bone density and osteoporosis
- Heart Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Certain cancers
- Autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease and fibromyalgia
Vitamin D Doses
The general recommended vitamin D intake is 400 IU per day for infants and children and 400 to 600 IU per day for adults with an upper limit of 10,000 IU for oral Vitamin D supplementation. For more specific doses based on your age, go to vitamincalculator.net.
ReferencesVitamin K, National Institute of Health
Vitamin K | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health