Those most susceptible to vitamin D deficiency are those who get little exposure to sunlight, are allergic to dairy, or follow a stringent vegetarian diet. Unfortunately most of us (especially here in the UK) don’t get enough sunlight to produce sufficient vitamin D, and even those in hot countries usually either avoid the sun or use sun block. This means that for many of us, usually without even realizing it, vitamin d deficiency is a possible threat.
Historically, vitamin d deficiency has usually been associated with rickets, however more recent studies have indicated a much more influential role in overall health support and maintenance. So, what does vitamin d3 actually do and what do we need it for?
Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin d is the only vitamin that can be directly produced within the body without the need for nutrition. Although it can be absorbed through food, the main source of vitamin d for our body is as a result of exposure to direct sunlight. Alternative food sources include fish, fish liver oils, eggs, dairy, or through use of a daily vitamin d supplement.
Vitamin D Deficiency
If you’re not getting enough exposure to the sun then the blood-levels of vitamin d in your body can become chronically low. If this continues over a long period of time then it is known as vitamin d deficiency, a condition which if unaddressed can lead to other health problems.
Although it stands to reason that people in northern areas with less sunlight would be more at risk, a report recently referred to the chronic vitamin d deficiency problem in the United Arab Emirates. Despite the plentiful supply of sunshine in this part of the world, most people actually avoid exposure to the sun due to concerns of skin problems.
Vitamin d deficiency can lead to many other health issues. Traditionally, rickets was thought to be the main concern but more recent studies have discovered links to obesity, high blood pressure, depression, psoriasis, osteoporosis, rickets, chronic fatigue syndrome, kidney stones, Parkinson’s and neuro-degenerative disease including Alzheimer’s.
Additionally, lack of vitamin d has also been shown to have a degenerative effect on some existing conditions, including fibromyalgia, MS and HIV. Deficiency has been associated with a host of other conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and a heightened risk of pre-eclampsia and insulin resistance during pregnancy. More recently, low vitamin D levels have been linked to an increased presence of early age-related macular degeneration.
Vitamin D Benefits
Vitamin D is believed to help support the healthy functioning of the immune system, maintain neuro-muscular function, support emotional health to help maintain a good mood, protect the brain against toxic chemicals, and reduce pain.
Vitamin D has been shown to help reduce symptoms of depression and chronic fatigue. It also helps to support the health of skin, hair and nails, and promotes strong and healthy bones, significantly lowering the risk of bone fractures and hip-related injuries. It can also help to reduce muscular degeneration and support healthy cognitive performance.
3 Ways To Get More Vitamin D
1. If you have bone loss or osteoporosis, try to spend 20 minutes every day in the sunshine with at least 40% of your skin surface exposed. Morning or late afternoon are the best times to reduce sun burn risk.
2. Eat foods with high vitamin d3 content such as cod liver oil, fortified milk, salmon, mackerel, sardines, egg yolks, beef liver.
3. If you use vitamin supplements ensure it is in D3 form as opposed to D2. Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, is the natural form of vitamin D produced by the body when exposed to sunlight. Expert opinions widely concur that this is the most effective form of vitamin D supplementation. In areas such as the UK, where we don’t get as many opportunities to sit in the sun, the recommended dosage is 600 IU to 1000 IU per day.
Both in countries with plentiful sunshine and those lacking, vitamin d deficiency is an issue due to lack of exposure. Vitamin d deficiency is largely caused by lack of exposure to sunlight, although we can also attain the nutrient from our diet. The problem with vitamin d deficiency is that there are no specific symptoms; the condition manifests itself in other health issues. If you are concerned that you may have vitamin d deficiency, then consult your doctor for a screening.