3 min read

Vitamin D: About, Benefits & Sources

Featured Image

What is Vitamin D?

Here’s something you may not know — vitamin D is both a nutrient we eat AND a hormone our bodies make.  It is a fat-soluble vitamin that has long been known to help the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus — both are critical for building bone.

Benefits of Vitamin D

Getting enough vitamin D is important for typical growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance to certain diseases.  Studies show vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections, and reduce inflammation.  In addition to its primary benefits, research suggests that vitamin D may also play a role in:

Reducing the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS).  A 2018 review of population-based studies found that low levels of vitamin D are linked with an increased risk of MS.

Decreasing the chance of heart disease.  Low vitamin D levels have been linked to increased risk of heart diseases such as hypertension, heart failure, and stroke.

Reducing the likelihood of severe illness.  Although studies are mixed, vitamin D may make severe flu and Covid-19 infections less likely.  A recent review found that low vitamin D levels contribute to acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Supporting immune health.  People who do not have adequate vitamin D levels might be at increased risk of infections and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Regulating mood and reduce depression.  A review of 7,534 people found that those experiencing negative emotions and who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in symptoms.  Another study identified low vitamin D levels as a risk factor for more severe fibromyalgia symptoms, anxiety, and depression.

Supporting weight loss.  In one study, people taking daily calcium and vitamin D supplements lost more weight than subjects taking a placebo supplement.  Current research is still looking at the relationship between vitamin D and weight.

How Do You Get Vitamin D?

Regular sun exposure is the most natural way to get enough vitamin D.  Your body produces vitamin D naturally when it is directly exposed to sunlight.  It is estimated that we should get more than 90% of our vitamin D through daily sun exposure.  According to the National Institutes of Health, 5-30 minutes of midday sun exposure to your unprotected face, arms, legs, or back several times per week is enough for your body to produce all the D3 it needs.  Your exposure time should depend on how sensitive your skin is to sunlight.

A secondary way to get vitamin D is from certain foods and supplements.  Some foods contain vitamin D naturally, and others are fortified with it.  Although there are a variety of food sources for vitamin D, most include dairy, fatty fish, and some nightshades, which are problematic due to their inflammatory properties.  For those following a vegan diet, the most viable option is to get vitamin D through fortified organic nut milks.

There are several reasons why you may be less likely to absorb enough vitamin D from the sun.  These factors can increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency:

  • Live in an area with high pollution
  • Use sunscreen
  • Spend most of your time indoors
  • Live in a big city where buildings block sunlight
  • Have darker skin (the higher the levels of melanin, the less vitamin D your skin can absorb)

Diagnosing vitamin D deficiency can be done via a simple blood test.  If you have a vitamin D deficiency, you can check the strength of your bones via x-ray.  Some people worry that they’ll get too much vitamin D.  That is unlikely to happen through diet or sun exposure because your body regulates the amount of vitamin D produced through sun exposure.

OHI advocates for getting vitamins in natural ways via food and nature.  However, as we age, absorption is more challenging, so we don’t want to discount the benefits of high-quality supplements.  The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D is 15mcg (600 IU) for adults 18-70, and 20mcg (800 IU) for adults 70+.

So get out in the sunshine

At OHI, our entire program – including our classes, diet, and community fellowship – supports all dimensions of wellness. Remember, wellness is a life-long pursuit.  Strive for balance, control what you can (diet, exercise, stress), and surround yourself with supportive care for the rest of it.  May the changes you make to your wellness habits change your life for the better! Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.