Vitamins are necessary for everyday health and growth. While we get many of our vitamins from our general diet, we may sometimes need a little more than we typically get via our normal food habits. If you are considering taking vitamin D, here is what you need to know:
What Is Vitamin D?
Like its fellow fat-soluble vitamins, A E and K, vitamin D can be stored in our body’s fat cells and released over time. This means that while you need a certain amount of this vitamin, too much vitamin D can also be detrimental to your health.
What Does Vitamin D Do?
Vitamin D is known to have several essential functions in the human body. Here are a few examples of what vitamin D can do:
Facilitate Proper Bone and Tooth Growth
Vitamin D is primarily known to affect bone and muscle growth due to its ability to influence the calcium cycle within the human body. This vitamin is key to developing strong bones and teeth, and a deficiency in vitamin D can lead to problems like osteoporosis and osteomalacia.
Studies have also found that vitamin D can play a key role in the immune system. However, more research is currently being conducted about how and when vitamin D can be used to strengthen your natural immune response.
Vitamin D has also been found to help fight against diseases. For instance, vitamin D reduces your risk of multiple sclerosis and can help improve heart health. The vitamin may also help you fight against viruses, including the flu virus.
Mood Regulating and Antidepressant Effects
Studies have shown that vitamin D may play an important role in mood regulation, including warding off depression. One study even found that people who suffered from depression and received vitamin D noticed a significant improvement in their depression symptoms.
Another study showed that people with fibromyalgia who experienced a high level of anxiety and depression also suffered from a vitamin D deficiency.
Weight Loss Boosting Effects
Some studies have shown that people who take calcium and vitamin D supplements can lose weight more quickly because extra calcium and vitamin D act as appetite suppressants. Likewise, taking additional vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency?
In many cases, we get a sufficient amount of vitamin D from our environment. However, in some cases, this simply does not happen. Reasons for vitamin D deficiency include:
- Living in a highly-populated area. This is especially true if you live in a big city where buildings can block sunlight.
- Using too much sunscreen. Yes, there is such a thing as using too much sunscreen.
- Avoiding the outdoors or spending too much time indoors.
- Having dark skin, melanin decreases potential vitamin D absorption.
What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?
Because vitamin D plays an important role in the body, there are many potential symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, including:
- Ache and pains
- Malaise- or a general sense of not feeling well
- Severe bone weakness and stress fractures- these are especially common in the larger bones of your legs, hips, and pelvis.
- Difficulty getting up from the floor and climbing stairs.
How Is Vitamin D Deficiency Diagnosed?
If you suspect that you have a vitamin D deficiency, the best thing to do is speak to your primary care doctor. Your doctor will then probably ask you about your symptoms and perform a blood test. Your doctor may also order x-days to check your bones for signs of vitamin D deficiency.
What Happens if You Have Low Vitamin D?
If tests confirm that you have low vitamin D, your doctor will probably recommend a diet that is naturally high in vitamin D and, or, a daily supplement. The extent of the recommendation depends on how much your levels deviate from the standard values.
How Do I Get More Vitamin D?
There are many ways to get more vitamin D. If your vitamin D is low, here are a few things to try.
Embrace the Sunshine
Because sunlight is a vital component of vitamin D, getting out into the sunshine can be extremely beneficial.
Grab Some Food
Certain foods are naturally rich in vitamin D, while others are fortified with vitamin D to make them stronger. Foods that are rich in vitamin D include:
- Fish such as salmon and sardines
- Egg yolks
- Fortified cereal, milk, and orange juice
Should I Take a Vitamin D Supplement?
Vitamin D is pretty important. So, if you feel like you are not getting enough vitamin D through your diet, it may be time to consider supplements.
Remember, when considering a vitamin D supplement, choose one that is naturally and ethically made.
How Much Vitamin D Should I Take?
The most recent research conveys that vitamin D is essential and even offers suggested amounts; remember, vitamin D can be bad for you when consumed in excess.
Per the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the recommended doses of vitamin D are:
- 600 IU for children and teens
- 600 IU for children and teens: adults up to age 70
- 800 IU for adults over age 70: 800 IU
- 600 IU for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding women:
- Vitamin D is naturally made in the skin in response to sunlight. A proper level of vitamin D is crucial to physical and mental health.
- Vitamin D deficiency can affect teeth, bones, and even your mental health.
- The best way to determine whether you have a vitamin D deficiency is to speak with your doctor.
- If needed, your doctor may recommend diet changes and supplements to boost your vitamin D levels.