What's the big deal about Vitamin D?

Do you frequently get run down and sick?  

Are you often feeling fatigued and tired? 

Do you frequently have back pain?

Did you know that these are all signs that could be pointing to a Vitamin D deficiency? 

Vitamin D deficiency is very common. It's estimated that about 1 billion people worldwide have low levels of the vitamin in their blood. According to a 2011 study, 41.6% of adults in the US are deficient. This number goes up to 69.2% in Hispanics and 82.1% in African-Americans (1).

Vitamin D is an extremely important vitamin that has powerful effects on several systems throughout your body such as: 

•    Keeping your immune system strong so you're able to fight off viruses and bacteria that cause illness.  Several large observational studies have shown a link between a deficiency and respiratory tract infections like colds, bronchitis and pneumonia (2, 3).

•    Keeping your vitality and energy at an optimal level.   Case studies have shown that very low vitamin D in the blood  can cause fatigue that has a severe negative effect on quality of life (4, 5).

•    Helps to maintain bone health.  Large observational studies have found a relationship between a deficiency and chronic lower back pain (6, 7, 8).

•    Ward off depression.  In review studies, researchers have linked vitamin D deficiency to depression, particularly in older adults (9, 10).

•    Calcium absorption and bone metabolism In a large observational study in more than 1,100 middle-aged women in menopause or postmenopause, researchers found a strong link between low vitamin D levels and low bone mineral density (11).

Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D  actually functions like a hormone, and every single cell in your body has a receptor for it!  

Vitamin D is made by your body from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to sunlight.  Keep in mind, how much vitamin D you make when in the sun isn't just about time. All clothing and sunscreen with an SPF of 8 or higher, will stop the creation of vitamin D in the areas of skin they are covering. 

The most reliable time to get vitamin D from the sun is close to noon. A good excuse to get out in the sun for your lunch breaks as the spring sunshine starts coming through.  – minimum 10 minutes!  

If you live close to the equator, you can get vitamin D from the sun pretty much any time of the day, any time of the year. As you get farther away from the equator, it gets more complicated. During the summer, you get vitamin D at any time of day, but during the spring and fall, you only get it within a couple hours of noon. Far from the equator, we may get little if any vitamin D from the sun during winter.  Therefore it is recommended to supplement from October – April.   Even more so if you suffer from asthma, allergies, autoimmunity, blood pressure, psoriasis, or hormone problems.

Vitamin D can also be found in certain foods such as fatty fish and fortified dairy products, though very important to note that it is very difficult to get enough from diet alone.  Vitamin D, like vitamin A (which we will discuss in another blog post), mixes better in fat than in water. It is found in the fatty portions of our foods, such as the yolk of an egg.   That also means we will absorb more of it if we eat it with fat. It's best to consume vitamin D-rich foods or vitamin D supplements at our biggest meal if our meals don't vary much in their fat content, or at our highest-fat meal if they do.

The recommended daily intake (RDI)  is usually around 400–800 IU, but many experts say you should get even more than that up to 3,000 IU a day.  If you do choose to supplement, ensure it is with Vitamin D3 – and that it is a pure form with no additives (sugars, fillers etc,)

Also keep in mind that it is very important if you supplement with Vitamin D3 consistently to do so with it's fat-soluble counterpart Vitamin K2 otherwise, you can put the body at risk of soft tissue calcification. This is because both vitamins, D and K, play a key role in calcium metabolism. Both vitamins, for example, regulate calcium metabolism by increasing intestinal calcium absorption. For more detail on the interconnectedness between calcium, vitamin K and vitamin D, check out the review here. 

And there you have it!  A deep dive into all the goodness Vitamin D brings to our health and wellbeing.