Nowadays, vitamin D deficiency has become a very common problem for people. How does one effectively replenish vitamin D? Besides diet and supplements, the intake of another nutrient is also very critical.
Vitamin D performs many functions in the body. For example, it can enhance the body’s absorption of calcium and phosphorus, as well as regulate the genetic performance of nerve cell proteins and help maintain the health of brain cells. Vitamin D also promotes normal immune system functions, fights inflammation, and improves the body’s ability to fight bacteria and viruses.
Many studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of cancer (e.g. colon, breast and prostate cancers), dementia, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
People with low levels of vitamin D may also have the following noticeable symptoms:
According to Yi Fang Tsai, dietitian at Koii Nutrition, people with low levels of vitamin D in their blood have a higher chance of getting migraines.
- Catching colds easily
Vitamin D is very important for the maintenance of immunity. If you often catch colds, it may be due to a lack of vitamin D in your body, which weakens the immune system and the body’s antiviral ability.
- Slow physical development
Insufficient intake of vitamin D will affect the development of bones, making children grow relatively slowly.
- Brittle bones and weak joints
Lack of vitamin D makes it difficult for the body to absorb calcium. And its most obvious effects are osteoporosis, a tendency to fracture bones easily, bone pains resulting from bone softening, joint inflammation, and weak teeth, among others.
- Muscle pain
Vitamin D is also needed for the normal development and growth of muscle fibers, and a lack of vitamin D may lead to muscle weakness and muscle pain.
Lack of vitamin D affects the absorption of calcium, resulting in hypocalcemia, which may lead to involuntary muscle contractions, thus resulting in cramps.
Vitamin D has been shown to be a key regulator of serotonin synthesis in the brain, and low levels of serotonin can cause depression.
In fact, the vitamin D we get from exposure to sunlight, food, and supplements is in a non-activated state. It must be metabolized by the liver and kidneys, before it can become the active and biologically useful vitamin D3, also known as calcitriol. Therefore, people with poor liver and kidney functions are prone to vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so people whose intestines have difficulty digesting and absorbing fatty foods may also be deficient in vitamin D.
If you experience the aforementioned symptoms, have liver or kidney disease, or if you have diarrhea when you eat foods high in fat, then you should pay attention to the vitamin D level in your body.
Magnesium Supplementation Boosts Vitamin D Levels More Effectively
In the complex workings of the human body, few nutrients work in isolation.
In addition to lacking lipids, some people who are deficient in vitamin D may also be deficient in the mineral magnesium if they notice that their supplementation is not bringing about improvements.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in December 2018 showed that magnesium interacts significantly with vitamin D, and that a moderate intake of magnesium can regulate the vitamin D level in the body.
High and low levels of vitamin D in the body can both cause health problems. Studies have shown that when subjects took magnesium supplements, those with low levels of vitamin D had their vitamin D levels raised, and those with high vitamin D levels had their levels lowered.
Qi Dai, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and lead study author, noted that magnesium deficiency shuts down the body’s synthesis and metabolic pathways for vitamin D.
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, behind calcium, potassium, and sodium. Magnesium regulates many biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve functions, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation, and it also contributes to bone health.
In 2018, the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine published an article mentioning that magnesium’s participation is required for the supplemented vitamin D to change from the inactive state to active vitamin D3, through liver and kidney metabolism.
Vitamin D needs to be bound to a carrier protein for transport in the blood, and its main carrier is the vitamin D-binding protein. The activity of vitamin D-binding protein also requires the assistance of magnesium.
However, magnesium deficiency also seems to be a common problem.
According to Martha Shrubsole, a research professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as many as 80 percent of Americans do not get enough magnesium in a day to meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for the nutrient. According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowance for magnesium is 400 to 420 mg per day for men and 310 to 320 mg for women.
Therefore, while replenishing vitamin D, don’t forget to eat foods rich in magnesium. For instance, bananas, green vegetables, legumes, broccoli, brown rice, oats, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seeds, cashews, egg yolks, fish oil, milk, mushrooms, corn, and tofu are all rich in magnesium.
Getting Vitamin D From Foods
Vitamin D is found in the body mainly in the form of D2 and D3. The main sources of vitamin D2 are plant-based foods, such as mushrooms, vitamin D-fortified plant milks (i.e. beverages made from soy, almonds, or oats), soy products, and cereals.
According to Tsai, the difference in vitamin D content between dried and wet fresh mushrooms can be as much as nearly 10 times, making sun-dried mushrooms a good choice. Nowadays, there are also mushrooms on the market that have been purposely radiated by ultraviolet light to increase their vitamin D content.
Vitamin D3 can be supplemented by sun exposure and from animal-based foods. Foods high in vitamin D3 include trout, salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, egg yolks, and vitamin D-fortified dairy products.
The vitamin D3 contained in animal-based foods is beneficial for human absorption, due to these foods’ high fat content. And compared to vitamin D2, vitamin D3 is more effective when it enters the human body. However, Tsai pointed out that people nowadays do not get enough vitamin D in general. Therefore, the first priority is still to get enough vitamin D, instead of making a special distinction between plant-based and animal-based foods.
The foods containing vitamin D are relatively limited. For people who often eat out, it may be especially difficult to get food items containing vitamin D. So, it’s recommended to take supplements directly or choose foods fortified with vitamin D.
According to Tsai, since vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, if you are taking vitamin D supplements, it is better to take them after meals. At the same time, it is important to follow the daily dosage instructions on the package label, and not to take more supplements unadvised. Otherwise, excessive fat-soluble vitamins will accumulate in the body, causing nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms.
In addition, what liver and kidney disease patients need is not the usual vitamin D supplements, but calcitriol. For those who have poor absorption of lipids and oils, it is advisable to first regulate their stomach and intestines, eat small and frequent meals of salmon and other lipids and oils, or take supplements directly.