Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D is crucial to keeping you healthy and feeling good. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods. Some of these include fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks, and fortified dairy and grain products.
Since it is found in very few foods, it is difficult to rely solely on diet to fulfill your body’s need for Vitamin D. It is also produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. In short, when ultraviolet rays contact the skin, Vitamin D synthesis occurs. Depending on where you live or your particular job or lifestyle, Vitamin D production could be decreasing, or even absent, during certain months of the year. What’s even more interesting is that sunscreen, while extremely important in keeping us youthful and protecting our skin, can also decrease Vitamin D production.
Unfortunately, many people today are not getting enough Vitamin D and it is having negative consequences on their health. For this reason, the use of Vitamin D supplements is on the rise (and for good reason)!
Why do I need Vitamin D?
Without Vitamin D, your bones become brittle, soft, and fragile. This happens because your body needs Vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Even more concerning, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to the following (and more):
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Weight gain
- Heart disease
- Decreased cognitive health
Now that we’ve seen why Vitamin D deficiency is so important to avoid, let’s take a look at all the wonderful things Vitamin D can do for you and how to incorporate more into your life!
Benefits of Vitamin D
1. Regulates phosphorus & calcium absorption
Perhaps the most vital benefit of Vitamin D is its ability to regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in your body. This is crucial to facilitate a normal immune system function. Getting a sufficient amount of Vitamin D is important for the normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as maintaining your bone’s health and strength. If you can keep your bones healthy, you can avoid many chronic diseases processes that stem from the bones.
2. Increases ability to fight disease
Vitamin D plays a vital role in the immune system. The immune system is your body’s defense system to ward off unwanted disease processes. It helps protect it against infections and other illnesses. Studies show that it can help prevent you from getting the flu, decrease chances of developing heart disease, and may also play a role in reducing your risk of multiple sclerosis, as shown in a study by the Journal of American Medical Association.
3. Blocks parathyroid hormone & helps maintain bone strength
Vitamin D plays a role in blocking the release of parathyroid hormone. Keeping this hormone in check and balanced is crucial for your health and wellness. When parathyroid hormone levels run too high, this hormone reabsorbs bone tissue and makes bones thin and brittle. The parathyroid glands are part of the endocrine system and are located in the neck. Their role is to secrete parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates calcium and phosphate, which in return regulates PTH. Having good Vitamin D levels help the body be able to absorb calcium and also keeps the PTH levels in check.
4. Reduce symptoms or feelings of depression
Research shows that Vitamin D plays a part in controlling mood and also helps lower feelings of depression. Scientists found that increasing Vitamin D decreased feelings of depression and that people reported a noticeable improvement in their symptoms and overall sense of well-being.
How can I get more Vitamin D?
As we learned above, Vitamin D is available in a very limited number of foods. Therefore, getting enough Vitamin D from your diet alone is difficult. While sun exposure does produce Vitamin D, too much sun exposure is not good for our health. Therefore, many people need Vitamin D supplements.
What’s even better? Studies show a link between taking a daily Vitamin D supplement and weight loss, which can be accredited to its ability to suppress your appetite.
This story was originally published on the OnePeak Medical Blog.