The winter can leave us feeling a little on the weary side. With the sun rising later and setting earlier, levels of Vitamin D tend to drop exposing us to an increase in health problems and prone to the winter illnesses that circulate. In the past few years Vitamin D has been advocated in the medical world as a nutritional superstar. Beyond its well-known role as a bone builder, studies have also suggested that high levels of the vitamin may do everything from reducing chronic pain to preventing the common cold.
How Vitamin D Function in Our Body
The functions of Vitamin D are vital to our body’s health. The first function, and probably the most crucial, is regulation of the absorption of calcium and phosphorous in our blood levels. If your body does not get enough Vitamin D, you may be at risk for developing osteoporosis (fragile bones) or osteomalacia (soft bones).
Vitamin D is also an immunity booster. It helps the body resist against certain diseases, as well as aids in normal immune system functions. For instance, with healthy levels of the “sunshine vitamin” in our bodies, we are more likely to be protected from high blood pressure, cancer, and kidney disease.
The Factors that Increase Vitamin D Deficiency
Inadequate amounts of Vitamin D is common. Due to our contemporary lifestyles of living in big cities where sunlight is blocked, working long hours in office buildings, hazes of pollution, etc. it is harder for us to get Vitamin D naturally. For instance, when you are behind glass all UVB rays are blocked, so you can’t make vitamin D if you’re in sunlight, but behind glass. In polluted areas, the air soaks up UVB or reflects it back into space. This means that if you live somewhere where there is lots of pollution, your skin will make less vitamin D. Also, as you get older, your skin has a harder time producing vitamin D even when you are expose to sunlight, so looking for alternatives may be your best option.
How Do You Get It?
We can take in vitamin D two ways, by exposing our bare skin to the sunlight (ultraviolet B rays) or through vitamin D supplements. When you expose your skin to the sunlight, your body naturally produces Vitamin D. A little goes a long way. About 10-15 minutes of mid-day sun exposure is all you need if you are fair skinned, and about an hour or so if you have dark skin. In less time that it takes for your skin to turn pink, you can get all the vitamin D your body needs in a day.
There are a range of foods that naturally contain Vitamin D, and many that have been fortified with it as well. Some of these natural sources include salmon, shrimp, sardines, and eggs (yolks too!). Common foods that have been fortified with vitamin D are milks, yogurt, cereals, and juices. Cod liver oil contains vitamin D, but taking too much cod liver oil can be dangerous because of the high amount of vitamin A there is in it. Vitamin A, like D, is a fat-soluble vitamin, so your body has a harder time purging it. Relying on foods alone, will not fill your daily requirements of vitamin D though.
Taking a Vitamin D supplement is an easy alternative to getting the amounts you need on a daily basis. You can get Vitamin D (D2 and D3) through a capsule, tablet, or liquid drop and can be easily absorbed by the body. The exact amount that you should be getting daily may be in question; however, the importance of vitamin D is not. Talk to your doctor for guidance on how to ensure you get the right amount for your personal needs.