Vitamin D, important to our overall health, is a hormone produced by our bodies as well as a nutrient that we eat. Within our bodies, it is generated through the absorption of sunlight. As a nutrient, it is found, usually in low amounts, in food sources and is also available as a supplement. The best way to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D, especially in areas with low sunlight, or in the winter, is through supplementation.
The health benefits of vitamin D
One vital role that vitamin D plays is in our body’s calcium uptake. It helps calcium move from our gut and into our bloodstream, which prevents our bodies from having to use up the calcium reserves in our bones. This, in turn, leads to a healthier skeletal system.
According to the Vitamin D Council, vitamin D also serves several other bodily functions:
• It boosts the immune system
• Accelerates muscle operation
• Improves blood circulation
• Anticancer effects
With all of these benefits considered, it’s clearly important that we get enough vitamin D in our systems, but what does it look like when we don’t get enough?
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency
The most common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are bone pain and muscle weakness. However, these symptoms can often go unnoticed and, even if no symptoms are present, having low levels of vitamin D is associated with several other health complications, most notably an increased risk of cardiovascular disease which can lead to death.
Common causes of vitamin D deficiency
There are many factors that play a role in vitamin D deficiency, including vegan diets, darker skin tones, obesity, and not getting enough sunlight.
So you might be wondering now, how much is enough vitamin D? Many sources say that for healthier individuals that 500-600 IU daily is adequate, but the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that may not be enough, and has concluded based on the analysis of multiple studies, that the ideal amount appears to be in the range of 700-1000 IU every day.
In conclusion, vitamin D offers a variety of health benefits and the lack of vitamin D can cause some serious health issues. Getting the proper amounts of vitamin D from food alone is challenging, and environment plays a large role in the amount we get from the sun, and supplementation is the safest way to know that we are consistently getting the amount that our bodies need.