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The Role of Vitamin D on Your Health

The Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is rapidly becoming the most discussed and researched vitamin within the scientific community. Read on to understand the science behind why it’s so crucial to ensure you’re getting adequate amounts for your health and physique.

What is Vitamin D?

As most of us know, vitamins are chemicals needed by our body for good health. Vitamin D is no different in this regard.

Vitamin D is a unique vitamin in that it can only be synthesized directly from sunlight and then converted into a hormone. This hormone is often referred to as “activated vitamin D” or “calcitriol”.

Despite being present in foods in low quantities, it is almost impossible to obtain a sufficient amount of vitamin D for optimal health without sunlight exposure or external supplementation.

What does Vitamin D Do & How?

In a nutshell: a lot.

Vitamin D plays an integral role in the following:

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Strengthening bones
  • Managing calcium stores in your bloodstream, gut, and bones (calcium cannot be absorbed without sufficient vitamin D present in the body)
  • Testosterone production
  • Brain development and mental cognition
  • Overall sense of wellbeing and mood

And many, many more.

Vitamin D production starts once your body is exposed to sunlight. During this process, vitamin D is sent to your liver where it’s converted into a substance called 25(OD)D.

When your physician refers to your Vitamin D levels, he or she is typically referring to the levels of 25(OD) H present in your blood.

After it’s converted into this substance, it is then transported all over your body into various tissues, where it is turned into “activated vitamin D”.

From here, it’s ready to perform its duties, starting by improving the connectivity between cells in your body so they can function more efficiently for optimal health.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency has become an endemic due to our lifestyle. This is happening because of the fact that we spend too much time indoors. 

If you’re not actually/intentionally exposing yourself to sunlight on a daily basis, you’re Vitamin D deficient.

I come from Jodhpur, it is well known as the “Sun City” in India, for the sunny weather it enjoys all the year round.

Few of my relatives and friends who suffered from back pain were prescribed Vitamin D supplementation as a part of their treatment. Surprisingly, their blood report suggested acute Vitamin D deficiency.

The Role of Vitamin D

For individuals living in colder climates subjected to less sunlight exposure year-round, vitamin D intake needs to be a more pressing concern for the aforementioned reason.

With modern society confining us more to desks, offices, and reducing skin exposure, it’s likely that even if you live in a warmer climate you’re likely to need help topping up your Vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked not only to a slew of diseases and health complications but also failing performance in the gym.

Some of the most common side-effects of vitamin D deficiency include the following:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Increased cancer risk
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Osteoporosis
  • Type-I and Type-II diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

This has been a source of contention for many researchers and health fanatics that is yet to draw a general consensus.

Because Vitamin D is synthesized directly from sunlight, getting optimal exposure year-round is more difficult for individuals who live in cooler climates.

It gets even more complicated: your skin type (melanin) will also determine how much vitamin D is optimal for you to receive its maximum benefits.

People with naturally darker skin need more sunlight exposure from Ultraviolent B Rays (UVB) to synthesize vitamin D compared to people with fairer skin.

Generally speaking, however, below are some reasonable guidelines [1]:

  • Infants: 400-1,000 IU per day
  • Children: 600-1,000 IU per day
  • Adults: 1,500-2,000 IU per day

Supplementation with Vitamin D

With modern society confining so many of us to offices and closed spaces from natural sunlight, vitamin D supplementation has emerged as a popular solution for many health advocates as a way of achieving their daily recommended intake.

Supplementing with a daily dosage of 2,000 IU of Vitamin D3 (not D2) can be an effective way of safeguarding your health while receiving the full benefits of Vitamin D on a daily basis.

During the summer or periods where you spend greater periods outdoors, you can adjust your vitamin D supplementation protocol accordingly.

Best Time to Take Vitamin D

Although there is some contention over the best times to supplement with vitamin D, studies have shown that it’s best absorbed alongside your largest meal of the day.

Vitamin D Toxicity

One issue that many individuals are concerned with around vitamin D supplementation is the issue of toxicity from overconsumption. While highly unlikely, it is a legitimate concern for many.

Because vitamin D is fat soluble, your body has a hard time getting rid of excess amounts out of its system.

Despite this, however, even dosages upwards of 10,000 IU per day have shown to have no ill-effects on most individuals. And, considering that we spend most of the 21st centuries indoors, heavily clothed and mitigating sunlight, vitamin D toxicity becomes far less of a concern when you put into context the chances of it actually becoming prevalent in your body.

Risk of Skin Cancer Through Sunlight Exposure

Another concern many have regarding direct UVB exposure is the risk of skin cancer.

Because of endless streams of propaganda from sunscreen companies – who have made a fortune out of perpetuating this stance – many normal people have come to view the sun as something that should be feared and avoided at all costs.

The reality is that excessive sunscreen blocks the production of vitamin D in the body and negates its positive effects taking place. Furthermore, extensive research has yet to prove that sunscreen is an effective way of preventing excessive sun damage and preventing cancer.

A better alternative is to simply avoid burning in the sun, but spending enough time in it to tan slightly. If you follow this in moderation, you’re unlikely to do your body any harm, while still receiving the maximum benefits of direct sunlight exposure.

Conclusion

With such a vast array of benefits to be had from direct sun exposure, the evidence is overwhelmingly conclusive: get out and enjoy it!

A few snippets of common sense will obviously apply: gradually expose your skin to avoid burning and build up your tolerance to sunlight as you would with weights in the gym.

And, if you still find getting enough vitamin D to be problematic, you can consider direct supplementation with a vitamin D3 supplement to plug the gaps. You can even buy Vitamin-D over the counter at your local pharmacy.

References

[1] Vitamin D Council: https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/

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