In the past several years I have spent numerous hours researching Vitamin D and the truth behind the correct amounts to take and more. Why? There seems to be a ton of confusion revolving around Vitamin D. What form do I take? How much should I take? Can’t I get enough from being out in the sun? You name it, I get asked about it. What follows is my version of the information I gathered to answer your Vitamin D questions.
Before we get into the major questions about Vitamin D, you need to understand what it exactly does in your body and why it is so important. I think by now we all know that Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health, but this is just the beginning of Vitamin D’s capabilities. The body needs Vitamin D to manage Calcium in your blood, bones and gut and helps cells communicate properly. It plays a key role in many biological functions in the body; deficiencies of Vitamin D are linked to osteoporosis, rickets, misshapen bones, PMS, skin disorders (psoriasis, vitiligo, etc.), periodontal disease, cancer (especially breast, colon and prostate), heart disease (hypertension, cholesterol), depression, weight gain, autism, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, MS, and scleroderma). It is also used to treat the pain associated with the use of statin drugs (a potentially serious side effect of this class of medication). Vitamin D is critical in helping regulate the immune system and your neuromuscular system (the combination of the nervous system and muscles, working together to permit movement). And not to be forgotten: Vitamin D plays a critical role in the entire life cycle (from conception to our senior years) of your cells.
I realize that the above paragraph makes it look like Vitamin D is a “cure-all”. In some cases, D can be something of that magnitude, but the reality is that D is part of a symphony, not a soloist. Yes, it is imperative that we all receive enough Vitamin D on a daily basis, but to think that it is a stand-alone “cure-all” would be selling yourself (and your child) short.
Where can I find Vitamin D?
Eggs, salmon, mackerel, sardines, beef and calf liver, cheese, and butter contain trace amounts of this critical nutrient. However, the majority of Vitamin D found and used in the body is actually manufactured by the body when the skin is exposed to the sun. Adequate amounts of Vitamin D3 can be made in the skin after only 10-15 minutes of sun exposure at least 2 times per week to the face, arms, hands, or back without sunscreen. That said, season, geographic latitude, time of day, cloud cover, skin cover, skin color, smog, and sunscreen affect UV ray absorption, as well as Vitamin D synthesis. For example, sunlight exposure in the winter in Detroit would not be enough to produce significant amounts of Vitamin D. A person with darker skin color can have up to a 95% reduction in the ability to make Vitamin D. Complete cloud cover can decrease the UVB rays by 50%, which will also impact your ability to manufacture vitamin D.
Suggestions for exposure: approximately 10-30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen or clothing cover. If your skin has a darker pigment, then you need to consider longer periods of exposure (which could be harmful for your skin health) or consider added supplementation.
When discussing the importance of Vitamin D these areas jump out at me the most:
- Immune system: We know that a strong and developed immune system means we are less likely to be susceptible to viruses, bacteria, and other conditions that may make us sick.
- Muscle function: provides critical components to help muscle function.
- Cardiovascular function: Vitamin D helps in the development of a healthy heart and good circulation.
- Respiratory system: With so many people experiencing breathing issues these days, it makes me wonder if nutritional deficiencies (not just Vitamin D) are responsible or play a role in those conditions. D is definitely for healthy lungs and airways.
- Brain development: The brain is the hub of the electrical network that makes the body function. From thinking to all of the 5 senses, our brain development is involved in all of them. Doing what we can to support health brain development should be at the top of our list.
- Pain: New studies are indicating that there is a connection between low blood levels of D and chronic pain.
What form of D should you take?
This answer is a simple one. Take the form that your body makes: Vitamin D3. You may see another form (D2) on some supplement labels, but since this is not like the one your body manufactures, it is not the suggested form to use as your supplement.
If you have any major concerns about how much D3 to take, consult with your health care provider and have some testing done. You can do what I have done and participate in the “Power of D” health initiative and get your test kit by going to www.powerofD.org Why guess when modern medicine can help “dial” into the correct levels specific to your needs?