What’s all the hype about?
If you do a search on vitamin D, you’ll notice that there has been plenty of hype over this one vitamin in the past several years. If you’re also a fan of reading scientific research, you’ll notice that there are hundreds of research articles and studies concerning vitamin D. Between all the articles, videos, podcasts, and research studies it might be difficult to figure out exactly why vitamin D is so interesting and what it does exactly in the body. The confusion often comes from some doctors explaining how vital this vitamin is while others denounce all the information supporting vitamin D’s importance.
Let’s clear up this confusion right now.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that’s stored in the fatty tissue throughout your body. Unlike other vitamins such as vitamin C which you get through consuming vitamin C rich foods, vitamin D is actually produced by our bodies. The way this works is that our bodies are exposed to sunlight and the cholesterol in our skin converts “previtamin D” and makes it into usable vitamin D3 (provitamin D). Activated vitamin D is called calcitriol which is the most potent steroid hormone in your body. So vitamin D is actually a precursor to a steroid hormone which affects the entire body.
Fun Facts about Vitamin D
- There are over 800 peer reviewed scientific studies proving its effectiveness
- Influences 3,000 of your 24,000 genes
- Vitamin D receptors are found throughout your body
- Induces cell differentiation and controls cell proliferation
What happens if you don’t make or get enough Vitamin D?
Since vitamin D is produced through direct sunlight exposure and our modern lifestyles involve being primarily indoors, you can easily see why there might be an issue with vitamin D deficiency. In addition to living our lives indoors, when most people are actually outside they tend to use sunscreens. Not only do most sunscreens contain many dangerous and toxic chemicals they also prevent your body from producing vitamin D naturally, in fact, a sunblock with an SPF of 8 can reduce your body’s ability to make vitamin D by 90%.
Vitamin D Deficiency is linked to:
- Increased risk of Heart DIsease and Cancer
- 124% greater risk of dying from all causes
- 25% higher risk of dying from heart disease or stroke
- Arterial stiffness
- Digestive disorders
- Skeletal disorders like osteoporosis
- Mental disorders
- Sleep disturbances like Insomnia
- Neurodevelopmental disorders like Autism
- Brain Dysfunction like Dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Chronic infections
- Chronic Pain
- Autoimmune Diseases like Multiple Sclerosis and Fibromyalgia
- Premature Aging
It’s important to note that vitamin D deficiency is not the only cause of all these health problems but it’s definitely an important factor so you must make sure that you’re maintaining optimal vitamin D levels.
How do I get Vitamin D?
Ideally you should be getting proper amounts of sunlight every day to maintain your levels of vitamin D. The problem is that there are several factors to consider when trying to maintain your vitamin D levels via sunlight exposure.
Factors that affect production of vitamin D via Sunlight:
UVB exposure from the sun is needed to produce vitamin D, however UVB light is not always hitting the earth during the day. UVB exposure is strongest at solar noon when the sun is highest in the sky when there are no clouds present. A good way to be certain you’re getting proper UVB exposure is to look at your shadow while in the standing position. If your shadow is longer than the height of your body then you’re most likely not getting enough UVB exposure to produce vitamin D.
Time in the Sun:
If your shadow is shorter than the height of your body then you should only require about 20 minutes of sunlight exposure to produce vitamin D. If your skin is very fair then you might require only 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure. If your skin is very dark then you might require 40 minutes to an hour. If you live in a region of the world that doesn’t get proper UVB exposure then you’ll require more time overall in the sun so this would be closer to an hour for most people. During the winter time you’ll need to double your sun exposure. If this isn’t possible then you’ll need to supplement.
This is the substance that affects how light or dark your skin color is. The more melanin you have in your body, the darker your skin color. Melanin also affects the amount of vitamin D you can produce so the lighter or fairer your skin is, the more easily you can make vitamin D. So if your skin is darker you might need to spend more time in the sunlight.
Since vitamin D is fat soluble, an increased body fat percentage will cause an absorption of vitamin D which keeps it from being used in the body.
There is a relationship between vitamin A and D where if there is a vitamin D deficiency and a high supplemental intake of vitamin A, the deficiency can become worse. If vitamin A and D levels are balanced then they actually work together to help your body metabolize the vitamins and utilize them.
This vitamin is essential for proper utilization of vitamin D. You can boost your vitamin K2 levels by consuming grass-fed organic animal products like eggs, butter, dairy), fermented foods, or certain cheeses like brie and gouda.
The cholesterol in the skin converts melanin into usable vitamin D which is distributed throughout the body. So if you’re taking any drugs that can affect your cholesterol levels such as cholesterol lowering drugs like statins, then this will negatively affect your body’s ability to produce vitamin D. If you’re taking any medications, please find a doctor that can find the cause of your problem rather than just drugging the symptoms. Most people are also very deficient in healthy fats like Omega 3’s, so it’s important to consume plenty of healthy fats to maintain proper levels of cholesterol. Coconut oil, olive oil, and omega 3’s from krill or small wild caught fish are all very good options to get your daily amounts of healthy fats.
Supplementing with Vitamin D
If getting out in the sun isn’t an option for you then you can supplement with a very high quality vitamin D. There are two types of supplemental vitamin D: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is known as the vegetarian vitamin D because it’s created by irradiating yeast and other molds. Your body is able to convert some D2 but is able to use vitamin D3 much more effectively. If you look at most vitamin D-fortified foods and supplements they mostly contain ergocalcifero, which is a type of Vitamin D2 which is not absorbable or convertible.
The obvious choice for supplemental vitamin D is D3 which is made by irradiating animal oils and cholesterol creating Vitamin D3. D3 is the closest to what sunlight natural produces in humans when the skin converts UV light. Some research has shown that vitamin D3 is converted up to 500 times faster than D2 and is 4 times more effective in humans than D2. So when looking for a vitamin D supplement make sure you always buy vitamin D3 and some supplements with even contain vitamin K2 as well so you can be certain you’re getting everything you need to maintain your vitamin D levels.
How much vitamin D3 should I take every day?
I don’t like giving recommendations for supplementations because it’s impossible to give a general recommendation for everyone because everyone will have different needs and different metabolisms. With that in mind, most doctors recommend between 5,000 and 10,000 IU per day of vitamin D3 for the average adult, but this is totally dependent on the needs of your body. Some doctors recommend as much as 50,000 IU of vitamin D daily when experiencing an illness such as the flu. The best way to gauge your vitamin D supplementation is by your body weight.
- Average adult: 3,000 IU of Vitamin D3 for every 100lbs of body weight
- For Children below age 5: 35 units per pound per day
- Ages 5-10: 2500 units per day
Make sure you work with your doctor or healthcare professional to find the right dosage for you.
Foods Rich in Vitamin D
There’s nothing wrong with supplementing with vitamin D, however, it’s always best to get as many nutrients as you can through natural whole food sources because your body’s absorption and utilization of the nutrients will be more efficient. Eating any of these foods listed below will help you acquire more vitamin D, but please make sure all the animal products you consume are from healthy preferably wild caught animals and make sure the plants you consume are organic.
- Mushrooms- Portabella and Maitake that were exposed to UV light
- Raw Milk
What are the Benefits of Vitamin D?
Now you know how important vitamin D is and hopefully you’ll be implementing all the solutions to boost your vitamin D levels. You also know how vitamin D deficiency radically disrupts the function of your body, but let’s look at all the benefits of vitamin D.
Benefits of Vitamin D
- Helps produce serotonin in the brain
- Activated Vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain
- The combination of Vitamin D, Tryptophan and Omega-3 fats can naturally elevate concentration of brain serotonin without side effects
- Normalizing your vitamin D levels will reduce your risk of cancer by over 50 percent
- Plays a role in calcium absorption (Contributes to Bone Health)
- Helps maintain insulin secretion (helps manage blood sugar levels)
- Involved in regulation of blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation
- Boosts your Immune System
- Facilitates in hormone regulation
- Help with concentration, learning, and memory
The most amazing thing about this list of benefits is that these aren’t even all the benefits. I could fill a book with studies showing all the benefits of vitamin D and the craziest thing is that researchers and doctors are still learning new things about vitamin D all the time because it affects so many different areas of the body.
Author: Michael Bergman
Reviewed by: Dr. John Bergman