Vitamin D is all the rage—the trending vitamin of choice. Everyone, medical and alternative wellness practitioners alike, agree it is a necessary vitamin for overall sustained health and wellness. Most specifically, vitamin D is essential for maintaining proper absorption of calcium and phosphorus to build and maintain bone, teeth, and hair strength. With more studies underway evaluating the link between chronic diseases and vitamin D, there is only an upside to learning about and making an educated decision regarding whether or not changes in your daily habits and food intake, or the addition of a supplement to increase or maintain vitamin D levels, can enhance your life.
Vitamin D is so essential that our bodies create the vitamin for its own health. The absorption of specific ultraviolet rays (sun rays) by the skin triggers the process that makes the vitamin. While sun may be the best and most natural source of vitamin D, there are a number of factors that thwart our bodies’ ability to produce sufficient levels. Limited sun exposure due to truncated daylight hours in the winter months is especially problematic for those living in northern climates. Skin color is a factor, as those with darker skin absorb less ultraviolet rays and therefore produce less vitamin D. And one of the largest concerns is that sun on unprotected skin exposes the body to potentially dangerous levels of UV radiation that may lead to skin diseases and cancer. All of these factors greatly contribute to a rampant deficiency in vitamin D amongst Americans.
I encourage clients to ingest necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients by maintaining a balanced meal plan, and suggest supplements only for those who cannot meet daily recommended values due to dietary or health restrictions. Vitamin D is a necessary exception. It is extremely difficult to fulfill vitamin D requirements through diet due to the limited number of vitamin D–rich foods. For those with dietary limitations, especially vegetarians and vegans, ingesting enough vitamin D through food is challenging, if not impossible. More recently a synthetic form of vitamin D fortifies supermarket foods like orange juice, milk, and cereal, but even these sources provide a small percentage of the daily recommended intake. Thus, the best option is the addition of a daily supplement.
While comprehensive studies are underway, there are still questions about how vitamin D contributes to the prevention of chronic diseases. However, many studies reveal that those who maintain appropriate levels of vitamin D are less likely to suffer from many common maladies. One of the questions that remains unanswered is whether or not increasing vitamin D levels in those who are already deficient lowers the risk of these maladies. The specific maladies listed below seem to have the greatest potential benefits from vitamin D.
Vitamin D is necessary for bone health, primarily because it is essential to the absorption of calcium. Those deficient in vitamin D potentially expose themselves to the risk of developing maladies associated with weakened bone health; osteoporosis is the most prevalent bone malady, especially among postmenopausal women.
- High Blood Pressure:
Although it is too early to conclusively link vitamin D intake with preventing high blood pressure, studies suggest that those deficient in vitamin D have a higher risk of high blood pressure. Theories regarding why this may be true focus on the fact that vitamin D decreases the production of renin, an enzyme that is believed to play a role in hypertension.
Multiple studies reveal a strong correlation between vitamin D levels and depression; low levels of vitamin D correspond to depression, and lower levels increase the chance of depression.
Studies show that low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
There is a link between optimal vitamin D levels and certain types of cancers, including but not limited to breast, colon, and prostate cancer. It is theorized—and some studies show—that vitamin D is a potential inhibitor of cancer cell growth.
Regardless of whether or not vitamin D prevents chronic diseases, it is a necessary vitamin, and your body does require you maintain appropriate levels for optimal wellness. To maintain and/or increase vitamin D levels, combine minimal sun exposure, increased intake of vitamin D–rich foods, and adding a daily vitamin D supplement.
- Get tested. Ask your doctor for a blood test called 25-hydroxyvitamin D for a clear measure of your vitamin D level. Follow your doctor’s recommendation regarding amount of daily vitamin D needed.
- Be aware of medication interactions. Vitamin D supplements may interact with medications. Consult a doctor prior to adding vitamin D to your vitamin regimen.
- Know vitamin D–rich foods. Make yourself familiar with the best sources of vitamin D; check out the Yoffie Life list. Strategically add these foods to your diet.