You probably know vitamin D for its role in helping to maintain bone density, but there are actually many other benefits to getting enough vitamin D. These include keeping hormones balanced and helping with weight loss. But unfortunately, 75% of Americans are deficient in this vitamin.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is different from many of the other vitamins that we need. Unlike most vitamins that come primarily from food, vitamin D comes mostly from sunlight. A few foods also contain vitamin D but you likely can't get enough from food alone. The different forms of vitamin D are D2 and D3. Foods that contain vitamin D3 are fatty fish, egg yolks and beef liver. Mushrooms contain vitamin D2.
Another difference between vitamin D and most vitamins is that it can be produced in the body. But this only occurs when the skin is exposed to sunlight’s UVB rays. When sunlight hits the skin, pre-vitamin D3 is formed which is eventually converted into vitamin D3.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which means that if you get it from foods or supplements it won't be absorbed unless there is fat in your diet or you can take the supplement in an oil form. It also means that your body can store vitamin D.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D has some pretty impressive benefits.
Bone health - Vitamin D is most well known for it’s role in bone health. In fact adding calcium to your diet without vitamin D won’t help to increase bone density. It also plays an important role in preventing rickets.
Heart health - Vitamin D is important for cardiovascular health and helps to prevent hypertension and heart disease.
Muscle maintenance, strength and growth
Mood - Vitamin D also plays a role in keeping the brain healthy. It helps to balance moods, reduce depression, and increase memory and focus.
Other benefits include improved athletic performance, better digestive health, cell formation and better sleep
What is the role of vitamin D in increased immunity?
Adequate levels of vitamin D helps your immune cells to fight off infection.
People with low levels of vitamin D are at an increased risk for developing severe respiratory diseases. People with adequate vitamin D levels are less likely to have adverse outcomes with Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses.
People who are vitamin D deficient are more susceptible to infections. Lower levels of vitamin D are also associated with developing autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.
However vitamin D levels and the associated immunity build up over some time so don’t believe the myth that taking a megadose of vitamin D will keep away that cold you think you might be getting. Better to keep your levels optimal so when cold and flu season hits you have some protection.
What is the role of vitamin D in weight loss?
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to difficulty in losing weight and taking a vitamin D supplement can also help with weight loss.
One study has shown that supplementation with vitamin D helped women who were deficient in vitamin D lose weight. This could be due to improved muscle growth, better sleep, and improved mood.Thyroid issues can also play a role in the inability to lose weight.
What is the role of vitamin D in hormone balance
Vitamin D has a big role to play in hormone balance. Endometriosis and PCOS can result from low levels of vitamin D. And for pregnant women pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes are more likely when vitamin D levels are low.
Low levels of vitamin D can also affect male fertility.
And vitamin D can effect other hormones like thyroid and parathyroid hormones.
Consequences of vitamin D deficiency
It’s a good idea to have your vitamin D levels tested on a regular basis. Here are some of the consequences of not getting enough vitamin D:
More susceptible to infectious diseases like respiratory infections, the common cold
Higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia
Increased risk of some forms of cancer
More likely to develop low bone density and osteoporosis
Some signs that you might be deficient include mood changes, fatigue, high blood pressure and frequent illness.
Risk factors for vitamin D deficiencies
There are several risk factors for developing a vitamin D deficiency:
• living in a northern climate. If you live in Canada or northern Europe or Asia the angle of the sun means that your skin produces almost no vitamin D for about half the year.
• having dark skin. The pigment in darker skin keeps adequate levels of vitamin D from being absorbed through the skin. This is especially true if you live in a northern climate.
• limited sun exposure or use of UVB blocking sunscreen.
• obesity. People who are obese are more likely to have lower levels of vitamin D.
• poor vitamin D absorption. Many people do not respond to supplementation of vitamin D. This can be due to resistance caused by toxins, pathogens and low exposure to the sun
Do you need to supplement?
If you’ve had your vitamin D levels tested and your levels are low then it's likely you need to supplement. For those living in a northern latitude or who spend very little time outside supplementation is likely necessary.
Can you get too much?
If you are taking megadoses of vitamin D, then you can get too much. The side effects of too much vitamin D include
A build up of calcium in the blood which can lead to nausea, and frequent urination.
A build up of vitamin D in the blood leading to fatigue, nausea and forgetfulness
Stomach pain, constipation, or diarrhea
Note that these symptoms only occur at very high levels of vitamin D supplementation.
Vitamin D is very important in weight loss, maintaining bone health, hormone balance, immunity, heart health and brain health. It can be obtained from sunlight, food and supplements. For help with establishing a supplement plan, and getting the right dose for YOU, book a free nutrition assessment.