Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common and research is showing that it may be associated with a variety of conditions. Here’s how low Vitamin D affects you and what you can do about it.
Years ago, no one was really concerned about vitamin D. It was expected that we were getting sufficient amounts and generally unknown what would happen if we didn’t Most of our ancestors spent their days outdoors, exposed to sunlight with little protection, which is important for vitamin D products. Today, we spend most of our days in dark offices, bundled up when it’s cold, or applying layers and layers of sunscreen when we’re exposed. These factors paired with evidence that many foods are no longer high in vitamin D could be the reason there is an estimated one billion people who have low vitamin D.
How does vitamin D affect your bodies and how can we make sure we’re getting enough? Luckily, if you are deficient, it is possible to naturally increase your levels with foods high in vitamin D and vitamin D supplements.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D, aka the sunshine vitamin, is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s absorbed by the body through fatty tissue and then stored in these tissues or the liver. It initially comes from exposure to natural sunlight, as your body relies on the sun’s UV light to produce the vitamin in our skin. Unlike most vitamins, vitamin D functions more like a hormone, where every cell in your body has a receptor that allows it to absorb the mineral. It’s also less commonly found in some foods.
What does vitamin D do?
One of the most important functions of vitamin D is its role in maintaining and building bone strength. It allows your body to absorb calcium from your gut and kidneys, helping to strengthen your bones. This process can only happen when vitamin D is present, so while vitamin D levels typically vary due to things like the season, time of day, or where you live, it’s crucial that you have enough of it in your body. Vitamin D is also known to support your immune system, reduce inflammation, and improve some chronic conditions like heart disease or depression.
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms
If you spend most of your time indoors, eat very little fish or dairy, or live further from the equator, you are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency. You may have one without realizing it, as low vitamin D symptoms are often subtle or go unnoticed.
Common Low Vitamin D Symptoms
- Low immunity and getting sick often
- Excessive Fatigue
- Hormonal Imbalance
- Low Bone Mineral Density
The link between vitamin D and overall health
So how much vitamin D do we really need to get the maximal benefit? Evidence to date points to optimal levels resting above what most doctors recommend. While there aren’t results from randomized studies to establish that level, we can turn to observational studies to look at the relationship between vitamin D levels and our overall health. Some of the studies on vitamin D levels is contradictory, but highlights the connections to these studies is important to understanding its potential effects.
Vitamin D deficiency’s can be seen in the following:
- Autoimmune Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Hearth health
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Final thoughts on vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D is clearly a major player in health and disease, so it is no surprise that scientists are finding receptors for vitamin D (where the vitamin attaches to cells and products an effect) not only in bone cells but also in immune cells and cancer cells. This helps explain why the benefits of higher levels of D are seen in bone health, autoimmune disease and cancer.