SUNNY D: A PEAK INTO THE
VITAMIN THAT MOST OF US MISS OUT ON
Energy is the basis of life, and our body uses food to produce energy. The three primary nutrients (also known as macronutrients) that the body utilizes are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The human body does not need vitamins to produce energy, but their deficiency will have significant repercussions. But why is that so? That is because vitamins play a vital role in many processes and reactions within the body. They assist enzymes in key processes such as producing energy, boosting immunity, and generally protecting and keeping your body healthy. How do we get vitamin D?
Vitamin D is one of the vitamins that our body produces, and an essential component of its production is sunlight. When our skin is exposed to UV-B rays from the sunlight, it activates a specific enzyme which leads down a cascade of reactions to produce vitamin D from cholesterol. Pretty cool, right? Another way our body acquires vitamin D is from food or supplementation. But, one may be wondering, is it necessary to supplement our bodies with vitamin D? After all, we are all exposed to sunlight at some point in our lives, vitamin D deficiency should be a rare occurrence, correct?
Why is Vitamin D deficiency so common?
Unfortunately, that is not the case. Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies. Moreover, despite the fortification of milk with vitamin D in the 1930s, vitamin D deficiency still remains prevalent. Why is that so? There is no concrete reason why vitamin D deficiency is on the rise, but several factors play a role in this deficit. Age, gender, weight, skin color, co-existing medical issues, dietary habits, and lifestyle; a unique amalgamation of some of these factors causes vitamin D deficiency. But before we can understand what happens to our body when we are low on vitamin D, we need to know the role it plays in our body.
ROLE OF VITAMIN D IN YOUR BODY The most important role of vitamin D is that it regulates calcium levels in the body by: ● Absorbing calcium from the gut. ● Decreasing excretion of calcium from the kidneys. ● Releasing stored calcium from the bones and into the blood. Therefore, without vitamin D, our bodies will become insufficient in calcium, leading to poor bone health. Other functions include: ● Increases immunological function by regulating the immune cells, inducing immune tolerance, and reducing the inflammatory response. ● By improving the body's immune function, vitamin D also assists in preventing and treating infections. ● May lower your cancer risk as studies reveal that vitamin D deficiency is linked to several cancers (such as breast cancer). ● Decreases the occurrence of neurodegenerative diseases. Vitamin D is also known to maintain hormone health. Several types of studies demonstrate that high vitamin D levels lower estrogen levels. This unique function is particularly helpful for women dealing with estrogen dominance in PCOS or fighting estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOUR BODY IS LOW ON VITAMIN D? Since vitamin D maintains calcium levels when your vitamin D levels are low, calcium will decrease as well. As a result, this will lead to poor bone health; increasing the risk of osteomalacia, osteoporosis, and osteopenia. Inadequate calcium levels will also increase your risk of bone fractures, even with minor mishaps. Several kinds of research demonstrate that vitamin D deficiency is associated with: ● Poor cardiovascular health ● Worsening of autoimmune diseases ● Weight loss ● Fibromyalgia ● Depression
WHAT TESTS DETERMINE THAT YOU HAVE VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY?
Fun Fact: Vitamin D3 is best absorbed when it is combined with Vitamin K2, it is needed for liver synthesis. Measuring vitamin D levels in the blood determines whether you are deficient in this vitamin. Deficient: < 20 ng/mL Insufficient: 20-30 ng/mL Sufficient: > 30 ng/mL Toxic: >150 ng/mL Some labs may report two forms of vitamin D: ● Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol): is the vitamin D that your body absorbs from plant source foods or supplements. ● Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol): is the vitamin D that your body produces and absorbs from animal source foods or supplements. ● Total vitamin D: together, D2 and D3 form the total vitamin D. This form of vitamin D is most abundant in the body and accurately assesses the vitamin D levels in the body. Despite optimal levels in the body, you may still be deficient in vitamin D. Every individual's body is unique, and because of this, some of us may require more vitamin D than others. Vitamin D toxicity is quite rare; hence, even if you have optimal vitamin D levels, it would still be more beneficial to consume vitamin D-rich foods or supplements.
HOW CAN YOU NATURALLY RAISE YOUR VITAMIN D LEVELS? You can increase your vitamin D levels by increasing your intake of vitamin D-abundant foods or taking supplements. Animal sources of vitamin D are: ● Oily fish: salmon, mackerel, sardines ● Liver ● Egg yolks ● Red meat Plant sources include: ● Mushrooms (such as shiitake) ● Cheese ● Fortified cereal ● Fortified milk (such as soy milk, almond milk), yogurt At times, it may become challenging to include vitamin D-rich foods into our daily diet, and this is where vitamin supplements will be helpful. Opt for good quality bioavailable vitamins that also include vitamin K. Vitamin K is another vitamin that the body produces. It also regulates blood calcium levels. Simultaneous intake of these two vitamins will ensure optimal calcium levels in the body, thus supporting bone health.
THE TAKEAWAY Regardless of the abundance of sunlight or whether lab reports state otherwise, many of us are still lacking this sunshine vitamin. So, re-evaluate your body aches and joint pain, because the answer may simply be that your body needs a boost from vitamin D.
Join the Movement: Empower Change!
If you're passionate about making a positive impact and supporting sustainable solutions for women's health, consider contributing to our cause. Your support helps us create informative content and spread awareness about essential reproductive health topics.
Eager to learn more? Dive into our carefully curated resources that offer in-depth insights into a variety of subjects. From practical guides to inspiring stories, there's a world of knowledge waiting for you.
Share the Mission: Let's Drive Change Together
Ready to be a part of the movement? Make a donation today and join us in empowering women and fostering positive transformations. Your support matters.