Vitamin D is not a single vitamin, but a group of compounds that are essential for good health. And interestingly, it is not a true vitamin at all, but rather a prohormone that helps the body manufacture this all essential nutrient.
Vitamin D plays a role in keeping teeth and bones strong, helps your body absorb other important nutrients like calcium, and supports immune strength. Ensuring your body has plenty of this vitamin along with other essential nutrients and a wholesome diet will support your health any time of the year.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is from 200 – 600 IU (International Units) per day in the United States, but 400 to 800 IU per day in Europe. The more scientists learn about this vitamin, the more they realize the RDA numbers may be much higher than they are currently. In fact, some experts recommend dosages of 800 to 1,000 per day with others recommending a whopping 50,000 IU per week. (1)
Do I Need to Supplement Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is essential for digestive health and used by the intestines to absorb calcium that helps keep bones and teeth strong. It helps prevent loss of calcium through the urine, and can even support heart health, brain health and muscle function. (2) Because it is important for bacterial balance in the intestinal tract, vitamin D is also known to support a healthy immune system which relies on intestinal health.
It may be tricky for certain individuals to get the required amount of this nutrient every day. Vitamin D2 is naturally found in some mushrooms while D3 is found in oily fish (like salmon, herring and tuna), cod liver oil, liver and egg yolks. It is supplemented in milk as most people are not likely to get enough in their daily diets.
But if you avoid milk products, limit fish due to mercury and other toxins (or you just don’t like it), then supplementing your diet may be helpful. Also, those with darker skin or over 50 years of age may not be able to convert sunlight into vitamin D as efficiently as younger people and those with fairer skin.
Even though vitamin D is added to milk and dairy products, one would typically have to drink at least four, 8-ounce glasses of milk each day. Unfortunately, many people are not able to consume dairy products due to being lactose intolerant or don’t want to drink that much milk. And if you do enjoy fish, you would have to consume fatty fish every day to keep optimum levels of this nutrient. That adds up to quite a few calories, leaving little room for other types of protein. Because of these dietary limitations, many people choose to support their health with a vitamin D supplement.
Your Immune System
The immune system plays many roles in our health including protection from viruses and other pathogens that can harm, as well as chronic diseases. Taking care of your body with a diet centered around healthy, whole foods can help your body function at its best. Here are some practices that you can do to keep your immune system strong:
- Exercise at least 30 minutes, five times each week
- Drink plenty of fresh, spring water
- Consume lots of fruits and vegetables; be sure to include citrus a few times each week
- Get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, depending on how much you exercise
- Supplement your diet if you need extra support
Nutrition plays a vital role in our health and how well our immune systems work. Poor nutrition often leads to malnutrition as we lack the vitamins and minerals essential for healthy living. But consuming a healthy diet along with nutritional support when needed will have a positive effect on your health and your life.
Vitamin D Deficiency Risk Factors
Many people consume plenty of calories yet lack the required daily nutrients to stay healthy and well. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that is important for overall health, but few foods provide it or the precursors necessary for our bodies to produce it. And while some experts warn that up to 50% of Americans are deficient in this vitamin, some people are more prone than others. Some risk factors include:
- Dark skin
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Older adults of 65 years and over
- Lack of sun exposure due to environment or limiting sun for other health reasons
- Lack of fatty fish or egg yolks in the diet
- Medications like anticonvulsants ad glucocorticoids
Vitamin D Foods and Supplements
Consuming foods like salmon, herring, cod liver oil, liver and canned tuna will supply some vitamin D through your diet. Daily exposure to sunshine without overdoing it will also help your body manufacture some. But if you don’t get enough of either or you have one or more of the above risk factors, you may benefit from a Vitamin D supplement.
There is quite a bit of research that shows the benefits of consuming healthy amounts of this nutrient and plenty of evidence that deficiencies can lead to health problems. Because of its effects on gut health, vitamin D supplementation can help support a strong immune system.
The best practice may be to do your best to consume foods that contain vitamin D and try to get at least 15 minutes of sunshine each day. Most experts agree it is unlikely most people will be able to get enough in their diet, and supplementing can help fill in the gaps. For the best health and to boost your immune function, consume a moderate amount of daily vitamin D and a little sunshine; it may go a long way in supporting your health.
1 Bordelon, P., Ghetu, M. V., & Langan, R. C. (2009, October 15). Recognition and Management of Vitamin D Deficiency. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/1015/p841.html
2 Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D. (2020, March 24). Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/#h3
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