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America’s Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is a unique nutrient that our bodies are capable of manufacturing from sunshine. And while this sounds like an easy way to get our share of this important vitamin, it turns nearly 50% of Americans are deficient in it. To make things worse, many people are currently staying indoors more, so the true numbers may be higher.

What is Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that our bodies manufacture but is also found in some animal products and plant foods. It is essential because it helps the body absorb vitamin C, supports the skeletal system and supports immune health, among other things.

Vitamin D is not just one, but a family of compounds that are slightly different from each other. Vitamin D2 is found in plant-based food, while D3 is the type our bodies make and found in animal foods such as butter, beef liver and egg yolks, and lanolin. Vitamin D4 is less studied, but we do know that mushrooms are a good source for this.

Lack of vitamin D is linked to some health problems. Up until the 1940s, a skeletal disorder called rickets was devasting children in American. Rickets results in softening and weakening of the bones, and researchers eventually found that vitamin D deficiency was the cause. Surprisingly, some doctors today see the number of rickets cases growing, especially in industrialized countries. (1)

Who’s at Risk?

Just like any nutrient deficiency, some people are more at risk than others. Risk factors include:

  • Lack of sunshine
  • Using sunblock or sunscreen lotion
  • Dark skin
  • Vegan diets
  • Digestive problems or absorption
  • Obesity

Sunshine is necessary for the production of vitamin D, and doctors recommend spending at least 20 minutes in sunshine every day with more than 40% of the skin exposed. (2) About 50% to 90% of vitamin D is from sunlight and the rest comes from diet, but covering up while outside can stop the body from using sunshine, while cloudy days can also inhibit the sun necessary for vitamin D. Those with dark skin may need more time in the sun because darker pigmentation acts as a natural sunscreen.

Digestive problems can cause a vitamin D deficiency due to absorption problems. Celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) are two of the digestive health issues that can lead to the inability to absorb certain nutrients. In addition, body fat can bind to vitamin D, making obesity a risk factor for deficiencies, as well.

Benefits of Vitamin D

Aside from rickets there are many reasons to ensure you get enough vitamin D. Here are just a few of the health benefits and the role that it plays in your body:

  • Maintains healthy levels of calcium and phosphorus
  • Maintains healthy bones and teeth
  • Supports the immune system
  • Supports lung and cardiovascular health
  • Supports the nervous system

Vitamin D can also support healthy pregnancies and nursing babies. It seems that having a sufficient amount of this nutrient provides many benefits in pregnant women. But low exposure to vitamin D in children seems to correlate with a greater risk of allergies. Maintaining healthy nutritional levels can certainly benefit both mother and child.

Sources of Vitamin D

As mentioned, sunshine is the best source, however, doctors note that even if you get adequate sunshine, your body can only make so much at once. Therefore, food sources of vitamin D are just as crucial, and may be more important when people are inside for longer periods than normal. Knowing which foods are the best sources of vitamin D can help you maintain healthy levels of it in your blood.

  • Fatty fish like salmon, sardines and tuna are excellent sources of vitamin D. These fish are also a great source of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and protein, too.
  • Cod liver oil is taken by many for skin and digestive health as well as a source of vitamin D. In fact, just one dose can account for more than 200% of the recommended daily value
  • Mushrooms are a vegan favorite when it comes to nutritional superfoods, and mushrooms don’t disappoint. They are a great source of vitamin D as well as potassium and vitamin C.
  • Yogurt is a source of vitamin D, magnesium and potassium. Avoid the high-sugar yogurts and opt for plain. Adding your own toppings like fruit and honey can boost the nutrition count and allow you to control the amount of sugar you consume.
  • Eggs are a rich source of nutrients, but don’t throw out the yolks. Egg yolks contain vitamin D along with healthy amounts of iron and protein.
  • Ricotta cheese is considered a great source for D as well as protein. But go easy because it is also high in fat.

What About Supplements?

Even if you are an avid outdoor person or sun worshipper, sunny days are not guaranteed year-round. At the same time, it is not advisable to sit in the sun with 40% of your skin exposed if it is too cold outside. And even if sunshine exposure is adequate, vegans may have a more difficult time obtaining their vitamin D through food since sources are mainly from animal products.

Luckily, supplementing with vitamin D does have an impact when it comes from a natural source. And it makes getting your daily dose of this nutrient easy when you have to stay home, like during bad weather or for other reasons. Supplementation may also help vegans and pregnant women reap the benefits of adequate levels of vitamin D, like boosting energy and strong bones.

Keep your body strong with healthy nutrition and exercise. Focus on foods that contain vitamin D along with daily sunshine to help you maintain healthy levels of this all-important nutrient. And when life gets too busy, supplements can help fill in nutritional gaps, so you be sure that you are doing all you can to support your healthy body.

References:

1 Uday S, Högler W. Nutritional Rickets and Osteomalacia in the Twenty-first Century: Revised Concepts, Public Health, and Prevention Strategies [published correction appears in Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2017 Aug 14;:]. Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2017;15(4):293‐302. doi:10.1007/s11914-017-0383-y

2 Sizar O, Khare S, Goyal A, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency. [Updated 2020 Feb 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/

Cindy Papp

Author

Body Cleanse and Detoxification Specialist with over 22 years experience; BSc in Holistic Nutrition, C.C.T. Colon Hydrotherapist, Cert. Holistic Health Practitioner, Spiritual Guide, Energy Work, Reiki, Author, Holistic Health Researcher

For more information on Cindy visit https://www.springclean-cleanse.com/ 

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Benefits of Vitamin D

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
  • Vegans
  • Lack of fatty fish or egg yolks in the diet
  • Obesity
  • 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.

References:

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

Cindy Papp

Author

Body Cleanse and Detoxification Specialist with over 22 years experience; BSc in Holistic Nutrition, C.C.T. Colon Hydrotherapist, Cert. Holistic Health Practitioner, Spiritual Guide, Energy Work, Reiki, Author, Holistic Health Researcher

For more information on Cindy visit https://www.springclean-cleanse.com/