Let’s talk about the “sunshine” vitamin D, which is crucial for so many processes in the body. Besides improving energy levels, mood, bone mineral density and wound healing efficiency, it’s also an important element in strengthening our immune system.
What are the causes and symptoms of a deficiency? What can you do to boost it?
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin and holds a special position amongst all vitamins. Unlike other vitamins, it can be produced by pre-stages that are present in the body. The body produces it in response to the sun’s radiation on the skin (UVB light exposure). Compared to the vitamin D provided via food, it plays a significant role in supplying us with a sufficient supply. The kidneys and liver convert vitamin D (produced in the skin and taken up in the diet), into the active hormone called calcitriol.
It regulates the calcium and phosphate metabolism as well as the bone metabolism. Furthermore, it is involved in other metabolic processes in the body and has an impact on muscular strength. It also can help in regulating insulin flow and balancing blood sugar levels, resulting in balanced natural hormone cycles. In addition to that it is said to help decrease the risk for autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s disease.
What can cause a deficiency?
- inadequate exposure to sunlight
- not eating vitamin D rich foods
- impaired gut health
- liver diseases
- renal diseases
- inefficient production in the skin
- using sunscreen when going out
- having dark skin
- being overweight
What are the symptoms of a deficiency?
- decreased testosterol level
- lower oestrogen level
- abnormal pituitary cell growth
- increased parathyroid production
- bone, back and muscle pain
- hair loss
- getting sick or infected often
- fatigue and tiredness
- impaired wound healing
- bone loss
This doesn’t mean that you need to rush to your nearest pharmacy for a high-dose vitamin D supplement. It’s only necessary to take if you are already deficient. If you are not, overloading your body with it could actually do more harm than good.
How to find out your vitamin D level?
A common way to measure your levels is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A level of 25 to 80 ng/mL is considered normal for healthy people. But these numbers slightly vary depending on in which country you live.
How can you increase your level?
- spend time in sun light
- take a supplement
- try a UV lamp that emits ultraviolet radiation
- through diet
- healthy gut
Which foods are rich in vitamin D?
- cod liver oil
- beef liver
- calf’s liver
- egg yolk
- wild mushroom
- fortified foods
Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, which plays a pivotal role in maintaining bone strength and preventing osteoporosis. Spending enough time in the sun is the best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D. However, getting a sufficient supply just from your diet may be very difficult. People who follow a vegan diet need to make sure that they are exposed enough to sunlight.