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Vitamin D Deficiency: What Does Vitamin D Do And Why Do We Need It?

For those who get little exposure to sunlight, are allergic to dairy, or follow a stringent vegetarian diet, there is a good chance you may suffer from vitamin D deficiency. In the past Vit D deficiency has been mainly linked with rickets, but modern research has pointed to a much more important role for vitamin D in overall health support. So what does vitamin D do and why do we need it?

Referred to as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is the only vitamin which can directly manufacture itself without nutrition as it is produced by the body as a result of exposure to sunlight.  

Unfortunately most of us (especially here in the UK) don’t get enough sunlight to produce sufficient vitamin D, and even those in hot countries usually either avoid the sun or use sun block. In such cases we need to supplement our vitamin d levels through diet, either through food such as fish, fish liver oils and eggs etc, or through using a daily supplement.

VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY

Vitamin D deficiency is a condition in which the blood-levels of vitamin D are chronically low over a long period of time. You may be more at risk if you have dark skin and live in a cold, northern, mountainous region, although anyone can become deficient if not enough sunlight is absorbed or if they are having enough of the nutrient through foods and supplements.

A lack of vitamin D can result in obesity, high blood pressure, depression, psoriasis, osteoporosis, rickets, chronic fatigue syndrome, kidney stones, Parkinson’s and neuro-degenerative disease including Alzheimer’s.   In addition, excessively low blood-levels of the nutrient have been shown to exacerbate existing conditions such as fibromyalgia, MS and HIV.  Deficiency has been linked to a host of other conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and an increased risk of pre-eclampsia and insulin resistance during pregnancy.  Most recently, low vitamin D levels have been linked to an increased prevalence of early age-related macular degeneration.

VITAMIN D BENEFITS

Vitamin D is believed to play a role in controlling the immune system, increasing neuro-muscular function (therefore decreasing falls), improving mood, protecting the brain against toxic chemicals, and reducing pain.

D has been shown to help alleviate symptoms of depression and chronic fatigue. It also helps to improve the health of skin, hair and nails, and provides a boost for bone health, significantly reducing the risk of bone fractures and hip-related injuries. It also helps reduce muscular degeneration and enhance cognitive performance.

3 WAYS TO GET MORE VITAMIN D
  1. If you have bone loss or osteoporosis, spend 20 minutes daily in the sunshine with 40% of your skin surface exposed. Morning or late afternoon sun is best.  Don’t allow your skin to burn.Vitamin D3
  2. Eat foods high in vitamin D3 including cod liver oil, fortified milk, salmon, mackerel, sardines, egg yolks, beef liver.
  3. If you take vitamin D supplements make sure it is a vitamin D3 supplement and not D2. Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, is the natural form of vitamin D which the body produces when exposed to sunlight. Expert opinions widely agree that this is the most effective form of vitamin D for supplementation. Here in the UK where we are often deprived of sunshine the ideal dosage is 600 IU to 1000 IU per day.

CONCLUSION

Even though your body can manufacture vitamin d directly through sunlight, Vitamin D deficiency is still very common as few people get enough exposure to the sun. Vitamin D helps the body use calcium and we need it to help maintain strong bones, as well as for overall health support. If you can’t get sufficient vitamin D through your diet then using a vitamin D3 supplement is a good alternative option.

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