Often referred to as the sunlight vitamin, vitamin D is one of the most powerful vitamins necessary to keep your system running in top shape. Naturally produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight, vitamin D is essential for maintaining optimal bone health. As more people spend time indoors, wear UVB light blocking sunscreen, and eat poor diets, the number of people with vitamin D deficiency is on the rise.
Over 1 billion people worldwide have vitamin D deficiency. Limited UVB exposure is a primary cause as a lack of sunlight prevents the endogenous production of vitamin D by the body. Wearing sunscreen can also reduce the body’s ability to produce vitamin D. Other risk factors include following a vegan diet, having milk allergies, having dark skin, and being overweight.
Vitamin D can be found in a variety of foods including:
Wild salmon in particular is is a great source of vitamin D containing about 988 IU per serving. Herring, sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna, shrimp, and oysters are all excellent choices as well. If you have any milk allergies or follow a vegan diet, it’s important to monitor your daily vitamin D intake. Vegan vitamin D sources include mushrooms, tofu, fortified vegan milks, and of course, sunlight.
The National Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 600-800 international units (IU) of vitamin D. However if you suffer from vitamin D deficiency, many professionals advise a higher dosage of 1000-4000 IU. Optimal levels differ depending on age and health conditions so when in doubt always check with your doctor.
If you often get sick or catch infections you may have a vitamin D deficiency (although this can also be caused by a number of other issues). Without being treated, a vitamin D deficiency can contribute to depression, increased blood pressure, bone pain, muscle weakness and more. Serious vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, fractures, and disease.
You can treat vitamin D deficiency with changes to your diet as well as taking vitamin D supplements. Trying to get increased sun exposure is another helpful lifestyle change to get more vitamin D.
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Most vitamin D overdoses come from taking too many supplements. Abnormal intakes of vitamin D can lead to nausea, vomiting, weakness, constipation, disorientation, abnormal heart rhythm, and kidney damage. Make sure to take appropriate doses to prevent vitamin D toxicity.
One of vitamin D’s most essential functions is for building and maintaining healthy bones. Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium. Without enough vitamin D, the body takes calcium from the skeleton, weakening existing bones and preventing the formation of new bones.
The bone disease, rickets, associated with vitamin D deficiency in children,leads to soft bones and skeletal deformities. While vitamin D is especially important for children, adults also need vitamin D to maintain strong bones.