Vitamin D and Your Health

Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, is an important part of your daily dietary intake and  supplement regimen. In fact, it serves a variety of different functions in the human body. The good news is that there are some foods can help you to get the Vitamin D you need. The important thing is to get some Vitamin D in your diet and take supplements to give your body what it needs. Getting the proper amount without supplements is difficult because people simply don’t get enough sunlight. However, if you follow healthy nutritional guidelines and take quality supplements, you should be able to ensure that you remain healthy and well.

 

Vitamin D comes in several different forms. The two most important to human beings include Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, and Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol. Vitamin D2 is mainly synthesized by plant matter, while Vitamin D3 is mainly synthesized by humans when they are exposed to sunlight.

 

The Function of Vitamin D

 

“Clinical studies have suggested a preventative effect of Vitamin D on a broad range of disorders. Furthermore, preclinical research has advanced the field by elucidating mechanisms underlying the preventative effects of Vitamin D.” – Joan M. Lappe, PhD (Creighton University, Omaha, NE)

 

Vitamin D serves many functions in the human body. Its main purpose is to help maintain a normal level of calcium and phosphorus in the blood stream. It also helps to promote strong, healthy bones by aiding calcium absorption. This can help to increase bone density and decrease the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. Studies have also shown that it helps to protect from high blood pressure, certain types of cancer and even a few autoimmune diseases. According to the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, Joan M. Lappe noted:

 

“An inverse association between cancer mortality rates and regional solar UV-B radiation exposure has been found for cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, ovary, prostate, stomach, bladder, esophagus, kidney, lung, gall bladder, thyroid, rectum, pancreas and uterus, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma.”

 

Many aspects of our diets have been shown to increase our risk of certain types of cancer, but with new studies showing that Vitamin D can actually reduce these risks, it makes perfect sense to include Vitamin D in our daily nutritional plans. By ensuring that we get enough exposure to sunlight, we can also boost these Vitamin D levels and naturally reduce the risk of these serious types of cancer.

 

Vitamin D Deficiency Risks

 

Without a diet filled with proper nutrients, the body is at risk of nutrient deficiencies. This is true for both children and adults. As stated by the National Institute of Health:

 

“In children, vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, a disease characterized by a failure of bone tissue to properly mineralize, resulting in soft bones and skeletal deformities.”

 

Rickets can definitely be a serious concern, but since it is not seen very often it is more common for adults to be concerned about their Vitamin D levels. The National Institute of Health stated:

 

“In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, resulting in weak bones. Symptoms of bone pain and muscle weakness can indicate inadequate vitamin D levels, but such symptoms can be subtle and go undetected in the initial stages.”

 

Osteomalacia is usually caused from a lack of Vitamin D in the diet; however, a few other things can cause this illness as well. These include cancer, hereditary disorders, kidney failure, liver disease, phosphate depletion and certain side effects from medication. The symptoms of osteomalacia include frequent bone fractures, muscle weakness and bone pain. The best way to test for osteomalacia is through a bone biopsy or bone density test.

 

Good Sources of Vitamin D

 

Possibly one of the best ways to get vitamin D is from sunlight. The body actually manufactures Vitamin D from cholesterol through a process that is directly triggered from exposure to sunlight. The problem is that some people don’t make enough Vitamin D from sunlight alone. For this reason, it is important to learn more about dietary sources of Vitamin D.

 

Here are a few foods that will give you added Vitamin D:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Swordfish
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Sardines

 

Eating foods that are high in Vitamin D can definitely help to ensure that you are eating a diet that is nutritionally balanced. Since very few foods actually offer Vitamin D, some people find it necessary to take a daily Vitamin D supplement. Before beginning a Vitamin D supplement, it is a good idea to have your Vitamin D levels checked. This will help you to avoid getting too much Vitamin D, which can lead to other health concerns.

 

What Can Happen If You Get Too Much Vitamin D?

 

It is definitely possible to have too much of a good thing. When there is too much Vitamin D in the body, it is known as Vitamin D toxicity. According to the National Institute of Health:

 

“Vitamin D toxicity can cause non-specific symptoms such as anorexia, weight loss, polyuria, and heart arrhythmias. More seriously, it can also raise blood levels of calcium which leads to vascular and tissue calcification, with subsequent damage to the heart, blood vessels and kidneys.”

 

A common misconception about Vitamin D toxicity is that it can be caused by too much exposure to the sun. This is not the case at all. The most common cause of Vitamin D toxicity is through the misuse of Vitamin D supplements. Taking Vitamin D supplements is a great way to boost your Vitamin D levels; however it is very important to take them as directed. This is why it is so important to have your Vitamin D levels checked every so often to avoid toxic levels.

 

Healthy Recommendations

 

To promote overall health and wellness, try to get enough sunlight so that your body can synthesize Vitamin D naturally. Also, ensure that you eat a well-balanced diet that includes foods that are rich in Vitamin D.

 

Sources:

 

http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#ref

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-d/NS_patient-vitamind

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001414/

http://chp.sagepub.com/content/16/1/58.full.pdf+html

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