Vitamin D is essential for your health. The importance of it has been underestimated for a long time.
We all know that we need the sunshine vitamin and that the best way to get is to be exposed to the sun, but how do we avoid a lack of it during the winter months?
Anemia, tiredness and muscle strain are some symptoms of a lack of vitamins and minerals. But sometimes we forget the importance of vitamin D for our body. Even though we take our vitamin supplement every day and we show our legs with the first rays of sun light as spring is finally approaching, we are still risking a lack of vitamin D.
So then what is vitamin D actually good for? What are the signs of a vitamin D deficiency? And what happens when we take too much of it? What the optimal level of vitamin D for our body?
Awareness of what the lack of vitamin D does the body has grown over the last years. More and more doctors have their patients tested on the vitamin D level in their blood, because a lack of vitamin D can be more harmful for their health than initially was thought. Research has shown that vitamin D is needed to protect us from different diseases.
Vitamin D off course is known to strengthen our bone structure and to counteract Osteoporosis, but this is not the only virtue of vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels in your blood might increase cardiovascular diseases, rheumatism, Multiple Scleroses, infection diseases, cancer and even mental health disorders.
The Sun As A Source
Our body does not produce vitamin D itself, therefore we depend on the sunlight. As we spend most of the time during the winter months at home or at work, leaving the house in the dark and coming home in the dark, we do not see enough sun. Even when we see some sun, the rays are weaker and our body produces less vitamin D anyway.
Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem all over the world, however, some people produce even less vitamin D, even when in the sun, than others.
- Older people
- People with a dark skin
- pregnant and breastfeeding women
- infants from 0 to 4 years of age
- overweight people
produce less vitamin D. Of course, many people who live in the northern regions, do not get enough sun, especially during the winter months. The further away you live from the equator, the less sun you see throughout the year.
They only way to get enough vitamin D is by taking vitamin supplements.
The Signs Of Vitamin D Deficiency
People who do not get enough vitamin D, can encounter different health problems. The most common signs of vitamin D deficiency are:
- Physical Weakness
- cramps or muscle vibrations
- hyperventilation in stressful moments
- muscle and joints pains, even without physical efforts
- Bone and hair loss
- Bleeding gums and difficult wound healing
There has always been a lot of discussion about taking food supplements, whether it is good for your health or not. In case of vitamin D it seems that we absolutely need the food supplement. When not the sun nor our diet does not foresee the amount of vitamin D that we need, there is no other option than to take a food supplement in order to avoid a shortage. Probably everybody who does not expose their arms, legs, hands and face to the sun daily for about ten minutes, is in need of extra vitamin D in the form of food supplements. Experts recommend an amount of 2000 IU daily. For those who do not live in an all year sunny region, a daily vitamin D supplement between the months of September and April could be necessary.
What about our food?
Why does our food not bring us any vitamin D? Because our food only contains a maximum of about 10% of our daily needs in vitamin D. Of course there are some nutrition that contain vitamin D and that can give your body an energy boost. Think of fat fish like salmon, mackerel, herring or sardines. Also, animal products like milk, cheese and butter contain some vitamin D. This is not practical when you are a vegetarian or when you do not eat any animal products. When your a vegan, you should actually always take vitamin supplements, especially during winter.
Luckily there are great substitutes for dairy products that contain calcium and vitamin D. These combinations will help against Osteoporosis. Also, the intake of fats will help you take in more vitamin D from your food. If you would eat without any fat, you would get the vitamin D, but your body would not take it in. Therefore, it is important to eat fats as well. If you don’t do this, you can be subject to skin problems, gastrointestinal problems and depression.
Vitamin D is necessary for the functioning of your body, therefore taking in supplements can only do you good.
Back to the Sun
We agreed that the best way to get vitamin D is sunlight. But does this mean that we should bake in the sun for hours in a row? Of course is doesn’t! We have learned that being exposed to too much sun is not good for our skin and we might risk skin cancer. But the worst form of skin cancer, the melanoma, is only being caused in a very low percentage. Being in the sun for about 20 minutes when the sun is at it’s highest, and you already take up to 20000 IE. People that do not get in the sun much, are running higher risks of developing a melanoma. This might seem contradicting, but is in fact logic. When you lack of vitamin D, you are risking different diseases and Vitamin D actually protects you from skin cancer.
Do remember to always protect yourself with a sun cream before going in the sun.
Can You Get Too Much Of It?
If vitamin D is so good for us and if we can avoid all these health problems and diseases, then the more we take of it, the better, right? Actually, when taking in too much vitamin D, it could be toxic. This cannot occur by diet and sunlight exposure alone. Only the consummation of vitamin supplements can exceed the daily needed amount. The signs of too much vitamin D in your blood can be:
- loss of appetite
- gastrointestinal problems
- kidney problems
The Bottom Line
When you think you suffer from a lack of vitamin D, I advise you to consult a healthcare professional. Every person is different, therefore everyone’s’ needs are different. Your doctor can help you detect the level of vitamin D in your blood. He might advise you to take vitamin D shots to increase the level of vitamin D.
When the deficiency has been resolved, it is important to keep the correct level of vitamin D. It is not clear how many vitamin D each individual produces, nor what the amount of vitamin D is that actually is being absorbed by the body. Therefore, it is difficult to give a general indicator as to how many vitamins supplements everyone should take.
The first step everyone can take towards enough vitamin D is the exposure to the sun. Get into the sun between 10 am and 3 pm, when the sun is at it’s highest. 20 Minutes daily should do. Be careful to not burn and use sun cream especially when you have a very light skin.
What are your experiences with Vitamin D? Do you take food supplements? Or is walking in the sun enough for you? I would love to hear all about it!