Over one billion people worldwide suffer from vitamin D deficiency. That’s a lot of people. So many people, in fact, that 90% of the United States population are believed to be deficient in this vitamin. So, exactly why is vitamin D important?
Vitamin D, also known as the “Sun Vitamin,” is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins alongside vitamin K, E, and A. Vitamin D is crucial to our overall health. Besides increasing the body’s absorption of calcium, magnesium, and iron, vitamin D is responsible for healthy bone growth and strength.
Let’s explore why vitamin D is so important, what it does, and how to help or prevent a vitamin D deficiency.
What is Vitamin D?
There are two forms of vitamin D:
- Vitamin D2 – Also known as ergocalciferol
- Vitamin D3 – Also known as cholecalciferol
Most studies on the subject agree that vitamin D3 is the more beneficial of the two. D3 is more easily absorbed by the human body and is the preferred supplement when correcting a deficiency.
How to Get Vitamin D
Vitamin D comes from three main sources:
Our body naturally produces vitamin D from sunlight. It varies how much of the vitamin is absorbed by the skin due to several factors, from skin color to time of day. A group of scientists at The Norwegian Institute for Air Research created a calculator to help determine how much sun exposure you need to produce vitamin D. The calculator takes all of the above factors into consideration and estimates the time required of ultraviolet sun exposure (without risk of sunburn) to produce 25mcg of vitamin D (the equivalent of 1,000 International Units).
The other two sources of vitamin D are food and supplements.
Examples of foods rich in vitamin D include:
- Cod liver oil
- Fatty fish
- Raw milk
Fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna) contain up to 450 IUs per 3-ounce serving, which is more than half of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended daily 600 IUs. Mushrooms, like humans, also possess the function of producing vitamin D when exposed to UV light.
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone. This makes it crucial to also obtain vitamin D from sunlight, supplements, or a combination of both.
What Are Benefits of Vitamin D?
Vitamin D’s main job is to help the body absorb calcium. Since calcium is so crucial to our bones, vitamin D also plays a large role in our overall health and bone strength.
Our muscles, nerves, and immune system also rely on vitamin D to function properly. Vitamin D regulates insulin levels, supports lung function, and helps fight off bacteria and viruses. It is said to aid in protection against certain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and cancer.
What Are the Dangers of Vitamin D Deficiency?
A doctor or medical professional can diagnose if you have a vitamin D deficiency through a simple blood test. Those with a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Those with naturally darker skin
- The elderly
- Those who do not get adequate sun exposure
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a range of health problems from heart disease to depression. Scientists have researched the link between vitamin D and depression, concluding that those with low vitamin D levels are 11 times more likely to be depressed than those with normal levels. It’s also said that low vitamin D levels can cause high blood pressure and has been linked to certain cancers.
Furthermore, several studies have concluded that vitamin D is crucial to keeping the immune system strong and functioning properly. Taking vitamin D supplements up to 4,000 IU/day reduces the risk of respiratory tract infections and protects against common colds and the flu.
For those suffering from joint or back pain, vitamin D may also be the answer. One study showed that those with vitamin D deficiency are twice as likely to suffer from bone, rib, or joint pain, while another study discovered a significant relationship between vitamin D deficiency and lower back pain.
Vitamin D can also be a cause of impaired wound healing, bone loss or low bone density, schizophrenia, Alzheimer disease, and hair loss.
Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms
The most common symptoms and signs associated with low vitamin D levels include:
- Bone softening or fractures
- Fatigue and overall weakness
- Weight gain
- Muscle cramps and/or weakness
- Low immunity
- Low calcium levels in the blood
- Mood changes and irritability
- Joint pain
- Issues with blood sugar
How to Treat Vitamin D Deficiency
There are several simple remedies you can take to reverse vitamin D deficiency symptoms.
Vitamin D3 is readily available as an over-the-counter supplement. While you can purchase tablets in doses from 400 IU to 1,000 IU, it is not recommended to exceed 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day without permission from a healthcare professional.
Other helpful ways of correcting a vitamin D deficiency include getting more sun exposure (10 to 30 minutes per day is recommended) and eating foods that are high in or fortified with vitamin D.
Why Drinking Camel Milk Can Help
For another source of essential vitamins and nutrients, check out what the United Nations hailed for its nutritional value in 2006: camel milk. Nascent research has shown links between consumption of camel milk and upticks in health quality.
Are you familiar with or worried about vitamin D deficiency? Do you take vitamin D supplements? Do you drink camel milk? Leave us a comment and let us know!