In the alphabet of important nutrients for our bodies it’s easy for Vitamin D to get lost in the mix. After all, we get it from the sun so it’s taken care of, right? But what happens if our supply runs short? In this episode we’ll talk about what Vitamin D does in our bodies and how to make sure we’re getting enough.
In this Episode
- CJ Anderson
- Daniel Ananyev, DO
- Matt Anderson
What is Vitamin D Anyway?
It turns out there’s some mystery surrounding Vitamin D. The scientific community isn’t sure if it’s better classified as a hormone or a vitamin. There is also some mystery around what Vitamin D actually does. For most people, if the level of Vitamin D in their body gets too low they are likely to experience some health complications. However, getting more Vitamin D is not always the instant cure for these issues.
Some of the things Vitamin D does in our bodies
- Regulates our cell cycle
- Helps the body absorb calcium which helps with bone remodeling
- Strengthens parts of the immune system
- Helps insulin production
- Strengthens the cardiovascular system
- Promotes muscle development
Symptoms of low Vitamin D
- Pain in your muscles or bones
- Unexplained fractures or broken bones
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Frequent falls or instability (in older adults)
Matt discovered he had low levels of Vitamin D after experiencing some lingering pain in his legs. Tracing the cause of this pain helped his doctor diagnose him with stress fractures, which were caused in part by low levels of Vitamin D.
How do we get Vitamin D?
We actually produce much of our own Vitamin D, with help from the sun. Do the sun’s rays actually give us Vitamin D? Nope, but they kick off a process in the deep layers of our skin that creates a chemical our liver and kidneys turn into Vitamin D.
If you average 5-30 minutes of sun exposure per week your body will likely produce healthy levels of Vitamin D. But if you wear sunscreen (even as low as SPF 8) some experts say you may decrease your Vitamin D synthesis by up to 95 percent. With other risks, like skin cancer, to consider this may still be the right choice for you. Just remember that if you’re blocking the sun’s UV rays, you’re also blocking your body’s natural cue to produce Vitamin D, meaning you’ll need to look for other sources.
Fish and fish oils are a good source of vitamin D. So are mushrooms, which have the ability to synthesize Vitamin D like our skin. Want to get the most bang for your buck? Put your mushrooms on a sunny windowsill for about a day before you prepare them. That sunlight will pack them full of extra Vitamin D.
Many foods are fortified with Vitamin D (think milk and orange juice), a practice that dates back a couple generations to a time when many children were developing rickets because of low Vitamin D levels.
There are also over the counter Vitamin D supplements you can take. Most experts say it’s best not to take more than 4,000 international units per day (there are lower recommendations for children under age 9). If you’re levels are lower your doctor may prescribe you a higher dosage you take once a week.
- Learn more about Dr. Ananyev.
- Vitamin D Council
- 7 Signs You May have Low Vitamin D
- 12 Ways to Get Your Daily Vitamin D
Author: LivingWell PDX Blog
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