You’d have to be living in a cave and off the grid to not have heard all the buzz surrounding Vitamin D lately. For some time now Vitamin D has been emerging as one of the most important nutrients for overall mental and physical health and overall well being. And surprisingly, it has been gaining this popularity with little controversy and the support and agreement from both the natural healing and mainstream medical communities.
The first real awareness associated with Vitamin D was that it could help prevent Rickets, a condition that causes soft and malformed bones usually in young developing children. Since this first discovery, study after study has been implicating Vitamin D as necessary for the maintenance of good health and the prevention and treatment of disease. Vitamin D is regularly prescribed for muscle and bone strength, cognitive function, improved immune function for defense against viral and bacterial infection, cancer prevention and treatment, respiratory illness, cardiovascular health, and for diabetes and healthy blood sugar maintenance, etc.
By far the most effective way of getting enough Vitamin D, in particular Vitamin D3, is through exposure to direct sunlight on bare, unprotected skin. Hence the reason it is referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”. The body produces Vitamin D3 from cholesterol through a process triggered by ultra violet light that occurs naturally in sunlight. It is not necessary to burn ones skin, it only needs to be exposed for about half the time it takes to turn the skin pink or begin to burn. Of course factors such as the amount of exposed skin and the angle and intensity of the sun based on the time of day and year will influence Vitamin D production. Additionally, persons of darker skin will likely require more exposure to sun than persons of lighter skin to produce the same amount of Vitamin D. As a general rule the more sun tolerant your skin, the more sun is needed and the less sun tolerant your skin, the less sun is needed to produce adequate Vitamin D levels.
Of course it is also possible to take in Vitamin D through diet either by consuming foods naturally rich in Vitamin D or by taking a Vitamin D supplement. Either source can provide Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or Vitamin D3(cholecalciferol) with the later being more bioavailable and thus more beneficial.
Common foods that can help provide Vitamin D are oily fish such as salmon, cod and sardines, dairy products especially raw milk, egg yolks, and beef liver. If choosing a health supplement to add Vitamin D, it is advisable to choose one that contains Vitamin D3(the same as produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight and considered more beneficial) over D2(which is not produced by sunlight exposure).
Regardless of the source of Vitamin D, it must be processed by the body, mainly in the liver, to make it bio-available and this leads us to consider some factors that can hinder the bodies ability to convert Vitamin D for normal healthy functions. Substances such as medications, illicit drugs, and alcohol, impede the liver’s ability to convert and store Vitamin D. Health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hepatitis for example all negatively affect the liver and therefore, again, hinder Vitamin D production.
How much is enough? It is widely accepted that the only way to realistically get fully adequate and healthy amounts of Vitamin D is through sun exposure on the skin. Although it is possible to over-expose the skin and possibly damage it, it is not considered possible to get too much Vitamin D through this process. Conversely, because supplementing with Vitamin D is not the most natural form it is considered possible to take in too much and experience toxicity and adverse side effects. According to the Vitamin D Council acceptable daily limits are 1,000 to 2,000 IU for infants and children and 5,000 to 10,000 IU for adults. Taking in Vitamin D through natural food sources in ones diet is typically considered safe but again it will likely not provide all the Vitamin D necessary for good health.
For anyone looking to improve any aspect of their health and well being or treat any existing health condition adding Vitamin D to ones diet, especially through healthy sunlight exposure, can pay significant dividends.
Written by DMK Seven Grains