Why is Vitamin D Important?
Welcome to the world of vitamin D – a nutrient that plays a vital role in keeping you healthy and energised. Vitamin D is unique in that, although we call it a vitamin, it is in fact a hormone. In this article, we’ll unravel the wonders of vitamin D, exploring its benefits, sources, and how to ensure you have enough of this essential nutrient to support your overall wellbeing. So, let’s soak up the knowledge and discover why vitamin D is a true game-changer for your health!
How does your body produce vitamin D?
The body’s ability to manufacture vitamin D is an amazing process which begins with a little support from the sun. This is how it works:
Step 1: When your skin is exposed to sunshine, specifically ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, the UVB penetrates your skin and converts 7-dehydrocholesterol (a compound present in your skin cells) into previtamin D3.
Step 2: This previtamin D3 is further converted into active vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) within the skin.
Step 3: The active vitamin D3 is then absorbed into the bloodstream, where it further travels to the liver and kidneys for modifications. After these modifications, it now becomes fully active to perform its essential functions in the body.
There are a few factors that can influence the efficiency of this process. For instance:
- Skin colour: Melanin, the pigment responsible for skin colour, acts as a natural sunscreen and can reduce the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D. If you have darker skin you may require more sun exposure to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D compared to those with lighter skin.
- Sunscreen: While sunscreen is essential for protecting your skin from harmful UV rays, it can also block the production of vitamin D. Think of it as a balancing act – ensuring you get enough sun exposure without risking sunburn or damage to your skin. It is recommended to spend 15-20 minutes a day in the sun without sunscreen each day.
It is important to remember that just a few minutes of sun exposure multiple times a week is often enough to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. However, despite this, a large proportion of people have a vitamin D deficiency.
What are the benefits of vitamin D?
Now that we understand how our body produces vitamin D, let’s talk about it’s benefits:
- Stronger bones: Vitamin D and calcium work together to make your bones strong and resilient. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, reducing bone-related disorders such as osteoporosis and fractures.
- Supports the immune system: The vitamin D that you get from the sun helps support your immune system so it can fight off infections and illnesses. It protects you by improving your body’s natural defence mechanisms.
- Cardiovascular support: Vitamin D promotes heart health by enhancing blood vessel function and lowering blood pressure, thereby minimising the risk of cardiovascular diseases in your body.
- Mood regulation: Vitamin D has been shown to alter serotonin levels in the brain, resulting in improved emotional wellbeing and lower risk of sadness or anxiety.
- Reduced inflammation: Vitamin D regulates the inflammatory response in your body, which can benefit a variety of health concerns, including autoimmune diseases.
How do you recognise vitamin D deficiency?
Recognising vitamin D insufficiency is crucial for overall health. Here are some common symptoms and warning signals to look out for:
- Fatigue: Feeling constantly drained and low on energy may indicate a vitamin D shortage. This nutrient is essential for energy synthesis.
- Low mood: Vitamin D is associated with the creation of serotonin, which regulates mood control. Low levels can cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness or depression.
Bone pain: Deficiency in vitamin D can weaken bones, and can lead to constant aches in joints. Additionally, an increased risk of fractures is also observed in vitamin D deficient people.
- Frequent infections: Vitamin D is known to strengthen the immune system. A deficiency may leave you more prone to illnesses.
All these symptoms may vary between individuals, but may lead to additional health problems if not recognised in time. It is worth noting that being on certain medications (which inhibit proper absorption of vitamin D by your body) can lead to a deficiency.
Sources of vitamin D: Let’s talk food and supplements
So, how do you fix a vitamin D deficiency? Is there a sustainable way to prevent this and stay healthy? Yes! We have curated a list vitamin D-rich foods which can help you satisfy your body’s requirements:
- Fatty fish: Seafood like salmon, mackerel, and tuna are known to be great sources of vitamin D and provide a significant portion of your needs.
- Dairy products: Dairy items like milk, yoghurt, and some cheeses are fortified with vitamin D, making them an easy to access option for all.
- Mushrooms: Certain mushrooms like shiitake and maitake, can produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, adding a plant-based option to your plate.
For people who may be suffering from severe deficiency of vitamin D, alternate methods of supplementation are also available. High-dose oral supplements may help. In addition, you could opt for a Vitamin D injection, a fast way to raise your vitamin D levels without having to remember to take pills on a daily basis. A vitamin D injection is a great option for people who take medication that inhibits absorption, those with darker skin, and those with severe deficiencies.
Supporting a healthy life
Vitamin D not only keeps our bones strong, it also supports the immunological functions in our bodies, and impacts our mood too. Concerned you may have a vitamin D deficiency? It’s time to take a look at the time you spend in the sunshine, your diet, and suitable ways to supplement.