You may not know it, but your body craves vitamin D. It’s time to listen to your body. Just about every day, there is new research on the extraordinary health benefits of vitamin D.
We get vitamin D naturally through exposure to direct sunlight. That is why it is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.” But sadly, even if you spend time outdoors, it is highly likely that you may be one of the 80 percent of people who are not getting enough vitamin D.
But it is not your fault.
The Causes For Vitamin D Deficiency
The reason many of us have low vitamin D levels will sound familiar.
More and more of us are spending time indoors, especially over this past year. Today’s modern lifestyle involves working longer hours inside, our world is full of haze and pollution, there is more intense use of sunscreens, harsh winter weather keeps us from the great outdoors, and of course, there is the popularity of playing video games and streaming movies, all which occur indoors.
These factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency. We simply do not get enough sunlight.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Not getting enough vitamin D is incredibly common. It is estimated that about one billion people worldwide have low blood levels of the vitamin.
- In the United States, over 41 percent of all adults are deficient.
- The statistics get worse for minorities: 69 percent of Hispanic adults and 82 percent of African Americans are deficient. People with darker skin are at increased risk. That’s because the higher levels of melanin (the pigment and natural color of the skin) reduce the body’s ability to produce the vitamin in response to sunlight exposure.
But no matter who you are, the lack of vitamin D can be serious. Here’s what you need to know.
Why is Vitamin D So Important?
Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins our bodies need to stay healthy.
- Keeping bones strong. Vitamin D allows for the optimal absorption of calcium. And the combination of vitamin D and calcium builds strong bones and keeps them healthy. When you don’t have enough vitamin D, there can be a loss of bone density, which can contribute to osteoporosis and fractures (broken bones), no matter what your age.
- Immune support. One of the most common signs of vitamin D deficiency is an increased risk of illness or infections. This includes a higher risk for a variety of upper respiratory tract infections such as influenza (flu) and the coronavirus.
So, it should come as no surprise that people with vitamin D deficiency were found to have an increased risk of getting COVID, no matter where they lived or what their race. Recent research discovered a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and a higher risk of COVID-19. A new study also found that more than 80 percent of people with COVID-19 didn’t have enough of this vitamin in their blood.
For the majority of people with respiratory or immune challenges, there is really no downside to increasing vitamin D intake. However, it is important to remember that just taking vitamin D supplementation alone cannot avoid any respiratory infection.
- Maintaining energy. How have you been feeling lately? Are you worn out and often sluggish? Excessive fatigue and tiredness may be a sign of vitamin D deficiency.
Several studies have found that supplementing with vitamin D could reduce the intense feeling of being tired and help increase energy in people with a deficiency. Even 89 percent of nurses who said they were experiencing fatigue were deficient in the vitamin.
- Mood and mental health. Low levels of vitamin D can affect our mental well-being as well as our physical health. A variety of research shows the connection between vitamin D deficiency and depression. Research is clear that older adults who were had poor vitamin D amounts had a greater risk of developing depression. The good news is that supplementing daily can help improve mood.
- Age-related health issues. Getting older can be tough, and if you have low vitamin D levels, it can be tougher. Evidence that suggests there is an association between vitamin D deficiency and chronic health issues associated with aging including:
- cognitive decline
- cardiovascular disease
- high blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
Where Does Vitamin D Come From?
Now that you know how important it is to monitor your levels of vitamin D, you need to know the best ways to get it. You can get vitamin D in a variety of ways.
- From the sun. Through exposure to direct sunlight, our bodies produce Vitamin D. But remember, that although the sun is a natural way to get vitamin D, too much sunlight can be dangerous. You want to be sure to avoid excess sun exposure that can result in sunburn, eye damage, skin aging, heatstroke, and even skin cancer.
- From specific foods. Regretfully, vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many things we eat every day. Most of the natural sources are animal-based in certain foods such as fatty fish and fortified dairy products. This makes it very difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone. It may be especially tough for vegans or people who are lactose-intolerant to get enough vitamin D from what they eat. That is one reason why people may choose to take supplements.
- From nutritional supplements. This essential vitamin is easily available without a prescription. There are dozens of brands available at your neighborhood drug store. When supplementing with vitamin D, always look at the label for the cholecalciferol form of the vitamin. This is considered to be the most “natural,” most researched, most stable, and most potent form of vitamin D. Supplementing is both safe and helpful to overall health.
How Much Vitamin Do You Need?
In healthy people, the amount of vitamin D needed per day varies by age. For most adults, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600–800 IU, but many experts recommend getting even more than that.
As we all celebrate more birthdays and begin to age, it is often suggested to take a vitamin D supplement containing anywhere between 800 to 2000 IUs daily. Of course, it is important to speak with your doctor about your individual needs.
Take Vitamin D Seriously
Are you one of the up to 80 percent deficient in Vitamin D? It’s simple to find out. Vitamin D testing is easily available from your physician or healthcare professional. This medical test can provide you with the exact information about your Vitamin D levels.
If your Vitamin D levels are low, consider supplements.
Plus, it wouldn’t hurt to walk away from the computer, go outside, enjoy the sunshine and absorb some vitamin D naturally!