With any diet it is important to get the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals. In addition to macronutrients, vitamins and minerals are some of the most essential things that your body needs to function properly. Each one has an important role in the body.
Knowing about each vitamin and how much you need it is very important to your ability to support your own health.
When it comes to Vitamin D there are recommendations of how much you should take daily, as well as the benefits, how to get it, associated supplements, and what happens if you develop a deficiency. While it is important to know the dosage recommendations, you also need to know all of the facts to be an informed consumer and advocate for your own health. Continue reading to learn all of this and more about vitamin D.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that takes a few forms. Vitamin D2 is usually what is received as a vitamin D prescription from your healthcare provider, as opposed to vitamin D3 which is commonly over the counter. Vitamin D3 is called cholecalciferol.
Vitamin D is important in the body for bone health, immunity, muscles, and the nervous system. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that each person must have in order for the body to function properly.
How to get Vitamin D
Vitamin D is unique because it can be found in 3 different places. It can be synthesized in your body with help from the sun, eaten in various foods, and taken as a dietary supplement.
How you get your vitamin D can depend on many factors including where you live, your daily activities, skin pigmentation, the season, and of course the foods you eat.
While the sun does have some amazing features, it does not transport vitamin D into your body. Instead, the sun works as a catalyst to enhance your body’s natural ability to produce vitamin D3 on its own. UVB rays from the sun begin a reaction of cholesterol into vitamin D3. Only vitamin D3 is made by the body, not vitamin D2. There is no amount of sunlight that is the perfect dose. It should be advised that staying in the sun too long can increase your risk for skin cancer. Also, if you are wearing sunscreen or sun protective clothing you will not be able to produce as much or any vitamin D3, since the sun rays are not coming in contact with the skin. Isn’t it amazing that your body is able to create its own vitamins that it needs?
Just like any other vitamin you can get it from various food sources. In the United States many of the foods you can purchase in the grocery store are fortified with vitamin D meaning vitamin d is added to the foods. This is a way to increase the chances that citizens are getting the adequate amount of vitamin D. Some of the fortified foods include milk, cereals, orange juice, and even plant based alternatives. Without fortification there are some foods that are naturally high in vitamin D. If you are looking for high vitamin D foods, you may want to consider cheese, fish, mushrooms and eggs. Because it is a fat soluble vitamin you can look for it in fatty foods that the vitamin is easily absorbed into. Vitamin D is an important part of a well-balanced diet and it is always better to get your vitamins from foods instead of vitamins if possible.
Vitamin D supplements are available for people who need extra vitamin D for a health reason or because they are unable to get enough of it from the sun or dietary sources (which, spoiler alert, is actually most of us). Vitamin D3 supplements are available over the counter at almost all drug stores. It is very affordable and can help to prevent deficiencies. Prescription vitamin D supplements are also available if your healthcare provider finds it necessary. Do not forget that because vitamin D can stay in the body for long periods of time you should carefully take the supplements as directed.
With this in mind, as available as vitamin D supplements alone are, consider taking a supplement that combines vitamin D with other healthful nutrients to better benefit you as a whole.
Water and fat soluble vitamins have different needs regarding how much to take. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, as are vitamins A, E, and K. Fat soluble vitamins are able to be stored in the body, primarily in the liver so the amount you need to take each day is less than that of a water soluble vitamin that is almost entirely excreted each day.
That being said, the recommended daily allowance for individuals between the ages of 1 to 70 is 15 micrograms per day, including those that are pregnant and lactating. For children under the age of one, the recommendation is 10 micrograms per day. For adults over the age of 70, it is recommended to have 20 micrograms per day of vitamin D.
All of these recommendations are regardless of sex. While these are the recommendations for 97 to 98 percent of healthy individuals it is important to consult your doctor to ensure that this is an appropriate amount for you. Also, if taking a supplement, always follow the instructions on the bottle unless directed by your health care provider otherwise.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are very much intertwined. Without vitamin D the ability for the body to absorb calcium is significantly diminished. Since calcium has many important roles in the body including maintaining bone health, nerve function, and heart function, it is vital that vitamin D be taken in the proper amounts.
Even if you had enough calcium, but no vitamin D, your body would not be able to use all of the calcium it has. This dependent relationship is very important in understanding the benefits of vitamin D supplements and proper serum levels. This is also why calcium and vitamin D supplements are frequently prescribed together.
Along with the regular functions of Vitamin D there are some health arenas in which it is incredibly helpful. Vitamin D has been shown to support improvements in bone health, neuromuscular function, and even brain function. The following are just some of the benefits that vitamin D can have for your health.
The tie between calcium and vitamin D is so close, that it makes sense that it can make a positive impact on bone health. Vitamin D and calcium can strengthen the bones for the long term. Vitamin D is a large player in bone health, and if the body does not have enough, supplementation is most likely necessary.
What if you don’t have enough?
You may be surprised to know that almost 50 percent of people in the world are deficient in vitamin D. So, what can happen if you develop severe vitamin D deficiency? You may see deficiencies in calcium and phosphorus as well. There is an increased risk for bone disorders such as osteoporosis and osteomalacia. You may experience muscle weakness and have difficulty walking or even standing.
In addition, you could experience fatigue, bone and joint pain and even changes in your mood. While vitamin D deficiency can have serious complications, once recognized it should be easily treated with vitamin D supplementation and symptom support.
As you can see, vitamin D is very important to your overall health. To ensure you are getting these important benefits you should take the recommended dose of vitamin D for your age. While vitamin D is good for you, it should not be taken in excess as this could cause problems as well. Hopefully you are now feeling confident in your knowledge of vitamin D and your ability to take the proper amount.