5 Things You Should Know About Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been in the news even more than usual during the pandemic thanks to its ability to boost the immune system. But…there’s a lot more to this multitasking chemical compound than its immune system boosting qualities.
Following are five vitamin D facts you might find interesting.
Vitamin D Isn’t Really a Vitamin
But wait…it’s called vitamin D, right? Nevertheless, vitamin D is not actually a vitamin.
By definition, vitamins are substances that your body needs, but can’t produce on its own. Because your body produces vitamin D from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it really doesn’t qualify as being a vitamin. So if vitamin D isn’t a vitamin…then what is it? Believe it or not, vitamin D is a hormone. The active version of vitamin D (a hormone known as calcitriol) is produced in your liver and kidneys and is chemically related to the steroid hormones in your body.
Vitamin D Doesn’t Come from Sunlight Exposure Alone
People get varying percentages of the vitamin D they need as a result of sun exposure. This variation stems primarily from differences in climate, and differences in the amount of time people spend outdoors.
What you don’t get from exposure to sunlight has to come from dietary sources (like fatty fish and egg yolks), vitamin D3 supplements, or a light box (i.e. a lamp that simulates light from the sun).
Vitamin D Deficiency is Common
You wouldn’t think a modern country like the United States would have a major issue with vitamin D deficiency. But we do.
Researchers generally agree that at least 40% of the U.S. population doesn’t get enough of this important “vitamin”. Many researchers would argue that the percentage of people with vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. is even highter.
Why is this the case? There are a few primary causes:
- Lack of exposure to natural sunlight. For better or worse, modern-day humans spend far more time indoors than our ancestors did.
- Increased use of sunscreen (which inhibits vitamin D synthesis in the skin).
- Failure to augment natural vitamin D production with dietary sources.
Vitamin D deficiency can also be related to where you live (with shorter winter days in more northerly areas increasing the chances for vitamin D deficiency), darker skin tones (because the pigment in darker skin reduces vitamin D synthesis), and age (due to an age-related decrease in the concentration of 7-dehydrocholesterol in the epidermis of the skin).
How to Tell if You’re Low on Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays an important role in a number of critical bodily processes.
As a result, there are multiple indicators that you may be vitamin D deficient.
Common symptoms include:
- Joint Pain and Bone Fractures
- Muscle Weakness
- More Frequent Illness
- Slower Wound Healing
Research suggests that vitamin D helps the mitochondria in your cells use oxygen to create energy for your body. Therefore, low vitamin D levels can leave your body low on energy.
Vitamin D helps your bones to absorb calcium and potassium. If this absorption is impaired by a lack of vitamin D, it can cause joint pain and a reduction in bone density (which can increase the risk for bone fractures).
Like fatigue, a shortage of vitamin D can reduce muscle strength by limiting the ability of mitochondria to supply energy to muscles.
Vitamin D helps your immune system to fight off the viruses and bacteria that can cause inflammation and illness. Studies have linked low vitamin D levels to common respiratory illnesses like colds and the flu, as well as more serious conditions like heart disease and cancer.
Researchers believe that vitamin D deficiency plays a role in depression because vitamin D is essential for healthy brain function.
A number of research studies have linked slower wound healing to lower levels of vitamin D. Results from one study in particular suggest that vitamin D increases the production of specific compounds that are necessary for the formation of new skin cells during the healing process. It may also be that vitamin D’s role in controlling inflammation has an impact on how quickly wounds heal.
Too Much Vitamin D is Toxic
If you’re concerned that you could be vitamin D deficient, you might be tempted to start taking vitamin D supplements. However, this can be a mistake. Because vitamin D is toxic if too much is taken, vitamin D supplementation is best done under the supervision of a doctor.
Like any other hormone therapy, one size does not fit all when it comes to vitamin D supplementation. A dose that is too low may not yield the desired benefits. Conversely, a dose that is too high can be dangerous. You want dosing for your vitamin D that is just right for you.
What You Should Do
Unfortunately, the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can be subtle. They can also be similar to other medical conditions. The only way to know for sure whether or not you are vitamin D deficient is through a simple blood test.
If you’re tired, getting sick frequently, or have any of the other symptoms described above that are associated with low levels of vitamin D, Renew Youth can help. We can test your vitamin D levels and recommend supplementation if you’re deficient. Our recommendations will be tailored to your body’s unique needs and will include follow-up testing to ensure levels are safe and optimal.
Ready to get started? Call us at (800) 859-7511 or use our contact form to schedule your free consultation.