Vitamin D: It’s Not Just for Your Bones
Scientists have known about vitamin D for more than a century…but we keep learning more and more about its benefits.
In 1919 Sir Edward Mellanby discovered he could cure Scottish children of the bone disease called rickets by giving them cod liver oil (which happens to be rich in vitamin D). Later researchers discovered how the human body synthesizes vitamin D from sunlight.
We now know that your body needs vitamin D to help it absorb calcium and phosphorus for strong bones. It also helps your muscles get enough calcium to prevent muscle cramps and aches.
But that’s just the beginning of the benefits of Vitamin D…
How Vitamin D Supports Your Immune System
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made all of us more aware of the important role the immune system plays in keeping us healthy.
Vitamin D has two vital roles within the immune system:
- Innate immunity: This is your body’s natural ability to fight infections it hasn’t been exposed to previously.
Recent research has shown that vitamin D helps immune system cells communicate so they can isolate and destroy invading viruses and pathogens.
- Acquired immunity:Once your body has been exposed to an infectious agent, your acquired immune system automatically responds the next time it detects that same pathogen.
Unfortunately, sometimes your immune system over-responds to these invaders. Immune cells called cytokines can be over-produced (called a “cytokine storm”) and attack healthy organs like the heart and lungs.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increase in immune system over-response. Specifically, vitamin D appears to play an important role in modulating how your immune system reacts.
Here are just a few research studies that support the importance of vitamin D to your immune system:
- A 2009 National Institutes of Health study linked vitamin D deficiency with more frequent colds and flu.
- A review of data from 25 clinical trials in 14 different countries led British researchers to conclude that daily or weekly vitamin D supplements would prevent 3.25 million people in the United Kingdom from catching an upper respiratory infection each winter.
- Researchers from Northwestern University observed half as many deaths from COVID-19 in patients with healthy vitamin D levels compared to those with vitamin D deficiencies.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been implicated in some forms of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis and depression.
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 400-800 international units (IU) per day (or 10-20 micrograms). However, experts suggest that many people may actually need 2-5 times that daily amount (or even more).
Vitamin D is synthesized naturally when your skin is exposed to sunlight or UV light. However, most people will have trouble getting sunlight in sufficient amounts to adequately increase their vitamin D levels because:
- They spend most of their time indoors under artificial (non-UV) lighting.
- They live in northern latitudes where winter daylight can be limited.
- They wear sunscreen.
Furthermore, there aren’t many natural dietary sources of vitamin D. Fish oil or fatty fish are the most prominent. Many foods such as milk and cereal are fortified with vitamin D for this reason.
As a result, vitamin D supplements are the best way for most people to ensure they’re getting enough vitamin D for good health. However, it’s important not to overdo vitamin D supplementation. This beneficial nutrient can become toxic if taken in excess amounts. In other words, this is an instance where you can have too much of a good thing.
What You Need to Do
Vitamin D…like many other vitamins, minerals and hormones…is vital for your good health. But levels should be monitored via lab testing, and dosing should be individualized for each person’s needs.
Renew Youth can test your vitamin D levels and make recommendations with regard to proper dosing. Call us at 800-850-7511 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free consultation.