Christina Carreau BA, ND
Vitamin D also called the Sunshine vitamin has been getting a lot of buzz in the media so I thought I would devote an article to the role and protective benefits of Vitamin D and some of the contributing causes of deficiency.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and pro-hormone that exists in several different forms. Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) is not produced in the body and comes from plant sources whereas cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) is found in cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines and is manufactured in the skin with adequate exposure to the suns’ UVB rays. Vitamin D obtained from food, sun exposure and supplements is biologically inactive. Both the liver and kidneys play an important role in the conversion of vitamin D into its’ metabolically active form.
The primary role of Vitamin D is to enhance calcium absorption and to maintain adequate serum concentrations of both calcium and phosphate to ensure normal mineralization of bone.
10 Health Benefits of Vitamin D
- Blood Sugar Regulation. It stabilizes blood sugar and helps prevent diabetes.
- Healthy Bones. It strengthens bones and enhances absorption of calcium thereby reducing the risk of rickets in childhood and osteoporosis as you age.
- Balances Mood. It stabilizes mood and reduces the incidence of both depression and seasonal affective disorder.
- Promotes Heart Health. It helps prevent heart disease and lowers blood pressure.
- Enhances Immunity. It strengthens the immune system and has a protective effect against infections.
- Cancer Prevention. It is protective against certain kinds of cancers including breast, prostate and colon.
- Protective Against Autoimmune Conditions. It enhances immune function in autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Supports a Healthy Pregnancy. Vitamin D in pregnancy helps prevent pre-term labour, infections, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.
- Enhances Athletic Performance. It improves muscle function and helps with recovery post exercise.
- Improves Weight Loss Efforts. It improves serotonin levels, controls appetite and enhances fat loss.
Need I go on? Having adequate vitamin D levels is so important for so many different reasons.
Vitamin D deficiency can occur for a number of different reasons.
- Limited exposure to sun. Increased use of sunscreen due to rising skin cancer rates often means that we are not making adequate amounts of vitamin D even during the summer months. Pair that with the fact that most people work indoors for the majority of the day and the fact that we live at a northern latitude. Technically, we are only capable of manufacturing Vitamin D for 1/3 of the year and again only if we are in fact being exposed to sunlight accordingly. These all increase the risks of becoming deficient.
- Vegan diets. Foods sources of Vitamin D are fish, eggs, and dairy and therefore if you are avoiding all of these things that could increase your risk of developing a D deficiency over time.
- Impaired absorption. Inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract can often lead to poor absorption of vitamin D. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gluten sensitivity, Crohn’s and Celiac disease can all increase risk of deficiency.
- Impaired Kidney Function. Vitamin D is converted into its biologically active form in the kidneys. On average kidney function declines by about 10% each decade after we turn 30. So elderly people are at increased risk for Vitamin D deficiency.
- Obesity. Research suggests that individuals with a BMI greater than 30 are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency because it is extracted from the blood and stored in fat cells and not appropriately released into circulation for use.
There are other factors that can contribute to vitamin D deficiency as well.
I am not proposing that everyone needs to supplement with Vitamin D. But it is important to know if you are deficient so that you can treat accordingly. Ask your Naturopathic Doctor or your Medical Doctor for a requisition to determine your levels. Knowledge is power and preventative medicine is the best medicine! Test now and treat right.