Titled the “sunshine” vitamin, vitamin D is vital for your body to perform important functions and maintain healthy bones.*
Produced during exposure to sunlight, the “sunshine” vitamin, is an essential building block for your immune system.* The question that remains is what causes low vitamin D levels and how it comes about.
But let’s start at the beginning and dig into the many roles of vitamin D and why it’s so important.
Why is Vitamin D Important?
Let’s learn more about the roles of vitamin D within our bodies and how you can benefit from increased time outdoors.
1. Vitamin D Supports Immunity*
Vitamin D is a hormone released by your kidneys1 and it plays a role in the proper functioning of the immune system.1*
Why is immunity important? A healthy immune system acts like a barrier to the outside and helps keep your internal system in a healthy balance.*
A strong, functioning immune system can therefore be regarded as a foundation for good health.*
2. Vitamin D Helps Regulate Calcium & Bone Health
Vitamin D helps regulate the concentration of calcium in your bloodstream,2 which in turn, is a key mineral for healthy bones and teeth.* In fact, calcium can only be absorbed when vitamin D is present in your body.3
3. Vitamin D Levels Affect Muscle Function*
Vitamin D is needed for the normal growth and development of muscle fibers.1* Without enough vitamin D, it can negatively affect muscle strength and movement.1*
Our muscle strength is one of the factors that allows us to complete everyday activities: get groceries, go for a jog, or meet a friend for a round of tennis.
4. Vitamin D Supports Heart Health*
The “sunshine” vitamin has another important function – helping to support your cardiovascular health.1* Vitamin D helps regulate the system (renin-angiotensin-aldosterone) that supports blood pressure regulation.1* It’s also involved with vascular cell growth and the healthy inflammatory pathway.1*
How Much Vitamin D is Enough?
Now that we’ve established the roles of vitamin D, let’s figure out how much vitamin D is too little and how much is just right.
Maintaining normal levels of vitamin D is essential and can be checked via a standard lab test, which should only be administered under the guidance of your healthcare practitioner.
While the exact levels depend on your age, for most adults, normal levels range from 20 to 50 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter).1
You’d be considered to not have enough vitamin D for adequate bone and overall health, if your levels drop to between 12-20 ng/mL.1
Please keep in mind, Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin meaning that your body stores it within your fat cells.
It’s just as harmful to have too much vitamin D as too little. That’s why it’s so important to only review your levels with your healthcare practitioner so they can advise you on whether additional dietary sources or supplementation is right for you.
What Are Risks Associated with Low Vitamin D?
Low levels of Vitamin D can lead to many diverse symptoms. From fatigue to muscles that don’t function the way they should, the lack of the sunshine vitamin can take a toll on you.*
It’s clear why vitamin D is so important. You should therefore try to maintain healthy levels and routinely measure your serum Vitamin D levels with your healthcare practitioner.
Reasons for Low Vitamin D
We know why vitamin D is important for our bodies to function properly.* We now also know the effects of too little vitamin D in our system. But what is it that causes low vitamin D levels in the first place?
Here’s a list of some reasons for low vitamin D:
Your body’s natural ability to produce its own vitamin D decreases over time. The elderly population also tends to spend less time outdoors reducing their chances to produce vitamin D naturally.1
Melanin, a substance responsible for pigmentation in your body, reduces your ability to produce vitamin D. This is why darker-skinned individuals produce less serum vitamin D than people with lighter skin.1
Although vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, if your BMI falls in the range higher than 30, the vitamin has been found to stay trapped in fat cells leading to lower serum vitamin D production.1
CONDITIONS THAT LIMIT FAT ABSORPTION
Not absorbing fat is associated with medical conditions that include some forms of liver disease and other conditions like Crohn’s disease and cystic fibrosis.1 Some of the conditions can affect what the individual is able to eat which can include things like dairy products which are often fortified with vitamin D.1
In these instances, your serum vitamin D levels should be closely monitored by your physician as dietary supplementation may be required.
What to Do About Your Vitamin D Levels?
The first step is to speak with your healthcare practitioner. It’s only a good idea to try to increase your Vitamin D levels if you and your doctor know what your baseline is and speak about what you individually need. If you find out you’re on the low end of the normal range of serum Vitamin D, know that minor changes in your lifestyle can ramp up your body’s production. This is key, of course, so none of the roles of vitamin D are impacted.
Spend More Time in the Sun
The easiest way to get more vitamin D is by getting more sun – after all, there’s a reason vitamin D is referred to as the “sunshine” vitamin.
The vast majority of vitamin D (between 50% and 90%) is, in fact, absorbed via sunlight. Spending more time outside will boost your body’s natural production. Ideally, try to squeeze in 15 to 20 minutes every day with 40% of the skin’s surface exposed.4
Spending more time in the sun is not just good for your vitamin D levels but also allows you time to relax, take in some fresh air, and improve your mood.
Skin surface exposure is an important aspect of getting as much vitamin D as possible.4 So, roll up your sleeves, get out your lounge chair, and enjoy the sunshine.
Or you could:
- Walk your dog down your favorite trail
- Have a picnic with your family
- Play ball with friends
- Read a book on your patio
- Take your kids on a bicycle ride
There are many options, so feel free to find the activity that works best for you. But most importantly, find something you can do consistently, so you can get your vitamin D regularly. When you are outside, always remember to wear SPF and read the packaging to see when you need to reapply. It’s even been reported that clinical studies have not found that everyday use of sunscreen will lead to insufficient Vitamin D levels.5 Remember to protect your skin!
Eat Foods that Naturally Contain Vitamin D
Now let’s be straight – not many foods contain vitamin D and diet doesn’t play nearly as much of a role as sun exposure. Nevertheless, there are a few foods that can help with your vitamin D levels:
- Fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, swordfish, and sardines
- Fish oils derived from fish liver, including cod liver oil
- Liver, including beef and chicken liver
- Fortified products, such as milk, cereal, and orange juice
- Smaller amounts of vitamin D can be found in egg yolks, yogurt, and cheese
While there’s not a big selection, adjusting your diet to incorporate some extra vitamin D can help your levels. Now all that’s left is for you to pick what foods work best for you.
Vitamin D Supplements
You know why vitamin D is important, so you want to try and keep your vitamin D levels in good shape. But sometimes, and despite your best efforts, spending more time outside or changing your diet is just not in the books for you.
Maybe you’re an introvert and rather grab a good novel to read on the couch or perhaps you’re vegan or simply don’t like the foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Yep, let’s talk about that beef liver.
Whatever the reason, it’s all good. There are plenty of supplements that can help with your vitamin D levels. Whether it’s a daily multivitamin or a vitamin D supplement, know that you can support your vitamin D with ease.
Please remember to speak with your healthcare practitioner prior to starting any new supplement containing Vitamin D to determine the dosing that’s right for you.
There are large ranges in potencies available on the market and since it’s harmful to have too much vitamin D too, it’s best to ask your healthcare practitioner what potency is right for you.
We Want You to be Healthy
At Viva Naturals, we care about your health and support you on your journey to a happier you.
If talking about the “sunshine” vitamin got you in the mood for more sun and spending time outdoors, check out our summer bucket list of things you can do this summer.
And if you’d like to receive more health tips and stay tuned at Viva, sign up for our newsletter and join our mailing list. We’d love to have you!
- Vitamin D - Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved August 15, 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
- Calcium Regulation. Retrieved July 29, 2022. https://teachmephysiology.com/biochemistry/electrolytes/calcium-regulation/
- Vitamin D. Retrieved July 1st, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-d/art-20363792
- Naeem Z. (2010). Int J Health Sci. 4(1): V-VI.
- Sun Protection and Vitamin D. Retrieved on August 12, 2022. https://www.skincancer.org/blog/sun-protection-and-vitamin-d/