Who needs it? Why do we need it? And, how do we get it?
As the days get shorter and we are spending less time in the sun we have to rely on foods and supplements for adequate Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin, although it is actually a hormone by definition) has many important functions in the body – in fact, it is necessary for the health of every cell in your body!
Vitamin D is a powerful contributor to a healthy immune system. It stimulates the body to manufacture a natural antimicrobial peptide (cathelicidin) which can attack pathogens, including viruses. The higher the concentration of cathelicidin, the more powerful the antiviral effects. Having optimal vitamin D levels can improve your mood, help regulate insulin and reduce pain in people who suffer from chronic pain conditions. It also can support heart and lung function.
But people just don’t get enough! In fact, according to Dr. Northrup, the average vitamin D level of women in the US is 29 ng/ml – below the optimal range of 40 to 60 ng/ml.
Know your numbers! Ask your doctor for a simple blood test to find out your level (ask for the actual number) and then, if too low, adjust lifestyle, diet and supplementation to bring it up to optimal levels.
Vitamin D deficiency is common and is very hard to detect as the symptoms are subtle and are often attributed to other conditions like obesity, chronic fatigue, many cancers, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis – just to name a few!
So, what can you do? It is recommended to get 10 to 20 minutes of daily skin exposure to sunshine (not during peak times in the summer) without sunscreen per day and eat foods rich in vitamin D including cod liver oil, halibut oil, egg yolks, liver and cold-water fish. But if it is winter and you just can’t get adequate sunshine, supplementation may be recommended. I always add vitamin D3K2 to the family supplement list when October rolls around. It is really important to help keep that immune system functioning at its best!
It is also worth noting that as we age, capacity of skin to produce Vit D decreases by 25-50%.
When looking for a supplement, make sure you are buying Vitamin D as D3 (cholecalciferol), not as D2, its synthetic form. If you are taking high doses, try to find a supplement with K2 included in it as it helps to escort Vit D to where it is needed and prevents inappropriate buildup of calcium.