Understanding Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver and fatty tissues.
This means that increased body fat has the ability to absorb Vitamin D and keep it from being used within our body. Vitamin D is somewhat different from other vitamins because our body makes most of our Vitamin D on its own, rather than solely relying on food sources.
The way that our bodies make Vitamin D is to convert sunshine into chemicals that are used by the body. The cholesterol in our skin converts “pre-vitamin D” and makes it into usable vitamin D3 which is sometimes also called pro-vitamin D. Previtamin Ds first travels through the kidneys and liver in the bloodstream, and then is converted into a biologically active and usable substance called calcitriol.
Vitamin D actually becomes a hormone within our body, particularly a secosteroid hormone. What we know as Vitamin D is really a precursor to a steroid hormone. It impacts not only our skeletal structure, but also our blood pressure, immunity, mood, brain function, and ability to protect ourselves from cancer.
Many people assume that the best way to acquire Vitamin D is through drinking milk, eating fish, or even taking supplements like cod liver oil. However direct exposure to the sun is actually the best way to absorb Vitamin D.
In fact, the reason our skin darkens is partially due to Vitamin D. If you sit in the sun unexposed, without sunscreen for roughly 10 minutes, you are likely absorbing about 10,000 units of natural Vitamin D- however, keep in mind this amount differs from person to person depending on their skin tone.
How Our Bodies Get Vitamin D From the Sun
Melanin is a substance that affects how light or dark your skin colour is; the more melanin you have in your body, the darker your skin colour. The amount of melanin you have in your skin affects the amount of vitamin D you can produce; the fairer your skin, the more easily you can make Vitamin D. Melanin gets released when we are exposed to the ultraviolet rays of sunshine. The more sunshine we receive, the more melanin is released in our skin. It’s believed that up to 90 to 95% of most people’s Vitamin D comes from casual sunlight exposure.
The cholesterol in the skin converts melanin into usable Vitamin D to be distributed throughout the body. This is why for many people, a slight to moderate rise in cholesterol level can be experienced in the winter months when there is are less exposure to sunshine since it’s common to spend much more time indoors.
How Much Sun is Enough?
Most experts recommend getting about 10-15 minutes daily of direct sunlight without wearing sunscreen if you are fair to medium toned. If you have dark skin, you will likely need more time in the sun to make enough Vitamin D since your skin has more protection against the sun’s effects.
When your doctor performs a blood test and gives you the results for your Vitamin D levels, keep these numbers in mind:
50+ equals a good level of Vitamin D
30-50 means that you will want to be supplementing Vitamin D, working on spending more time in the sun and adding in Vitamin D rich foods to your diet
<30 means that you are very deficient and you will definitely want to take immediate action to bring those levels up!
Health Benefits include:
BONE HEALTH and OSTEOPOROSIS PREVENTION
Vitamin D plays a role in calcium absorption into the bones. Calcitriol (converted Vitamin D) works with the parathyroid hormone to maintain calcium levels. Additionally, Vitamin D has an effect on other important vitamins and minerals that contribute to both health including Vitamin K and phosphorus.
MANAGE BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS AND CAN PREVENT DIABETES
Diabetes results from a lack of insulin or inadequate insulin secretion following increases in insulin resistance. According to studies, since calcium is necessary for insulin secretion, Vitamin D may contribute to maintaining insulin secretion.
Vitamin D supplementation can increase insulin sensitivity and decrease inflammation, and studies support a role for vitamin D in the prevention and management of both types of diabetes (type 1 and type 2).
FIGHT HEART DISEASE
A growing number of research points to the fact that a Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased risks for cardiovascular disease since it is involved in regulating blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation.
Vitamin D helps with healthy cell replication and may play a role in protecting against the development of autoimmune conditions in addition to less serious common colds and the flu. Our immune cells contain receptors for Vitamin D, and it’s been shown that Vitamin D seems to prevent prolonged or excessive inflammatory responses. Inflammation is often at the root of many modern, chronic diseases and autoimmune disorders: multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders, high blood pressure, and more.
HORMONE REGULATION AND HELPS IMPROVE OUR MOOD
Because it acts like a hormone within our body and affects brain function, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk for mood disorders including depression, seasonal depression, severe mood problems experienced during PMS, insomnia, and anxiety.
Low levels of Vitamin D can also interfere with proper testosterone and estrogen production, leading to imbalances which can result in many unwanted symptoms.