Most of us know that vitamin D is something we get from the sun, but why is this nutrient so essential, especially to women, and why are most of us lacking it?
What you may not know is that vitamin D is fat-soluble and more similar to a hormone than a vitamin. In fact, every cell in our body needs a combination of two hormones -- vitamin D and thyroid. Vitamin D is produced by our kidneys and helps absorb calcium and phosphorus from our gut into our bloodstream, as well as develop strong bones. We produce the most vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, which is exactly why some refer to it as the sunshine vitamin. Only about 10% of vitamin D can be absorbed through nutrient-rich foods (like eggs, fish and mushrooms).1
Optimal vitamin D levels are significant for nearly every single one of our bodily functions. And although all nutrients play a crucial role in maintaining our health, vitamin D is especially important due to the fact that every system and function in our body needs it, including musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, renal, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems. Vitamin D is essential for nourishing our body, protecting our genes, preventing acute and chronic disease, and maintaining our overall health. Having sufficient levels of vitamin D prevents autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammatory conditions (like heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and MS), cancer, gut health, thyroid conditions, fertility (in men and women), pregnancy complications and developmental issues in children. It is also critical for new mothers during preconception, conception, pregnancy and postpartum.2
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, almost half of the population has insufficient levels of vitamin D, and an estimated 1 billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient, affecting all ages and ethnicities. 30% of those who are deficient will never show any symptoms, but lacking this nutrient for a long period of time can eventually lead to an array of health issues, as listed above.2
This epidemic can mainly be linked to lifestyle and environmental factors — reduced time outdoors and an increased use of high-SPF, which ultimately decreases our exposure to sunlight. In addition, skin color can have an effect, with darker tones more able to absorb UVB in the melanin of the skin compared to lighter tones. Or in other words, darker skin needs more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D.3
So, we’re sure you’re now wondering how much vitamin D we need per day and how we can get tested? Luckily, it’s quite easy! The best way to optimize our vitamin D consumption is to first, consult our doctors and have them run a blood panel. The best kind of test is a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, also known as the 25-OH D test, and levels between 45 to 65 ng/mL (sometimes even higher) are appropriate. Doctors recommend at least 600 IU [international units) of supplementation per day if deficient, which amounts to about 10-15 minutes of sun exposure on bare skin without sunscreen. As with everything, though, moderation is key. In rare cases, too much vitamin D supplementation can lead to toxicity4, and recent studies show that too high levels of vitamin D over a long period of time can increase the risk of certain types of cancer.5
So, with summer just around the corner, let’s enjoy those warming sunrays (with sunscreen!), but let’s also be sure to to check in with our doctors on individual vitamin D needs and levels.
"Sunlight is more powerful than any drug; it is safe, effective, and available free of charge. If it could be patented, it would be hyped as the greatest medical breakthrough in history. It’s that good." – Mike Adams, natural health researcher and author.