It’s funny what a difference a single vitamin can make. In the last few years, vitamin D has been linked to fatigue, depression, immune system support and heart health more strongly than ever before. For anyone that is vitamin D deficient, vitamin D supplements may actually be the closest thing to a miracle cure on the market.
There are two forms of vitamin D. Vitamin D2, or ergocaliciferol, is found in plants. Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is what we synthesize when exposed sunlight. UVB rays convert a substance in our skin into D3. When talking about vitamin D deficiency, most of the new evidence to emerge is referring to D3.
Vitamin D has long been known to be an important element in calcium absorption. Calcium does a lot more than build bones– it’s a critical mineral used by the body to help your muscles move. Your body actually takes calcium from your bones to do this. Diseases like osteoporosis occur when our body is no longer able to replenish the calcium taken away. Calcium is also critical in nerve function and heart health. Without the vitamin D to help you absorb calcium, all of these crucial functions suffer.
If that was not important enough, vitamin D has recently been linked to the regulation of up to 2,000 genes in the human genome. It affects the life cycle of cells in your body, your immune system, blood pressure, and even your brain. Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency could even be linked to depression, cancer and the worsening of autoimmune & some neurological conditions.
If D is so important, why are so many of us lacking in it? One aspect is sun exposure. A minimum of fifteen minutes a day of direct, bright sunlight on mostly bare skin is needed to synthesize enough vitamin D. Not many of us are even outside that long these days, and when we are, quite a bit of skin is left covered. In places where the weather is frequently cloudy, there is not even enough sun to get on a daily basis. If you plan to get direct sun every day, an annual skin check is recommended, and for those with sun-damaged skin and red spots, visiting a dermatology clinic is a good precaution.
Vitamin D is present in a lot of fortified foods, such as dairy & cereal, and in some fish, but there just isn’t enough. Even traditional multivitamins may contain levels too low. Many experts from medical universities across the country believe that the traditional daily recommended amount of vitamin D, 200 IUs (international units), is likely just a tenth or even less of what we actually need.
It raises the question of why more doctors are not passing this information along to their patients. Many people who start taking supplements report dramatic improvements in mood, energy level and general well being. Unfortunately, there is a lot more money in treating disease than preventing it, and some doctors are still stuck in the old way of thinking when it comes to dosages.
Vitamin D supplements are an easy, inexpensive means of making sure you’re getting enough D3. Doses up to 6,000 IUs a day, especially to get low counts back up, have been known to cause huge improvements of well-being. It can take up to two weeks to notice full effects, but maybe a little yellow pill is just what you need to get the bounce back in your step.