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Vitamin D: What You Need to Know

The Science of Vitamin D

Vitamin D promotes a healthy, balanced immune system and is important for cardiovascular health. And, it also helps maintain normal functioning of the nervous system. In addition, recent research has shown the following:

• Vitamin D may play a role in keeping our lungs healthy, with higher concentrations of vitamin D resulting in positive effects on lung function and health.
• Vitamin D may play a role in helping elderly people maintain lean muscle mass.
• Healthy vitamin D levels are a key part of minimizing age-associated bone loss.
• Vitamin D supports the development and maintenance of bones and teeth by helping in the absorption and use of calcium.

Calcium is the major structural element of bones and teeth. Your body needs several nutrients in order for calcium to be absorbed and used properly. Two of these nutrients are vitamin D and vitamin K. Vitamin D increases absorption of calcium from the small intestine so the body receives maximum benefit, while vitamin K helps make sure calcium builds up in the bones and not in soft tissues. Adequate calcium and vitamin D throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Natural Sources of Vitamin D

Food

There is a very small amount of vitamin D in a few foods, which makes it almost impossible to get the levels you need from food alone. However, some foods that include vitamin D are fatty fish, egg yolks, orange juice, and some cereals.

Sun exposure

Every time we expose our bare skin to direct sunlight, we use ultraviolet B (UVB) rays to produce vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Sunlight can be a tricky thing, though, because too much can be a bad thing. You need to monitor how much sun exposure is needed for healthy vitamin D levels. The amount of vitamin D you actually absorb from sunlight differs depending on the time of day and year, where you live, and the color of your skin. The more skin you expose to the sun, the more vitamin D is produced. So those winter rays don’t necessarily produce the same amount of vitamin D that summer rays do.

The Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D status is a factor in the maintenance of good health. However, reports continue to show that populations around the world are suffering from vitamin D deficiency. In North America, only one-third are getting adequate amounts of vitamin D daily. The problem is widespread and increasing, with potentially severe repercussions for overall health. Many cells in your body have vitamin D receptors and need vitamin D to function properly, including those in your skin and brain. 

Vitamin D Deficiency

Deficiencies of vitamin D are very common and is most directly related to poor bone health, including rickets and osteomalacia. However, vitamin D deficiency is also associated with an increased risk of other disorders, including certain cancers, type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle weakness and pain, depression, hypertension, and pregnancy complications. While many of these associations are actively being researched to determine the extent of their connection with vitamin D deficiency, we currently know that vitamin D unquestionably exerts a significant influence on many body systems.

Signs and Risk Factors of Vitamin D Deficiency

Feeling Down and Out

Turns out, when you run low on vitamin D, it takes a pretty serious toll on your mood. This is because our brains produce serotonin—a hormone that affects our moods—at a higher rate when we’re exposed to sunshine or bright light. And as I mentioned, more exposure to sunlight means more vitamin D.

Skin Color

Those with darker skin are at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency because skin pigment has a direct correlation with how much vitamin D is absorbed. Some research suggests that those with darker skin may need up to 10 times more sun exposure than those with lighter skin to produce a comparable amount of vitamin D.

Age

Besides the fact that older people usually spend more time indoors, aging correlates to vitamin D deficiency in a couple of ways. First, the skin loses its ability to absorb as much vitamin D as we get older. And second, our kidneys slowly become less effective at converting vitamin D into the form used by our bodies.

Sweat

Excessive sweating (specifically, on your forehead) is a very common symptom of those facing vitamin D deficiency. So if you’re constantly wiping the sweat off your brow (outside of the gym), you might want to look into getting a blood test done to check your levels.

Achy Bones

Many people who are unknowingly deficient in vitamin D will complain of bones and joints that are achy or painful. This is because vitamin D is very important for maintaining strong bones. Calcium and phosphorus are essential for developing a healthy structure and strength of your bones, and you need vitamin D to absorb these minerals.

Excessive Weight

Vitamin D is fat-soluble—meaning that the fat in our bodies is how we collect and store it. So if you’re overweight, the excessive amount of fat in your body needs a comparable amount of vitamin D to absorb. So you’ll need a lot more vitamin D than someone with a lower percentage of body fat.

Gut Problems

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. So certain gut conditions that cause a lower absorption of fat can also lower your absorption of vitamin D.

Talk to your doctor about healthy vitamin D levels, and ask for a test to find out if you are deficient. Adults should be striving for 3,000IU-5,000IU per day. Even when the winter months are behind us, it doesn’t mean your body needs less of a good thing.

Vitamin D is available at Reebok CrossFit FirePower in the pro-shop.

Article Source: http://askthescientists.com/vitamin-d/

Andrea Savard

As owner of Reebok CrossFit FirePower, Andrea has been in athletics for over 25 years in high performance teams and coaching. With a background in corporate marketing from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, she has built RCFP to a world-class training facility with her husband George. Together they are raising twin kids and twin dogs in Milton, Ontario.

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