Vitamin D is one of the most critical supplements for our overall health, yet most of us don't take it. Vitamin D is needed to maintain healthy and strong bones. Without vitamin D calcium will not be able to be absorbed by your body. Besides helping the calcium to be absorbed, it also plays an essential part in other cellular functions, such as immune health, brain health, and even muscle function.
Some of the signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are:
- Bone pain
- Mood changes/depression
- Muscle weakness, aches, and muscle cramps
Vitamin D can naturally be found in many foods but is also added to milk and cereal. Another way to get vitamin D naturally is to step out into direct sunlight. Many factors play a role in how much vitamin D your body makes. For one the UVB rays from the sun have to directly penetrate through the skin and reach the cells so vitamin D can be synthesized. For your body to make vitamin D naturally you will need to expose your skin to direct sunlight and most of us are not comfortable doing that because of all the health risks associated with that.
Factors that inhibit the formation of Vitamin D:
Colour of the skin
The darker the skin harder it is for your body to make vitamin D melanin acts like a natural sunscreen and protects you from the rays, which means that the sun rays are not able to penetrate through the skin to reach the cells to manufacture vitamin D. Darker-skinned individuals will need to spend longer time in direct sunlight to help their body make vitamin D and will need to supplement with vitamin D.
Using sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect the skin from premature aging and skin cancer. While it is very true that it provides benefits for the skin and cancer prevention, doing so also blocks the UVB rays from entering the skin cells needed for vitamin D formation. So, if you are going to be spending time outdoors make sure to still try to get 15-20 minutes of direct sunlight before you cover up, and make sure to use natural sunscreens to prevent unnecessary chemical exposure.
Covering up when out in the sun
While it is important to cover up when out in the sun, however just like sunscreen it interferes with your ability to make vitamin D.
Where you live
If you call Canada home then most likely than not you will have a harder time obtaining
vitamin D naturally. In Canada, we simply do not get enough sun in the winter months to get appropriate amounts of vitamin D. During the winter months November to February, the UVB rays of the sun are too weak for them to provide the energy necessary to synthesize vitamin D, even if the weather were such that we could sunbathe, the sun rays are just too weak during this time of the year for it to be sufficient enough to provide the the energy needed to synthesize vitamin D.
Foods that naturally contain Vitamin D:
- Cod liver oil
- Egg yolks
- Beef liver
Supplementation - How much should you take
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which means that it needs healthy fats for it to be absorbed properly. The good thing is that vitamin D3 is available in a liquid form and liquid soft gels with organic olive oil and even organic coconut oil base. Another thing to look at when purchasing vitamin D3 is the amount of vitamin D per capsule or drop. In Canada, D3 is available anywhere from 400 IU (international units) to 2500 IU per capsule. Health Canada recommends anywhere from 600 IU and above depending on your needs. Most experts believe this dose is too low and needs to be re-examined. Health Canada very recently approved 2500 IU supplementation.
Typically during the winter months, higher limits of up to 5000 IU can be taken, especially if you have low levels of vitamin D or are at risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder. You can get a 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D blood test done to determine if you are at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. I aim for up to 3000-4000 IU during the winter months.
While there are many great brands available on the market, there are a few things to consider before making a purchase.
Type of fats used for absorbability
Vitamin D is available in form of liquids, tablets and soft gels. Liquids are best for absorbability, then soft gels and then tablets.
Here are a few of my favourites that I have used over the years.