Understanding Vitamin D Basics

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Vitamins and minerals are critical nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy and survive.

There are 13 essential vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, with eight vitamins B complex. Essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, iron, and zinc are also vital. However, only small amounts of these nutrients are needed in your body.

If you eat a well-balanced and healthy diet, you will receive many of the nutrients you need to function well and stay fit. Each vitamin has a different job to keep your body working correctly. One of these essential nutrients is Vitamin D. However, what makes Vitamin D unique is that your body produces it when exposed to sunlight. Many people know vitamin D comes from sun exposure, but do you know what it does?

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which is also known as “calciferol.” Your body synthesizes vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, food, and vitamin supplements.  D2 and D3 are the usable forms of vitamin D. Vitamin D2, also known as “ergocalciferol,” is synthetic and added to vitamin supplement food.

On the other hand, vitamin D3, also known as “cholecalciferol,” is produced in your skin through exposure to sunlight or eating animal-based food. Both vitamins can be synthesized commercially in vitamin supplements and food fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3 are considered biologically inactive until they undergo two enzymatic hydroxylation reactions in the liver and kidney.

What Does it Do?

Vitamin D helps regulate phosphate and calcium in your body. These nutrients keep the teeth, bones, and muscles healthy. In addition, vitamin D is essential in the absorption of calcium. Therefore, your body can only absorb calcium if vitamin D is present. In other words, vitamin D and calcium go hand in hand in keeping your bones healthy.

Vitamin D also supports the immune system with its neuroprotective properties. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties support brain activity and muscle functions. Long-term use of vitamin D supplements may help prevent multiple sclerosis. A healthy diet that is rich in vitamin D and calcium can reduce bone mineral loss, help fend off the onset of osteoporosis, and minimize bone fractures.

How to Consume Vitamin D

Sunlight is the main form of vitamin D absorption. The body creates vitamin D when the skin has direct contact with sunlight when you’re outdoors. However, it’s vital to make sure your skin is protected if you’re out in the sun for an extended period to reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer. So cover up and protect your skin with sunscreen, especially around midday when the sun reaches its peak.

You usually get enough vitamin D during the summer season and less during the winter months. So during this period, it’s essential to eat food rich in vitamin D. Great food sources of vitamin D are oily fish like sardines, herring, salmon, and mackerel. Vitamin D can also be found in egg yolks, liver, and other food fortified with vitamin D.

You can also take vitamin D dietary supplements such as vitamin D gummy. These are easy to take with you while traveling or on your way out the door. You should follow your doctor’s advice on the right amount of vitamin D supplements to take.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is essential for your body. When a vitamin D deficiency is not addressed, it can negatively impact your health. Low vitamin D levels in the blood can lead to tiredness and excessive fatigue and increase the risk of infection and sickness. Lower levels of vitamin D can cause rickets, which affects the development of children’s bones. Rickets can cause pain and weak bones that can lead to deformities in children. 

You should always consult your doctor if you suspect you are not getting enough vitamin D. Check out a simple Home Vitamin D Test that can also do the trick. Results will show whether a person’s vitamin D levels are adequate or not. A medical professional can conduct a blood test to determine vitamin D levels, prescribe supplements, and suggest a diet rich in vitamin D. On average, an adult needs at least 600 IU or 15 micrograms of vitamin D a day for people up to 70 yrs old and 700 IU for people over 70. The maximum allowable daily intake of vitamin D is 2000 to 5400 IU.

Forms in foods and good food sources

Two compounds have the biological activity of vitamin D, cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), which is the compound formed in the skin, and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2), which is synthesised by ultraviolet irradiation of ergosterol.

The (obsolete) international unit of vitamin D activity is equivalent to 25 ng (65 pmol) cholecalciferol. 1 (xg cholecalciferol is equivalent to 40 iu; 1 nmol is 104 iu. Cholecalciferol and ergocalciferol are not equipotent, because there is faster metabolic clearance of ergocalciferol and hence less formation of active metabolites. The active metabolites, calcitriol and ercalcitriol, are equipotent.

There are few dietary sources of cholecalciferol; the richest sources are oily fish, and especially fish liver oils, although eggs also contain a relatively large amount, and there is a modest amount in full fat milk products and liver. In many countries margarine, and sometimes also milk, is fortified with ergocalciferol. No common plant foods contain vitamin D.

Spend Time Outside

Real sunlight is still the best source of vitamin D, so take a few minutes a day to go outdoors and have a good dose of the sun’s rays. Summer is a great time to go outdoors to enjoy the warm sunshine. During winter, you can take vitamin D supplements as well as eat food rich in vitamin D to reach your vitamin goals.

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