Did you know that one of the most common vitamin deficiencies of years ago is making a comeback?
It’s true – vitamin D deficiency is quickly becoming one of the most serious health threats for the Western world. Two culprits are largely responsible for this decline:
(1) The sun is the most potent source of vitamin D. Misinformation about the sun’s UV rays has led many of us to be scared of being in the sun altogether. Anytime we’re outside, we cover ourselves with clothing or lather up in 50+ SPF sunscreen — or both.
(2) We are spending unprecedented hours inside, working desk jobs or relaxing on the couch, while our children are playing video games, watching TV, or playing on the computer — all of which replace outdoor activities that give them access to vitamin D offered naturally by the sun.
All of this indoor time is literally making us sick!
The Many Benefits of Vitamin D
Two major forms of vitamin D that are important to humans are vitamin D2, made naturally by plants, and vitamin D3, made naturally by the body when skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight.
Vitamin D’s far-reaching benefits include:
Cold & Flu: Vitamin D helps fight infections of all kinds by regulating the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses. I believe it’s far more prudent, less expensive, and most importantly, more effective to optimize your vitamin D levels than to get vaccinated against the flu. A study done in Japan, for example, showed that schoolchildren taking 1,200 IUs of vitamin D per day during winter reduced their risk of getting influenza by about 40 percent.
Cancer: Vitamin D helps maintain cell growth and fight cancer cells as they develop in your body, specifically when a person is fighting prostate, breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancer. In studies of cancer cells and tumors in mice, vitamin D has been found to slow or prevent the development of cancer by promoting cellular differentiation, decreasing cancer cell growth, stimulating cell death, and reducing tumor blood vessel formation.
Cardiovascular disease: Vitamin D is important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack and stroke. In fact, if you have a heart attack and you’re vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying from that heart attack creeps up to nearly 100 percent!
Autoimmune diseases: Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Weight management: At this time, it is unclear if vitamin D deficiency causes obesity or if obesity leads to vitamin D deficiency. Either way, if you are having difficulty losing weight, you may want to consider getting your vitamin D level checked.
Bone and Muscle Health: Consuming more foods that are rich in vitamin D helps calcium absorption and keeps your bones strong. It may also help maintain healthy muscles throughout life. Older adults with adequate vitamin D levels are more likely to be active, have improved muscle strength, and are less prone to falls.
How much Vitamin D do you need for optimal health?
When it comes to vitamin D, you don’t want to be in the “average” or “normal” range — you want to be in the “optimal” range. As for how to optimize your vitamin D levels, we firmly believe that appropriate sun exposure is the best way. Milk is NOT your best source, in fact, milk does not naturally contain vitamin D (raw or otherwise). Some studies have shown that the synthetic vitamin D added to milk can actually contribute to calcium and vitamin D deficiencies in your body.
If your circumstances don’t allow you to access the sun, then you really only have one option if you want to raise your vitamin D levels, and that is to take a supplement. When choosing a vitamin D supplement, please remember:
- Vitamin D and vitamin K work together synergistically. For example, while vitamin D helps you absorb calcium, without the help of vitamin K, the calcium that vitamin D so effectively lets in might work against you by building up calcium your coronary arteries rather than your bones.
- Recommended daily amounts for vitamin D are typically listed in International Units (IUs). For most, between 2,000—10,000 IUs daily is ideal.