Most individuals have heard of vitamin D, even if they are not involved in the health and wellness sphere. Vitamin D is used to advertise a slew of commercial food products, like milk, cereals, various juices, and certain sports drinks. However, I believe that there are healthier alternatives to meet your vitamin D intake without pumping your body full of the sugars and chemicals found in many grocery store drinks and snacks. First of all, there are two primary types of vitamin D, one that is synthesized by plants, and one that is created by the human skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Needless to say, vitamin D3, which is created by the body, is what we need to stay healthy as humans. Vitamin D is critical because it permits calcium to be absorbed through the small intestine. Without calcium, bones will become compromised and weak. Lack of vitamin D in children can cause developmental issues in bones like rickets. There are similar issues with vitamin D deficiencies encountered in adults as well, like osteoporosis, typically found in older women. Vitamin D deficiencies can also lead to weakness, fatigue, and depression. Therefore, vitamin D is essential; without it, the body cannot function properly.
It is also critical to note that people with different skin tones have different abilities to synthesize vitamin D in their bodies. People with higher levels of melanin in their skin, meaning people with darker skin tones, have a decreased ability to produce vitamin D within the body. Melanin is the pigment that is responsible for the tanning of skin when exposed to sunlight, and responsible for darker skin tones when it is present in higher concentrations. This is why a person with darker skin who moves to a place with significantly less sunlight (more northern regions) may experience vitamin D deficiencies.
If your body is not getting enough vitamin D3, there are a few ways that you can naturally supplement your intake through your diet. For example, it can be found in fish (like salmon, tuna, small oily fish like sardines), fish oil, eggs, and red meat. It is also easier to get vitamin D from the sun than one might think; approximately six days of sun exposure can make up for 49 days of no sun exposure. Just remember that if you are wearing sunscreen (which is important in its own right!) you will be preventing your skin from producing vitamin D by reducing its exposure to UV rays.
Vitamin D can also be important for various other reasons than bone health. For example, I was told to take supplements when I moved from sunny California to Providence, Rhode Island in the cloudy northeast. I read up on research that suggests that vitamin D might be responsible for improved mood, so when I was lacking sun exposure in the winter, I decided to take vitamin D supplements. In addition, vitamin D is thought to help fight various other ailments and disorders. However, there are also other reasons for vitamin D deficiencies – older people are more likely to develop these deficiencies than younger people, for example. My Dad, who is an avid fitness enthusiast, who does not eat sugar, and maintains a more healthy diet than most, recently developed a vitamin D deficiency at 61 years old without any other issues with his health. His doctor simply prescribed him a high dose prescription supplement of Vitamin D to take once weekly. So, if you are concerned that you are not getting enough of this essential Vitamin, consider speaking to your doctor about what is right for you.
While you might not need a prescription for higher doses of Vitamin D, there are multiple other supplements that you can turn to if you are looking for a smaller, more regular dose. For example, there are a wide range of health and wellness websites that offer vitamin D supplements, as it is one of the most common, most essential supplements to consider. These often come in small capsule form and are measured in IUs. If you aren’t confident swallowing pills, or just need a sugar fix to motivate your supplement intake, there are certain vitamin supplements that use sugar and other artificial additives that might make the supplement process (Source Naturals) more enjoyable.
Be wary of overdoing it on the vitamin D supplements, however. A recent Harvard study found that there has been a significant increase in the number of people using more than the suggested amounts of vitamin D supplements, which, in extreme cases, can be toxic, causing a dangerous buildup of calcium in the blood. The article also suggests relying on diet for vitamin D intake rather than supplements whenever possible.