Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that helps your body to absorb calcium wherein it plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of strong bones and teeth. In addition, vitamin D is also involved in:
- Optimal function of your immune system
- Nerve and muscle function
- Reduces inflammation
- Promotes cell growth
- Maintains glucose metabolism
The best source of vitamin D is the sun. However, the amount of direct sun exposure that we get is often underestimated as a variety of factors impact sun exposure. If you’re wondering whether you get enough sun exposure, then it is recommended to consider the following factors:
- How much skin is exposed? The more skin you expose to direct sunlight (i.e., wearing a short-sleeved shirt vs. a long-sleeved shirt) will impact how much vitamin D your body can form.
- Where do you live? If you live in an area that is significantly colder and overcast, then this will significantly impact your sun exposure. However, what many people don’t keep in mind is very warm climates. If you live in a very warm area, where it is often too hot to be outside, then this can also negatively impact your sun exposure.
- What season is it? Winter UVB rays are much weaker than summer UVB rays. Often the winter sun does not allow for strong enough UVB rays to penetrate your skin and allow for vitamin D formation.
- Sunscreen usage? Using sunscreen does affect UVB ray absorption, however, very few people apply sunscreen regularly enough for this actually to be a problem.
- What is your skin colour? The darker your skin the more melanin you have in your skin. Melanin uses UVB therefore, the more melanin in your skin the more UVB is used by it and the fewer UVB rays are available for vitamin D production.
Vitamin D can also be found in a variety of foods:
Food sources for Vitamin D are Herring, Cod Liver Oil, Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines, Tuna, Egg yolk, Beef Liver and Swiss Cheese. Meanwhile, the common Vitamin D-fortified foods are soymilk, orange juice, breakfast cereals, yogurt and margarine.
Deficiency, Excess Intake and Supplementation
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be stored in the body. This means that you do not need to consume or obtain vitamin D from the sun daily, as your body stores can provide you with vitamin D if need be. Typically, supplementation is not recommended with fat-soluble vitamins, however, vitamin D is often an exception for two reasons. Firstly, many people do not get enough direct sun exposure to allow their bodies to make enough vitamin D to fill up their body stores and secondly not many foods are high in vitamin D. If you find that you fit both of these descriptions, i.e. you do not get enough sun exposure and do not eat foods high in vitamin D regularly, then you may require a vitamin D supplement (seek advice from your doctor as well).
If you do choose a supplement then it is important to remember that your body does store vitamin D. This means that while a supplement may be required, you do not need a very strong one. Taking too much vitamin D over a period of time can be harmful, leading to vitamin D toxicity. Vitamin D toxicity can result in various side effects:
- Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption in the gut, therefore, if there is too much vitamin D, then too much calcium will be absorbed leading to hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the body). Hypercalcemia may result in side effects such as nausea, vomiting, muscle fatigue, pain, loss of appetite, increased urination, increased thirst, dehydration, kidney stones and neurological disturbances.
- Extreme vitamin D toxicity can cause calcification of your soft tissues (due to the excessive calcium absorption), kidney failure, heart attacks and can even result in death.
To find out if you have a higher vitamin D requirement according to your genetic make-up, take your EatwellgxTM+ test today!