Vitamin D: Why You Need It And How To Get More Of It

Anthia Koullouros

Naturopath and Holistic Health Expert

Vitamin D, the golden, sunshine nutrient, is a fat-soluble vitamin found naturally in some fatty foods. We also make it from sunlight.

Why is Vitamin D Important?

vitamin-dimage via pinterest

Bone and Muscle Health

Vitamin D helps facilitate calcium absorption from the digestive tract and maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream. This supports proper mineralisation of bones and healthy muscle function. It helps prevent osteoporosis, keeping your bones strong.

Mental Health

According to John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council has studied the link between autism and lower levels of sunlight. There is increased prevalence of autism in regions of greater cloud cover and rainfall. According to many studies, more children with autism are born during the spring. This corresponds to brain damage around the sixth month of pregnancy. Vitamin D also helps cognitive function and depression. Vitamin D may protect the brain in the following ways: Reduce the risk of diseases that affect the brain (cardiovascular disease and hypertension), provide antioxidative mechanisms, regulate calcium levels, regulate the immune system, enhance nerve conduction (signals) and helps rid body of toxins.

Immunity

People who have low vitamin D levels may have a higher chance of developing influenza. There are vitamin D receptors found on cells in the immune system. Vitamin D works in the immune system by reducing levels of inflammatory proteins called cytokines, as well as increasing amounts of antimicrobial proteins, which destroy invading germs and viruses. This combination of lowering inflammation and increasing antimicrobial defences can help your immune system fight infections better.

Skin Health

When you have eczema, your immune system and skin barrier doesn’t work as well. Some studies have found that people with eczema are more likely to have lower levels of vitamin D. Skin health and immunity are linked. By bolstering immunity with Vitamin D we can reduce inflammation as well as fight infections. Vitamin D is therefore is also indicated for acne.

Prevent Chronic Illness

Vitamin D, has also been shown to help prevent chronic illness such as Cancer, Auto immune disorders, Hormonal imbalance, Inflammatory bowel disease, Heart disease and Diabetes.

Vitamin D and Food

Vitamin D is rich in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, fish liver oils such as cod liver oil, lard (pork fat) and pastured, open range eggs (not grain fed caged eggs). By far the richest source is cod liver oil, followed by lard. I recommend choosing a traditionally prepared cod liver oil that is cold fermented, and lard that is sourced from pastured pork for a richer source of vitamin D as well as omega 3 essential fats. Choose the best sustainable fish using this guide.

Vitamin D and Sunlight

When ultraviolet B rays from sunlight hits the skin it triggers vitamin D synthesis. The UVB rays convert a substance in the skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D3. 7-dehydrocholesterol is a very close precursor to cholesterol. Researchers know that vitamin D synthesis declines with age and so does the concentration of 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin. Without 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin, sunlight has nothing to turn into vitamin D. It follows then, that the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins, or HMG CoA reductase-inhibitors, which inhibit the synthesis of 7-dehydrocholesterol, also inhibit the synthesis of vitamin D. Taking vitamin D as a supplement with your cholesterol lowering medication is recommended.

Modern lifestyles that often involve long hours, working indoors, shift work as well as winter months reduce our exposure to sunlight and therefore the amount of Vitamin D we make. We have also been told to avoid exposure to sun as this increases our risk to skin cancer. But did you know that the sun emits two types of wavelengths at different periods in a day: UVA rays as well as UVB rays? Your body requires UVB for vitamin D production. UVA rays, on the other hand, have longer wavelengths and can penetrate the ozone layer, as well as clouds and pollution. Frequent exposure to this type of wavelength increases your risk of skin cancer and photoaging. UVB rays are very low in the morning and evening, and are abundant during midday – around 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Expose yourself to direct sunlight between these times for a short period, and you will have produced the most vitamin D3. 10 -15 minutes if you are fair skinned and up to 30 minutes if you have olive to dark skin is all you need.

It may take up to 48 hours before the vitamin D3 penetrates into your bloodstream so when you shower immediately after sun exposure, you risk washing away the vitamin D3 formed by your skin. I recommend washing your skin with chemical free, natural vegetable oil soap or body wash in order to not strip the skin sebum.

Vitamin D and Your Liver and Kidney

After vitamin D is obtained from the diet or absorbed from the skin it must undergo two reactions in the body for activation. The first occurs in the liver and converts vitamin D to 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], also known as calcidiol. The second occurs primarily in the kidney and forms the physiologically active 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D], also known as calcitriol. A healthy liver and kidney is necessary to complete this reaction. High alcohol consumption and a toxic lifestyle will cause these fundamental organs to not function as well. A seasonal detox or cleanse will help reset your health by cleansing these organs and encourage the intake of healthy vitamin D rich foods as well as exposure to healthy sunlight.

References:

http://www.mercola.com/article/vitamin-d-resources.htm
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
http://ostelin.com.au/awarenessday/
http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/
http://www.sustainableseafood.org.au/

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