This time of year most of us are starting to notice the lack of sunlight, but we may not be connecting it to other changes in our lives. Are you feeling fatigued? Does your body and muscles ache? Do you have trouble losing weight or are you experiencing weight gain? If you answered yes to any of these then you may be vitamin D deficient. In fact, researchers at the University of Colorado found that nearly three of every four Americans have either deficiencies or borderline deficiencies of the vitamin.
Though called “vitamin D,” it is not really a vitamin, but a hormone, and inadequate vitamin D levels can increase your risk of dozens of serious health problems, including cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, asthma, Alzheimer’s disease, and even the common cold and influenza. And apparently, nearly all of us are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Why We Are D Deficient
The main reason most of us lack adequate vitamin D is that we aren’t soaking up enough sun. When the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays strike the skin, they stimulate our bodies’ production of vitamin D. These days though, with all the warnings about sun exposure and cancer risks, many of us don sunscreen whenever we go outside, inhibiting vitamin D production. And, we don’t go outside nearly as much as we used to.
Top Benefits of Vitamin D
- Cold and Flu. It’s no coincidence most colds and flues occur during the winter. In a study in Japan those taking 1,200 IUD of D3 were 42% less likely to contract the flu.
- Bone Health. Vitamin D has long been recognized as essential for bone health. Numerous studies have shown that it is low vitamin D not vitamin C that is associated with high rates of fractures. It is also essential for normal muscle production and strength.
- Allergies. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a greater risk of allergies, such as to pollens.
- Back Pain. Many studies have shown that in patients with chronic lower-back pain, vitamin D supplements led to either a partial or complete elimination of pain.
- Heart Disease. Low vitamin D levels are associated with up to a 50 percent higher risk of heart attack.
- Mental Health. Low wintertime vitamin D levels may be a factor in seasonal affective disorder (that is, seasonal depression).
- Multiple Sclerosis. The risk of multiple sclerosis increases progressively in populations living at latitudes farther from the equator. A growing body of research suggests that adequate vitamin D might slow its progression, at least in the early stages of MS.
- Type 2 Diabetes. Considerable research indicates that vitamin D, often in combination with calcium, helps regulate blood sugar and may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
How to Boost Your Vitamin D
- Supplements: A daily multivitamin has about 400 units of vitamin D3 (be sure its D3!), but general medical recommendations say you still need to take a straight vitamin D3 supplement on top of the multivitamin to reach normal levels. Your average (100- to 200-pound) person is going to require probably between 2,000 and 4,000 units of vitamin D a day.
- Sun exposure: We simply aren’t spending as much time outdoors as we need to or we are covered in sun block when we are outdoors. Try to get ~ 15 minutes of sun exposure daily. Eating lunch outdoors when possible or going for walk during a break to get sun exposure will help you achieve normal vitamin D levels.
- Eat vitamin D-rich foods: Leafy greens, salt water fish, shitake mushrooms, sundried peppers, and tomatoes are excellent sources of vitamin D.
I don’t take many supplements and they are not my first choice in making recommendations to my clients. In most cases I believe we can get what we need to sustain vibrant health by eating a healthy diet, exercising, getting proper rest and spending some time outside daily. But a vitamin D3 supplement is one of the few supplements I do take.
Wishing you Vibrant Living,
Experience Life Magazine, The Vitamin D Debate. http://www.experiencelife.com/issues/december-2011/healthy-eating/the-vitamin-d-debate.php By Jack Challem / December 2011