Vitamin D is an essential part of any nutritious diet. Essential to building a strong immune system that fortifies your body against diseases and infections. It is also critical to one’s overall well-being. Vitamin D is so important to the human body that the body usually produces it on its own. This however is dependent on contact and exposure to sunlight.
In addition to ensuring a better overall health and well-being, vitamin D is required for the regulation of calcium in the body. It plays a critical role in maintaining a bone structure that prevents the onset of diseases like osteomalacia and numerous other degenerative bone diseases that usually begin later on in life. In children, vitamin D deficiency usually manifests itself in what’s known as rickets – or softer bones.
What’s on this page?
Are you getting enough sunlight?
The general debate around whether vitamin D deficiency is a serious problem usually revolves around the absence of sunlight exposure. People living in northern climates like Alaska and parts of Canada and Russia, for example, are known to suffer from a deficiency in vitamin D. This is mainly due to the absence of sunlight for large chunks of the year.
Research has shown that low levels of vitamin D can be associated with the following risks, among others:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Increased risk of cancer
- autoimmune diseases
- cognitive impairment in older adults
- asthma in children – can be severe
Ensuring that you get enough natural sunlight is most ideal as opposed to resorting to the use of supplements of different kinds. If you’re one of those who is in the office for a long period of time and unfortunately can’t get the daily intake of sunlight necessary to maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D in your body, consider setting aside some time on weekends or early mornings – if the weather permits – to do so (if you live in an ideal climate). Just six days of casual sunlight exposure without sunscreen can make up for 49 days of no sunlight exposure.1
Am I at risk of vitamin D deficiency?
Risk of vitamin D deficiency is actually more common than one may think. There are numerous factors which come into play as it concerns how one’s body gets vitamin D and processes it to ensure the overall proper functioning of one’s organisms.
Deficiency in older people
Given the age and lack of physical activity, older people are less likely, generally, to spend time in the outdoors and therefore don’t receive the sufficient amount of sunlight necessary. Couple this with the fact that as one ages the “receptors” in the human skin that processes sunlight into vitamin D become fewer. The ageing process is an unfortunate reality in human life. This becomes even more evident in the case of vitamin deficiency, where the older one is the greater difficulty there is in processing vitamin D, even if it is available in one’s diet. Getting vitamins through the most natural forms ie. diet, and sunlight (in the case of vitamin D) is most ideal, however, in cases of older patients, doctors see it is appropriate and in some cases mandatory to recommend a strong dietary supplement.
Furthermore, as one gets older kidney functions sometimes malfunction and make it even more difficult for the body to gain the necessary vitamin D. Although some research indicates that diet can be a poor source of vitamin D, with foods like wild oily fish, egg yolk, cod liver oil, being the main sources of vitamin d dietary wise, a limited number estimations of most experts.2 In addition, in places like the UK, vitamin D isn’t recommended for daily intake for those between 19-64, which leaves the majority of the population dependent upon sun intake – which in all practicality is a difficult given British climate.
Getting sufficient sun, for the most part, is out of your control. It’s largely dependent on where you live and the climate of that particular area, region or country. In parts of Canada vitamin D deficiency is a widespread problem, however, statistics do show that overall Canadians do have sufficient levels of vitamin D. Data collected by the Canadian Health Measures Survey indicates that 68% of Canadians have sufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood. Although 68% is a relatively acceptable estimate considering the overall climate in Canada, it does leave some one-third of the Canadian population susceptible to compromising bone health.3
Another element important to consider is skin pigmentation. Research has concluded that melanin in the skin evolved as an essential natural sunscreen. The darker the skin pigmentation or menilin, the more difficult it is for the body to produce vitamin D from the sun.
Supplements and diet
Ensuring that you have a holistic diet should first and foremost be your most important priority. Optimum vitamin D intake is important but so are the other vitamins. All of them play a collective role in ensuring that your body fights off disease and keeps you strong and healthy.
It’s never a bad idea to take supplements just in case your diet may be deficient in any particular food group or category. For example, vegans are sometimes lacking in many of the nutrients found in animal products like fish, cheese, eggs, milk and meats. As noted above much of the dietary sources of vitamin D come from eggs, fatty fish, tuna, in addition to other meats like beef liver and dairy products.
Dietary supplements for vitamin D aren’t difficult to get your hands on. You can pick them up at almost any pharmacy or even purchase them online. In the case that you may be making drastic changes to your diet or considering taking supplements, check with your doctor. In the case of taking supplements, it’s possible that your pharmacist will be able to answer the necessary questions with ease.