(NaturalHealth365) Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin, because sunlight is the primary source of this vitamin. A growing body of evidence shows that vitamin D deficiency is linked to a host of chronic disease conditions including heart problems, diabetes, and even cancer. This unique biological compound is a nutrient as well as a hormone that plays a diverse role in our biological function.
Epidemiological studies reveal that vitamin D deficiency has become a global epidemic and poses a serious health challenge.
How does vitamin D keep us healthy and strong?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient that can usually be obtained from dietary sources and supplements. It is naturally produced by the body when the skin is exposed to the UV-B rays from the sun. Although vitamin D is well-known for its role in bone health and the prevention of rickets, it is also associated with a plethora of health benefits.
The active form of vitamin D (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3) is the prime mediator that participates in most of the biochemical reactions involving the endocrine (hormone) system. Check out just a few of the areas that vitamin D plays a prime role:
• Bone health
• Brain health
• Immune boosting effects
• Maintain hormonal balance
• Muscular health
• Mood-related health
• Organ health
How can I identify a vitamin D deficiency?
Most of the vitamin D signs and symptoms are camouflaged with our everyday complaints such as fatigue, depression and chronic pain. However the following are the tell-tale signs of a deficient state:
• Chronic fatigue
• Muscular pain / weakness
• Chronic bone pain
• Underlying risk of periodontal disease
• Frequent infection and poor immunity
More defined symptoms are classified as clinical symptoms that include osteoporosis, periodontal diseases, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and severe depression, bone loss in elderly, rickets among children, osteomalacia (soft bones) among adults, and low blood levels of the active form of vitamin D (25, hydroxy vitamin D)
How do I prevent vitamin D deficiency?
According to Michael F. Holick, Ph.D., M.D., the legendary vitamin D researcher, vitamin D that is produced naturally in our body lasts twice as long in the blood as vitamin D derived from the diet. Sensible sun exposure is thereby considered as the most effective, simple, cost-free method to prevent a deficiency state.
Other ways to prevent D-deficiency include dietary sources and supplementation.
Sensible sunlight exposure means to expose bare skin to sunlight for 15- 20 minutes at least three days in a week. Researchers recommend the use of sunscreen after this suggested time frame to avoid skin damage. However the time of sun exposure varies with the type of skin, geographical location and latitude of the region.
If you want to avoid the use of toxic sunscreens – simply cover up your body with light clothing; use coconut oil or any other natural sunscreen without the cancer-causing ingredients found in most commercial brands.
Dietary sources of vitamin D fortified foods can help to boost the body levels of this vitamin but only to a small percentage. In addition, a word of caution, many of these foods are “enriched” with vitamin D2 – which is actually an unnatural form of vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is the preferred form for the human body.
Dietary supplements can be very helpful in case of poor blood levels of vitamin D or if located in areas of poor sun exposure. Before starting vitamin D supplementation, it is important to consult your doctor to determine current blood-vitamin D levels. This helps to determine the right dosage that is required during supplementation.
New research continues to emerge on the health benefits of vitamin D – almost every day. Vitamin D deficiency is a health condition that can be eradicated through daily sun exposure. By the way, if you are keen on meeting your vitamin D levels through sun exposure there is an application for the same called ”d-minder” for smart phones. This acts as a guide to users to determine the best time to be outdoors as well as the duration of exposure to produce vitamin D.
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Davis CD, Dwyer JT 2007 The “sunshine vitamin”: benefits beyond bone? J Natl Cancer Inst 99:1563–1565
Michael F Holick, 2010, The Vitamin D solution – A 3-step strategy to cure our most common health problems. Published by Plume, A member of Penguin Publishers Inc.
Aranow C; Vitamin D and the immune system; J Investig Med. 2011 Aug;59(6):881-6.
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