What You Should Know About Vitamin D

Vitamin D is getting a lot of press recently as health experts are finding deficiencies in this important vitamin are being linked to a number of health conditions. 


One of the most important functions of Vitamin D is to stimulate the absorption of calcium in your body.  Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets and other bone-related diseases, such as osteomalacia and osteoporosis. More recently, health experts are finding that a deficiency of Vitamin D may be more far-reaching than calcium metabolism.  The new thinking is that Vitamin D also affects the immune system, promotes anti-tumor activity, and performs other immune functions.  Deficiencies may be related to cancer, depression, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, heart disease, hypertension, and various autoimmune diseases.


There are two forms of Vitamin D:  D2, or ergocalciferol; and D3, or cholecalciferol.  Either form of Vitamin D may be added to foods as a supplement.  Food sources of Vitamin D include cold water fish, butter, and egg yolks.


Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that excess amounts aren’t excreted in your urine.  This also means that Vitamin D has a high potential for toxicity if you take too much. Too much Vitamin D can increase blood calcium levels, causing the development of stones and deposits of calcium into internal organs. Recommended amounts are 200-400 i.u. per day, however, many health experts believe that you can safely supplement up to 1,000 i.u. per day.


Vitamin D deficiency is an issue with the use of sunscreens, blocking its synthesis in the skin.  Also at risk for deficiencies are the elderly, obese, exclusively breastfed infants, those with limited exposure to sunlight, and people with absorption problems (Crohn’s or Celiac disease).


In northern climates, the sun isn’t strong enough to produce Vitamin D during the winter, so supplementing can be a good option.  However, during the summer, it only takes 10-15 minutes of sun exposure to make adequate amounts of Vitamin D, so get some sun, make a little D, and then put on your sunscreen.


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