Spring is here! Starting today, days are getting longer, and we can spend more time in the sun. One of the benefits is that our body, cool factory that it is, can manufacture a very important vitamin just from our skin getting exposed to sunshine - vitamin D. Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for our bodies but still many of us have no idea what it does or that were deficient in it. Throughout this blog we’ll try to unmask the mystery that is vitamin D!
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it can travel into your blood circulation and be stored in your body’s tissues. It is the only vitamin that can be produced in the body on its own, making it more of a hormone than a vitamin. It does so when your skin has direct sun exposure, and it can also be found in some food sources as well as vitamin D supplementation. Once your body takes in vitamin D, chemical processes in your liver allow it to be absorbed into your blood. Your blood then directs it through your tissues and in your kidney where it turns into activated vitamin D, also known as calcitriol. In this activated form, it now supports the calcium supply and absorption by your blood, bones and gut, and helps the cells in your body grow and function properly.
Why is it Good For You?
Vitamin D plays a substantial role in the regulation of calcium and maintenance of phosphorus levels in the blood, two factors that are extremely important for maintaining healthy bones. We need vitamin D to absorb calcium in the intestines and to reclaim calcium that would otherwise be excreted through the kidneys.
Reduced risk of flu
Vitamin D is extremely important for regulating cell growth and for cell-to-cell communication. Some studies have suggested that calcitriol (the hormonally active form of vitamin D) can reduce cancer progression by slowing the growth and development of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue, increasing cancer cell death, and reducing cell proliferation and metastases. Vitamin D influences more than 200 human genes, which could be impaired when we do not have enough vitamin D.
Better Mental Health
Vitamin D receptors in the brain prove that this particular vitamin affects your mental health. It’s believed to influence proteins in your brain that play a role in everything from your mood to social behavior. While studies are still being done to pinpoint exactly how vitamin D affects specific mental health issues, there are a few that are already documented like anxiety and depression.
How to Know if you are ‘D’eficient
Because of the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and the role it plays in your body, it’s important to know the signs. If you think you might be missing out on vitamin D, connect with your doctor about getting tested for the next steps. Here are 4 signs that your body might have a vitamin D deficiency.
Weak Bones or Muscles
SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a mood disorder characterized by depression that usually occurs during the winter months. It is related to the decrease in sunlight your body is getting. This can cause a drop in serotonin, our body’s chemical contributor to well-being and happiness, which studies have found rise with exposure to bright light and fall with reduced exposure to light. However, the drop in mood doesn’t only relate to the drop in serotonin, but can also be due to the vitamin D your body is missing during winter months.
Poor Skin Health
Vitamin D plays an important role in protecting skin cell health, reducing wrinkles, improving skin softness and maintaining a smooth, glowing complexion.
A vitamin D deficiency can play a role in autoimmune diseases (when the immune system attacks its own organs and tissues) such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Type 1 Diabetes, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Researchers have found MS rates to be higher far north or far south of the equator where exposure to sunlight is more limited. One Finnish study found that children who regularly took vitamin D supplements during infancy had a 90% lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes than those who did not. Vitamin D can also play a role in your body’s response to infectious diseases like the flu, common cold, or tuberculosis. Calcitriol is known to boost the immune cell production of microbe-fighting proteins, and researchers found that adults with low D levels were more likely to report having a recent cold, cough, or upper respiratory infection.
Do your body a HUGE favor and get outside to soak up some sun! Your body will thank you later! If you can’t get outside be sure to get yourself some vitamin D supplements.