How many of you have not checked your Vitamin D levels in a while? If you have imagined to raise your hand for this question (:-P), then please get it checked TODAY! Because, this magical vitamin, which is actually now considered a true hormone in our bodies, is too important to ignore!
The vitamin which has been popular for building strong bones, as it helps to absorb calcium from your diet, is today known to contribute more to other functionalities in your body. For example, just a few of them include:
- Muscles need this vitamin to move properly! (After being metabolized, Vitamin D enters muscle and ensures proper muscle contraction. It is also vital for building muscle strength)
- Nerves need this to carry messages between brain and the body!
- Immune system needs it to fight invaded bacteria and viruses!
- Your body needs this to activate genes that regulate the neurotransmitters!
- It is known to control (over 1000) gene expressions inside the body!
- You need this to not have insomnia and have a good sleep!
It is clear now, that Vitamin D is not only a bone building vitamin, it is involved in many more functionalities. It is interesting how later studies showed that every cell in the body has Vitamin D receptors!
It has also been researched that, brain cells are sensitive to Vitamin D levels. This is the reason it is known to have effects on cognitive functionality. Older adults with less Vitamin D levels have declined cognitive function. All this implies very clearly that, Vitamin D has an effect on the brain function and development. That is the reason low Vitamin D has been linked to depression. This might be the reason why Vitamin D supplementation were shown to reduce the symptoms of brain fog, forgetfulness, etc.
Tryptophan is an amino acid which comes from protein. This is converted to serotonin with the assistance of Vitamin D. This way, for a happy mood, you need good levels of Vitamin D available.
If you always seem to fall sick no matter how many precautions/medications you take and if you seem to fight illness longer than normal, then please go check your Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D has shown to increase T cells’ ability to fight infections. It plays a vital role in your body’s immunity!
Also, the most overlooked symptom of Vitamin D deficiency is fatigue (low energy levels). Along with bone and muscle pains, low Vitamin D also causes major fatigue. The fatigue level, of course, depends on how low your vitamin D levels are.
Complications in pregnancy and new born babies were noticed due to low Vitamin D levels. Babies inside the womb derive the required Vitamin D directly from their mother’s Vitamin D reserves. Hence, low Vitamin D levels for mother during pregnancy is not at all expected. Therefore, it is always better to take Vitamin D supplementation while in pregnancy, after consulting the doctor, if the levels are seen to be lower than required.
The 3 known solutions to improve Vitamin D levels are:
1) Dietary Intake:
Fish or Fish Oil is considered the richest source of Vitamin D in food. In fact, most of the sea food (including Oysters, shrimps, etc.,) have a good source of Vitamin D. Egg yolks are good in Vitamin D too. As there are very less foods that might provide you decent amount of Vitamin D through diet, many products like milk, yogurt, soy, juices etc., are fortified with this vitamin and supplied to the consumers.
Also, Vitamin D from animals (including that produced by humans) is Vitamin D3 and that from plants (like mushrooms) is Vitamin D2. D3 form is known to stay much longer in the blood stream than D2. In many other ways too, Vitamin D3 form is much better than D2 form.
However, most of the times, it’s sort of difficult to get close to the required Vitamin D intake from diet. Hence, it is wise to keep in mind the next two options!
Primary source of Vitamin D is UVB radiation. Hence, the name “sunshine vitamin”. Our skin can produce vitamin D upon exposure to UVB rays. Vitamin D is made from Cholesterol. Cholesterol in the skin converts the sun rays to Vitamin D. Mushrooms also have the similar capacity & so, mushrooms out in the sun are also great source of Vitamin D.
Now, the fact is that you should have at least 20ng of Vitamin D per 1 ml of your blood stream. Low Vitamin D levels result in a condition called Rickets, along with many other problems as mentioned earlier. Rickets, which is a very well known issue, is a condition that results in weak or soft bones. Take the supplementation while taking your food, as the fats in your food help in the absorption of Vitamin D.
Also, the most important thing! Do not worry about getting toxic with the supplements unless you are taking them as prescribed! Vitamin D toxicity is very rare and just a little more than the required Vitamin D levels will not cause hypercalcemia! Remember that risks are higher when its low than when it’s high.
There are few factors that affect the production and absorption of Vitamin D in your body.
- Sunscreen blocks the process of Vitamin D production in our bodies, whereas, melanin (skin pigmentation) is the natural sunscreen.
- Age is also a factor here. As you age, the efficiency of Vitamin D production in the body reduces.
- Body Fat percentage also effects the bio-availability of Vitamin D as this vitamin is fat soluble. More Vitamin D is stored in fat and less is released into blood stream.
- Zinc & Magnesium help in the absorption of Vitamin D. The fun fact is, Vitamin D in turn helps in the absorption of Magnesium in the body.
- Vitamin A is believed to be important to reap the benefits of VitD.
- Lower stress is known to increase absorption of Vitamin D.
- Probiotics are used to recycle the bile stored in gal bladder and you need bile to extract Vitamin D from the food that you eat. So, probiotics are needed to increase the absorption of Vitamin D (actually any kind of nutrient).
- Last, but definitely not the least, intense exercise has shown to increase the absorption of Vitamin D, like for any other nutrient.
Let us talk about something which Vitamin D is popularly known for: strong bones.
Your bone tissue might stop growing after you have become an adult. But, it is regularly replaced by new bone tissue and Vitamin D plays a vital role in this replacement. Hence, lack of Vitamin D might lead to issues like Osteomalacia or Osteoporosis.
Some of the other known benefits of Vitamin D are as follows:
- Vitamin D is shown to regulate the aging process. Telomeres are the tail ends of chromosomes and they protect the DNA. These get shorter every year with age. The length of telomere is considered as a marker for your biological age. It has been seen that low levels of Vitamin D are correlated with the short length of Telomeres.
- VitD can help with inflammation, insomnia, skin issues & many of the autoimmune conditions.
- Lowering of workout performance is also sign of Low Vitamin D. You can, of course, pull off a workout session with much ease if you are well equipped with this vitamin.
On an extra note, you can press on your sternum or shin bone to check if you feel the pain and if so, you might have Vitamin D deficiency. This often stands true!
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