We are all looking for that magical pill we can take for disease prevention; particularly the BIG diseases like heart disease and cancer. Of course there is no pill of the sort, but we know that certain vitamins and supplements certainly play an important role. Vitamin D is one such nutrient, and making sure that you have sufficient levels is imperative to your health.
Researchers have been furiously studying the effects of vitamin D on health and have found some incredible things. Vitamin D has been shown to:
- Reduce inflammation
- Prevent most forms of cancer (including skin cancer)
- Prevent autoimmune disease
- Prevent heart disease
- Maintain strong and healthy bones
- Improve mood
- Increase immune function
- Prevent menstrual cramps
- Supports normal brain function
How to Get More Vitamin D
Most of our vitamin D is made by our skin when it comes into contact with sunlight. Unfortunately, long daytime hours inside and daily applications of sunscreen severely limit our exposure to the sun. It is important to recognize that the daily application of sunscreen blocks all exposure to UVB which is essential for vitamin D production.
Sunlight is the best way to increase your vitamin D production. Certainly use caution to avoid getting burned, but having a nice tan should actually be seen as essential to your health. Because of this, I encourage increased sun exposure for appropriate amounts of time. Start with just five minutes of unprotected sun exposure each day and gradually increase that duration to encourage a tan without burning.
Even in the winter, expose your hands and face, for as long as possible. You can tolerate longer sun exposure this time of year without burning. If you can’t get adequate sunlight, particularly during the winter months, I recommend supplementation. However, it is very difficult to determine the dosage required by someone without testing levels first.
Testing for Vitamin D Deficiency
You can check your vitamin D levels with a blood sample. I use 25(OH)D and use it along with other markers to determine your true status. But it is not as simple as one test.
Testing levels of vitamin D is not always the best way to assess vitamin D status. Your vitamin D levels are affected by phosphorus, calcium, and parathyroid hormone. Looking at all of these different factors can help determine whether or not you need more vitamin D, or if, perhaps, you actually need more calcium, or less phosphorus. Simply supplementing with vitamin D can, in fact be problematic. Taking too much vitamin D can lead to toxicity, which can cause a whole host of conditions as well. It is better to identify the underlying cause, we can more effectively treat and certainly limit the harm.
Find the Cause
Finding the cause of too high or too low vitamin D is important, too. Insufficient sun exposure and limited dietary intake are common causes, but not the only ones. Inflammation, eating a diet high in processed foods, and low calcium intake can all be at the root of the deficiency. Extra testing can help us find the underlying cause and help keep your status within normal range.
Making sure that you have sufficient levels of vitamin D has such a profound effect on your overall disease risk that I recommend it for everyone. It is such a simple way to protect yourself against so many diseases that it is well worth your time to have it done.