October is here and that means waving goodbye to sunny days and preparing ourselves for cold days. Hot tea and a blanket become our best friends. Since there isn’t enough of sunshine anymore, this means that we can quickly become deficient in one of the most essential vitamins in our body – vitamin D. If you wish to know more about WHY this vitamin in so crucial to our health and HOW to achieve the desired levels in your body, keep on reading.
Why Is It Important?
Vitamin D is an essential hormone that regulates cell growth and prevents the formation of many diseases. It is synthesised on the skin when it is exposed to the sun, and is then metabolised and activated in the liver and kidneys.
It plays a central role in the metabolism of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, improves absorption of key nutrients such as vitamins A and C and strengthens the immune, cardiac and neurological functions and expression of genes.
Vitamin D affects about 200 genes (we have about 24,000 genes), affects the hormone levels (especially those connected to our positive thinking – beta endorphins an serotonin). Growth and regeneration are regulated primarily by affecting the very important P53 gene that controls hundreds of millions of daily events occurring in our cells – its role is, for example, informing cells when problems arise, and instructing them to make the necessary changes. It is also involved in apoptosis – the natural self-destruction of redundant or damaged cells before they become malignant. If vitamin D is deficient, the activity of the P53 gene will decrease or the gene will just turn off, which increases the risk of developing cancer significantly.
A recent study has shown that vitamin D reduces inflammation in the body and can be very critical in controlling autoimmune diseases; because it controls the growth of cells, it is crucial in healing.
Scientists have shown that people with excess weight are usually vitamin D deficient, and at least one study has shown that increased intake of vitamin D has reduced the percentage of body fat.
Low levels of vitamin D have been convincingly associated with an increase in asthmatic attacks in children and adults.
Another interesting finding is, that it activates areas in the brain that are responsible for our biorhythm.
A recent study also showed that vitamin D deficiency is the main cause of other health problems, such as depression, muscle pain and joint pain.
The Best Way To Reach Desired Levels
The easiest way to synthesise Vitamin D is by exposing ourselves to sun light. 15 – 20 minutes of sunbathing daily (when we are in short sleeves and short trousers) is enough to satisfy daily needs. Of course, the exact time depends on the color of our skin – the brighter we are, the shorter the sunshine exposure should be. If you are wondering when the sun is strong enough, the answer is – when our skin changes colour after being exposed to it.
What About Skin Cancer?
Many people become nervous when I propose that they should be exposed to the sun for a short time without protection. But did you know that for every diagnosis of skin cancer, there are 55 diagnoses associated with vitamin D deficiency? Research at the University of California has shown that by simply increasing the consumption of vitamin D, it would be possible to prevent more than 600,000 annual cases of breast cancer and colon cancer around the world.
Alternative Sources of Vitamin D
We can get some of it from food – most abundant sources are salmon, tuna, eggs, liver, mushrooms and eggs. However, to reach the desired levels, aforementioned food should be consumed daily, and it is also important how this food is grown and obtained. Commercial foods have minimal levels of vitamin D. Due to various factors and the fact that most of us don’t feel like having salmon and liver on a daily basis, it makes sense to consider vitamin D in the form of supplements.
It’s therefore a great idea to supplement vitamin D in the form of capsules or sprays in fall and winter. When deciding which ones to take, check the labels in the back for any unnecessary additives – we definitely don’t need magnesium stearate, which helps to prevent the capsules from clinging to each other, but it also causes gastrointestinal problems or maltodextrin, or other sweeteners. Because Vitamin D is fat soluble, it’s wonderful if you can find some additional fat in your capsule – make sure it is high quality, like extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil – some manufacturers add cheap low quality oils, make sure to avoid those.
How Much Do We Need?
I recommend that you consume 2 000 IU daily. This figure represents the minimum levels you should maintain. It is very difficult to over-supplement vitamin (but not impossible), so do not worry, even if you take a bit more than I suggested.
Because vitamin D can be stored in the skin, you don’t need to consume it daily – just take higher doses once a week.
For precise values, I propose that the level of vitamin D be tested by your doctor. Based on results, you can determine the optimal amount you should be taking (your vitamin D level should definitely not be lower than 30 ng / ml) and you can retest again in a few months to compare the levels.