Have you ever heard of vitamin D being referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin?’ That’s because It absolutely is! Starting first with the skin, we use UVB rays from the sun to synthesize the majority of vitamin D that we need. With the help of the liver and the kidneys, it gets converted into D3, which is the primary, and most active form of the vitamin that is used in the body.
Vitamin D3 plays many essential roles; chief among them is the regulation and balance of calcium, primarily for the formation and maintenance of healthy bones.
However, vitamin D plays a wider role outside of bone health that you may not know such as:
- Gastrointestinal health: Vitamin D can be protective in many gastrointestinal disorders especially with respect to conditions related to IBD (Irritable Bowel Disorders). Crones and Colitis, and even irritable bowel disease and celiac disease and gluten issues. Vitamin D3 is said to be protective to the lumen (or walls) of the small and large intestine and is really important not only to help treat, but also can be used as a defence for lowering susceptibility of flare-ups in the future, or in disease progression.
- Hormone and endocrine functions: Vitamin D3 can also play a major role in hormone regulation and functioning. Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is also very important in the regulation of many steroid hormones. Because of this, it can play a role in helping with insulin resistance, fat metabolism, and blood sugar regulation. It can also be very helpful in benefiting issues such as weight gain, obesity, hormone imbalances, cardiovascular disease, and even some respiratory conditions as well.
- Mental Health: Vitamin D, has been known to play a crucial role in mental health, especially when coupled with other fats such as Omega 3 for example. Adequate intake, or supplementation, of vitamin D, can greatly improve symptoms of anxiety and depression especially when taken in the winter months when many people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) due to the lack of sunlight during these months..
- SKIN ISSUE: Many skin issues, are at least partly, due to inflammatory conditions either in the gut or somewhere else in the system. Vitamin D can play a major role to aid in inflammatory conditions, and in certain instances allergic signs and syndromes as well.
- Immunity: Vitamin D3 plays an important and vital role, in the immune system as it helps build immune factors in the bloodstream, which play a role in aiding with fighting infections. The technical term for these chemical messengers is called cytokines. These messengers are always working hard for your immune system to build the strength of these immune fighters and allows the systems in your body to function more effectively.
- Musculoskeletal: Vitamin D3, plays a major role in the movement of calcium into the bones, as well as plays a role in the function of growth hormone. Maintaining adequate vitamin D3, and calcium status (often coupled with vitamin K2) at times as well, will not only ensure healthy and strong bone formation, but it also, will be preventative to lower chances of developing, or progressing symptoms like Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, and many other musculoskeletal issues. This could include those such as inflammation in the joints, stress fractures, chronic pain, fibromyalgia and others.
There are also dietary sources of vitamin D as well which can be consumed as well. Foods that contain high amounts of vitamin D3 typically are fish, mushrooms, pork and beef. Many juices and milk products in Canada are also fortified with vitamin D, which means that it has manually been added to these foods, to increase vitamin D sources for those who consume them.
As well, you may often need to increase your intake of vitamin D3, with a good quality supplement or D drop. This is especially true in Canada, as we are far north of the equator and are likely not getting the proper UVB rays necessary to produce vitamin D3 to adequate levels.
So, as the sun is shining, make sure to get outside as much as possible. Typically, 20-30 minutes of direct midday sunlight each day is a great start, to help get a very healthy dose of vitamin D.
Go for a walk, ride your bike or sit outside – and soak in all that glorious sunshine vitamin! J