Are you getting enough vitamin D? According to recent studies, there’s a good chance you aren’t. In 2009, researchers reported levels of vitamin D in the U.S. population had dropped between the years of 1988 and 1994, and then again between 2001 and 2004. Not only had average levels dropped, more than 75 percent of the people studied had inadequate levels of vitamin D in their blood.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked with an increased risk for serious diseases. Reduced levels of the vitamin are associated with cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and autoimmune disorders. Deficiency is also linked with multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, depression, fibromyalgia and more. That’s why it’s so import to get enough vitamin D. But identifying vitamin D deficiency can be tricky.
Our bodies don’t make vitamin D, so we have to get it from our environment. The primary source of vitamin D is the sun, but we can also get it from some foods. Lifestyle, race, age, and other factors can put you at risk for vitamin D deficiency
The truth is that it’s extremely difficult to tell whether you have a vitamin D deficiency. The only way to be absolutely sure is to take a blood test. Most people with a vitamin D deficiency won’t be aware of it. It doesn’t usually produce noticeable symptoms. However, symptoms are possible. If you are vitamin D deficient, you may experience:
- muscle/joint pain and weakness
- bone pain
- tiredness or fatigue
Your body is designed to get the vitamin D it needs by producing it when your bare skin is exposed to sunlight. The part of the sun’s rays that is important is ultraviolet B (UVB). This is the most natural way to get vitamin D.
Large amounts of vitamin D3 are made in your skin when you expose all of your body to summer sun. This happens very quickly; around half the time it takes for your skin to turn pink and begin to burn. This could be just 15 minutes for a very fair skinned person, yet a couple of hours or more for a dark skinned person.
You don’t need to tan or to burn your skin in order to get the vitamin D you need. Exposing your skin for a short time will make all the vitamin D your body can produce in one day. In fact, your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D in just a little under the time it takes for your skin to turn pink. You make the most vitamin D when you expose a large area of your skin, such as your back, rather than a small area such as your face or arms.
The assumption that vitamin D supplements will protect you against diseases associated with low vitamin D levels is incorrect, according to Australian researchers. The report found that vitamin D supplements are immunosuppressive and may actually make diseases worse.
Vitamin D Nuclear Receptor (VDR) influences the expression of over 1,000 genes, including those associated with diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. According to the new study, supplemental vitamin D actually blocks VDR activation, which is the opposite effect to that of sunshine. Instead of positively impacting gene expression, vitamin D supplements appear to suppress your immune system.
Vitamin D has a remarkable role to play in your health, influencing nearly 3,000 of your 25,000 genes, and playing a critical role in your immune response. Vitamin D could rightly be described as a “miracle nutrient” for your immune system, as it enables your body to produce well over 200 antimicrobial peptides, which are indispensable in fighting off a wide range of infections.