For many of us, the COVID-19 outbreak and lock down have meant more time indoors and less sun. Unfortunately, this can contribute to a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, helps our immune systems stay balanced. It plays an essential role in our immune health, as low levels can weaken our defenses and increase susceptibility to illnesses. Ensuring that you are getting enough vitamin D is necessary to stay healthy and keep your immune system strong.
Vitamin D actually functions as a hormone rather than a vitamin. Every single cell in your body has a receptor for it. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, your body produces vitamin D from cholesterol. Even though it’s easy for our bodies to produce, about 41.6% of adults in the US are vitamin D deficient, according to a 2011 study. Since the symptoms are generally subtle, most people don’t realize that they’re deficient. Even though these symptoms have a significant negative effect on your quality of life, you may not recognize them easily.
Since one of vitamin D’s most important roles is keeping your immune system strong, those suffering from a deficiency will become sick or infected more easily. It can also affect your ability to heal wounds after surgeries and injuries. Vitamin D deficiency can also contribute to muscle, bone, and back pain. In one study, 71% of people with chronic pain were found to be deficient. Additionally, a deficiency can cause fatigue, tiredness, and even contribute to depression. To make matters even worse, a vitamin D deficiency can cause hair loss as well as bone loss.
Alternatively, getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D has some surprising benefits. Since your immune system relies heavily on vitamin D, it plays a role in reducing your risk of multiple sclerosis, decreasing your chance of developing heart disease, and helping reduce your likelihood of developing the flu, or other diseases. Research has also shown that vitamin D could play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. Additionally, studies have demonstrated that adding vitamin D supplements to your diet can help boost weight loss.
The U.S. Endocrine Society recommends getting 1,500-2,000 IU of daily vitamin D to be sufficient for the majority of the population. However, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine suggests that a daily intake of up to 4,000 ID is safe for most people. While vitamin D toxicity is rare, it’s best to avoid long-term doses in excess of 4,000 IU without supervision from a qualified healthcare professional.
Now, how do those numbers translate to everyday life? There are multiple ways to ensure that you’re getting enough vitamin D. Sun exposure is one of the best sources, as sun-derived vitamin D circulates for twice as long when compared to vitamin D from food or supplements. How much vitamin D your body gets from the sun varies based on: age, skin tone, geographical location, season, sunscreen, and clothes. However, doctors generally recommend getting at least 10 to 30 minutes of sunlight everyday. If you’re going to use a UV lamp, however, be sure to limit your daily exposure to no more than 15 minutes at a time, as too much exposure could burn your skin.
If more sunlight or UV lamps aren’t available, there are still other options. There are multiple foods that are natural sources of vitamin D, including fatty fish, seafood, mushrooms, and egg folks. You can also incorporate more fortified foods into your diet, such as cow’s milk, orange juice, tofu, and certain types of yogurt. Alternatively, you can take a daily vitamin D supplement if you don’t want to adjust your current diet. Simply make sure that you are purchasing high-quality supplements that have been independently tested.
Ensuring that you’re getting enough vitamin D is essential to your health and keeping your immune system strong. If you think you may be suffering from a deficiency, try incorporating more sunlight and vitamin rich foods into your daily life. The big benefits that vitamin D has for your health are worth making the simple, easy changes for.