Possibly one of the most underrated nutrients in the body is vitamin D. About 70% of Americans are deficient in it. Also known as calciferol, vitamin D comes in two major forms: vitamin D2- which is
mostly from plant foods in the diet, and vitamin D3- which comes from animal foods in the diet, supplementation, and ultraviolet rays.
Why is vitamin D such a big deal?
-In the brain and nerve cells, it protects against cognitive decline
-Encourages muscle strength
-Signals cells to defend against infectious disease
-Regulates blood pressure
-Prevents autoimmune disease
Why are we so deficient in vitamin D? One of the main reasons is a lack of sun exposure. So, what’s the connection? Your liver builds a vitamin D precursor. This precursor then travels to the skin, where it
is converted to a second precursor with the help of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. After this, your liver and kidneys work to produce the active form of vitamin D.
Over 80% of the vitamin D we need comes from the sun. While sunscreen is certainly beneficial in overall skin protection, it is also inhibiting our vitamin D absorption (it blocks 97%!). The sun helps to supply our vitamin D and can actually protect against skin cancer! We need to find a happy medium.
For the majority of people, sufficient vitamin D synthesis can occur after 10-20 minutes in the sun. We’re not saying to avoid sunscreen altogether. But applying it after spending a few minutes soaking up the rays can ensure you are getting adequate sunlight to boost your vitamin D level while making
sure you avoid a sunburn.
Another reason for vitamin D deficiency is aging skin, which produces less vitamin D. The average 70-year-old person creates only 25% of the vitamin D that a 20-year-old does. Varying skin pigmentation, living in a northern climate or eating minimal dietary sources of vitamin D could also be contributing to low vitamin D levels.
What else can you do to increase your vitamin D level? I’m glad you asked! Besides sun exposure and diet, vitamin D supplements and injections are another great way to make sure you maintain your levels. Keep in mind that not all supplements are created equal and it can take 6+ months to get your vitamin D level where it should be for optimal health.
Vitamin D3 is the active form of the vitamin. Finding a vitamin D supplement that is in this form and combined with vitamin K is the key to success. This dynamic duo works together to ensure the calcium that you take in is going to the right places rather than being deposited in your kidneys or blood vessels. Studies have suggested that optimal concentrations of both vitamin D and vitamin K are beneficial for bone and cardiovascular health. Knowing your personal vitamin D level and getting the vitamin D that your body needs is extremely important to your overall health and wellbeing.
At Nebraska Functional Medicine, we have a vitamin D supplement for you! We carry Vitamin D Supreme by Designs for Health which also includes vitamin K1 and K2. If you are vitamin D deficient, stop by and get a bottle for yourself.