Everyone knows we need vitamins to survive and stay healthy. But with the alphabet of vitamins out there in the world, we often forget about vitamin D, its purpose, and how important it is for our bodies.
What Is Vitamin D and Why Do We Need It?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found naturally in some foods but people also obtain it through time spent in the sunlight. People add vitamin D to other foods and can find the vitamin in many different multivitamins and dietary supplements. (1)
We need vitamin D in the body to help with different systems.
- Vitamin D helps with bone growth and bone remodeling. Without the vitamin or enough of it, bones can become misshapen, brittle, or thin, and more susceptible to breaking. Children especially need vitamin D so their bones form correctly as they grow.
- Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption in the gut. Calcium not only keeps bones strong, but it also prevents involuntary muscle contractions in the form of cramps and muscle spasms.
- Vitamin D helps with nerve transmissions. Nerves carry messages between brain and body and need vitamin D to do so correctly.
- Immune system response. Vitamin D helps the body fight off invasive viruses and bacteria.
The vitamin is very important for us, but we need to understand how much we should get everyday.
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
The average person living in the United States gets the right amounts of vitamin D they need daily. However, one in four people have levels which are too low for optimum health. There are blood tests a person can take which measures the amount of vitamin D in the body if they feel they are lacking. (2)
The National Institute of Health recommends these amounts of daily vitamin D intake for individuals based on their ages.
|Life Stage||Recommended Amount|
|Birth to 12 months||10 micrograms|
|Children 1–13 years||15 micrograms|
|Teens 14–18 years||15 micrograms|
|Adults 19–70 years||15 micrograms|
|Adults 71 years and older||20 micrograms|
|Pregnant and breastfeeding teens and women||15 micrograms|
How Can We Get Vitamin D?
There are four sources from which we can get vitamin D. (3)
The first is sunlight. The body makes vitamin D when bare skin becomes exposed to direct sunlight. Sunlight simply felt through a window will not work. The age of a person and the color of their skin can affect the amount of sun the body will use. Even the time of day, the season, and the location affect how much vitamin D a person’s body will make. Sunscreen can limit the amount of vitamin D the body makes but people should still take precautions to avoid burns and skin cancer.
Foods are another source. Fatty fish, beef liver, seafoods, mushrooms, milks, and egg yolks contain vitamin D naturally. There are many foods which are fortified with vitamin D when food scientists add it in. Common fortified foods are milks, cereals, orange juice, yogurts, and tofu.
Supplements also can give vitamin D. Most multivitamins will contain at least small amounts of it. There are specialized supplements with only vitamin D to help people who feel they are not getting enough.
UV lamps are a less common form of increasing vitamin D in the body. Some people have been known to use UV lamps in their homes to trigger their body into making more vitamin D. This does not work as effectively as the sun’s rays, but it could help in small amounts.
How Does Somebody Develop a Vitamin D Deficiency?
If the body does not receive or create enough vitamin D, it can lead to a deficiency. There are some people who are more likely to experience Vitamin D deficiencies. (4)
- Breast fed infants. They are not consuming any foods which have vitamin D and they usually do not spend much time in the sun.
- Older adults. Those over the age of 50 struggle to create vitamin D.
- People who are not exposed to sunshine.
- Those with darker skin. Fairer skin converts sunshine into vitamin D far more effectively and quickly than darker skin tones.
- Those who are obese. Fat cells keep vitamin D isolated and do not allow it to absorb.
- Certain diseases such as cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease because they do not allow intestines to absorb vitamin D when taken in supplement form.
- Kidney and liver diseases also reduce the amounts of an enzyme needed to synthesize the vitamin.
- Some medications can cause a deficiency as a side effect.
Deficiencies can occur quickly and they often cause very negative health effects.
What Does a Vitamin D Deficiency Cause?
A vitamin D deficiency can cause many different and unwanted health effects. Usually, symptoms of bone pain and muscle weakness can alert you to a deficiency in your body.
A vitamin D deficiency can cause: (5)
- Heart disease.
- High blood pressure.
- Osteoporosis in older adults.
- Immune system disorders.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Cancers (such as colon, prostate, and breast).
- Asthma in children.
- Rickets in children.
To avoid a deficiency, simply increase your intake of vitamin D as soon as you feel the symptoms.
Can You Ever Have Too Much Vitamin D?
Too much of any good thing can turn out bad. Vitamin D deficiency is far more common than having too much vitamin D, however, it is possible.
The body cannot get too much vitamin D from sunlight. The skin limits the amount it intakes and the body will stop synthesizing vitamin D when it has gotten enough.
However, people can get too much vitamin D by taking supplements more than they should. Too much can cause vomiting, nausea, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, kidney stones, excessive urination, and dehydration.
Be careful when taking supplements to avoid overdosing your body with the vitamin.
The Importance of Vitamin D
For the most part, people need never worry about how much vitamin D they are getting. We need it in such small amounts we usually obtain them without much effort. However, there are ways to increase the intake of vitamin D if necessary.
Everyone should consult with their physician to determine whether or not they need to intake more vitamin D so they do not experience the negative effects of vitamin D deficiency.
So take your Echo Go™, go outside and soak in some sun today.