Vitamin D, also known as Calciferol, is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, fortified in other foods, and comes as a dietary supplement. It is also produced within the body when ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are absorbed by the skin triggering Vitamin D synthesis.
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These minerals are essential for development of teeth and bones, plus they play a role in cell and nerve function.
What Happens When Our Bodies are Low on Vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiencies can result in lowered energy and fatigue. Worse, Vitamin D deficiency can lead to weakened muscles, bones, teeth, and chronic pain. Untreated, it can result in:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive decline in the elderly
- Asthma in children
You or someone you love may be at greater risk for vitamin D deficiency if they:
Avoid the sun- One of the critical ways to increase and maintain healthy vitamin D levels comes from the sun. Also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ vitamin D is generated naturally by exposing the skin to sunlight. Avoiding direct exposure to the sun can diminish vitamin D levels. The recommendation for optimal doses of UV sunlight is 10-30 minutes of midday sun several times per week.
Hold a strict vegan lifestyle- Certain foods contain naturally occurring vitamin D or are fortified with vitamin D. Many of these foods are not consumed by vegans. Foods like fatty fish, liver, eggs, red meat, and milk all contain vitamin D and are typically not part of a vegan diet.
Have milk allergies- Milk is fortified with vitamin D because it aids in the absorption of the calcium present in milk. Patients with milk allergies do not get the benefit of the vitamin D found in milk and milk products.
Have dark pigment- The melanin levels of the skin can affect the absorption of vitamin D into the skin. Darker skin may resist the absorption of vitamin D from the sun’s UV rays.
Are obese- Vitamin D is taken from the blood by fat cells. When your BMI is too high, it can reduce the level of vitamin D in your blood.
Have weakened kidneys- Calcium and phosphate are regulated in the kidneys. Weakened kidneys due to disease or age can affect the kidney’s ability to convert vitamin D to its active form.
They have digestive issues- Chronic issues like Chron’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis, and Celiac disease can prevent your intestines from absorbing vitamin D from your food or oral supplements.
You Can Improve the Levels of Vitamin D in Your Body
The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to increase the level of vitamin D in your body. The first step is to determine if you’re deficient. It’s not always possible to determine if you have low vitamin D on your own. The best way to find out is through a blood test, but you may also experience symptoms like fatigue or depression that don’t have an apparent root cause. Your physician can run tests to verify if your vitamin D levels are off.
There are things you can do on your own to ramp up your vitamin D. Consider one of these ideas.
Get out in the sun! Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. Get out in the sunlight as often as possible and allow the sun’s UV rays to reach your skin. You can achieve results by spending at least 10-30 minutes in the midday sun multiple times per week.
Consume foods with natural vitamin D. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish, liver, egg yolks, and red meat; regularly consuming these foods can increase the levels of vitamin D in your system.
Eat foods fortified with vitamin D. Foods like dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and whole-grain cereals are fortified with vitamin D and are an excellent source of extra calcium and fiber.
Use UV lamps when it’s dreary. If you live in an area where the sun doesn’t shine all the time, consider using light therapy to improve your vitamin D levels and mood.
Take supplements. Vitamin D is available as a supplement. Be sure to consult your doctor on the proper dose for your needs. Remember, vitamin D relies on absorption for benefits. If you have any issues with digestion, you may not be able to maximize a supplement.
Get vitamin D injections. Injections are an excellent way to boost your vitamin D levels. Since they are fat-soluble, they are injected directly into your muscle tissue which allows for 100% absorption into your system. Your physician can help you determine the proper amount and frequency to boost your levels and feel energized quickly.
Key Factors to Remember When Boosting Vitamin D
There are some essential things to remember when boosting vitamin D. There are many reasons why vitamin D levels drop. Some include age, illness or injury, digestive issues, and other reasons. Your physician can help identify what’s causing levels to drop and help create a game plan to raise them and keep them stable.
If you or someone you love thinks they may be affected by low levels of vitamin D, connect with our offices for a free consultation with Dr. Jen to explore your symptoms and see what you need to keep your health optimal and your life in balance.