Getting some sun to "soak up some vitamin D"
is something you probably hear regularly during warmer months. However, the truth is, this often-misunderstood "vitamin" is not a vitamin — it is a prohormone.
Prohormones are substances the body converts to a hormone. In fact, unlike other vitamins, only about 10 percent of the vitamin D the body needs comes from food such as dairy products and oily fish. The body makes the rest for itself. Understanding this hormone and the role it plays in the body will help you prevent colds, flu, depression, weight gain and even a fracture.
What does vitamin D do?
Vitamin D is a hormone the kidneys produce. It controls blood calcium concentration and impacts the immune system. The body makes vitamin D through a chemical reaction that occurs when sunlight hits the skin. Then it goes through changes in the liver and kidneys to ultimately produce the active form of the hormone.
Vitamin D helps the body:
- Absorb calcium so blood calcium levels are ideal
- Enable the mineralization of bone required for strong bones
- Regulate adrenaline, noradrenaline (also called norepinephrine) and dopamine production in the brain resulting in improved mood
- Improve energy levels
- Protect from serotonin depletion
- Improve immune function
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a variety of health concerns, including:
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Sleep issues
- Loss of memory and focus
- Cardiovascular disease
Get your Vitamin D3 level checked. The optimal range is between 40 and 80 ng/ml.
Foods rich in vitamin D include:
- Free range eggs
- Fresh tuna
- Fortified Milk
- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel and sardines)
- Shitake mushrooms
Vitamin D supplements:
Many adults don't get regular exposure to sunlight and have trouble absorbing vitamin D, especially as we age. Take a multivitamin with vitamin D. The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600 to 1000 IU for people between the age of 1 and 70 years old. It’s imperative not to go over that unless your doctor has checked your vitamin D levels and recommended otherwise. We tend to think "the higher the dose, the better.” But in this case, more isn’t a good thing. If your vitamin D levels are too high, you can experience a set of adverse side effects.
Have additional questions? Talk with your doctor to create a plan that is tailored to your lifestyle.