Vitamin D is considered a fat-soluble vitamin and nutrient, which means it is absorbed in the stomach (and throughout the body) and aids in the absorption of calcium. The primary role of vitamin D, along with calcium, is to help the body to produce healthy bones. Although it is not present in many foods, vitamin D can easily be obtained through sun exposure and through supplements.
Vitamin D Reaction
Although Vitamin D is essential for human health, basically it has no effect until it causes two reactions in the body as a result of sun exposure or food intake. One reaction occurs in the liver where the nutrient becomes calcidiol. The other reaction occurs in the kidneys when vitamin D changes to calcitriol.
Vitamin D comes in two supplemental strains: D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 occurs in fortified milk and was first used in the 1930s as a replacement for cod oil in treating rickets in children in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Milk was infused with 100 IU per eight ounces. D3 is more supplemental and prescribed at the rate of 800 – 1000 IU to children and adults who are not getting enough exposure to the sun.1
Vitamin D Benefits
Other than the well-known fact that the nutrient promotes healthy bone growth and prevents rickets in children, 2vitamin D is beneficial in other ways. It can help older adults, especially older women, to deter osteoporosis. Scientists suggest that the nutrient can also assist the body’s immune system, changes in cell growth, reduce inflammation, and even aid in the prevention of colon, prostate and breast cancer. And for those with darker skin (or of African descent), or those who live in northern or mountainous climates or areas affected by climate change where the sun’s light isn’t as prevalent or reduced during winter, vitamin D in supplement form is useful.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
As with any vitamin or nutrient deficiency, the symptoms can be wide-ranging and, perhaps, hard to pinpoint. Some of them may result because of other health problems. As for symptoms linked to depleted Vitamin D, healthy bone growth in children, osteoporosis in women and general muscle weakness in all adults are some of the major symptoms. Misdiagnosis of these can occur as fibromyalgia, degenerative joint disease, arthritis, fatigue and other illnesses.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
Since vitamin D is a nutrient that is absorbed by the body, the causes of a nutrient deficiency could stem from various factors. Symptoms could be kidney or liver disease, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, or celiac disease. For people who have elected to have gastric bypass surgery where part of the stomach or intestines are removed, and people considered obese with a body mass index of 30 or above, Vitamin D absorption is inhibited. Other factors could be age, mobility, skin color, breast milk and certain medications.
Those at Risk of Deficiency
While pregnant women, children, and older adults are the group most associated with vitamin D deficiency, people of every race, gender and age could experience symptoms. For instance, people who are homebound or spend blocks of time inside due to work or other reasons get little sun exposure. This is also true for those who wear clothing like robes or head veils for religious reasons. Additionally, people with dark skin, bowel disease and colitis are all at risk. Of course, people who smoke and drink alcohol excessively may suffer a deficiency.
How to Take a Vitamin D Supplement
There are many ways in which to take a supplement. Some come in pill form, liquid form, or mixed with food. The important point is to get enough of the supplement so that it benefits one’s health. With Vitamin D, the delivery system doesn’t matter that much. In a recent study, scientists distributed a 25,000 IU single dose of the nutrient with corn oil, whole milk, and fat-free milk. They found the rates of absorption by the body were the same.
Monounsaturated fats, in fact, found in beef and oils like olive oil were the best delivery systems for vitamin D. But if the nutrient is taken with food or without food, it doesn’t seem to matter.
Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin D
If people are not getting enough Vitamin D from sun exposure or through dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, etc., then a doctor may recommend an over-the-counter supplement. The problem is that the old adage “too much of a good thing” applies here. Anorexia, weight loss, and heart issues where it can be damaged due to calcification are possible due to taking too much vitamin D. Problems with kidney stones may also result. Knowing the right and best amount of a supplement to take varies from person to person, so the table below, as in all recommended daily allowances, should be considered as guidelines and not exact rules.
|0–12 months*||400 IU|
|1–13 years||600 IU|
|14–18 years||600 IU|
|19–50 years||600 IU|
|51–70 years||600 IU|
|>70 years||800 IU|
Foods That Contain Vitamin D
Short of getting a recommended daily allowance of vitamin D through sun exposure or pharmaceutical supplements, the best way to obtain a daily amount is through food. Although fortified milk contains the most easily digestible way of doing so, there are other foods (but not many) that contain vitamin D in varying amounts. Chances are that even if you ate these foods on a daily or weekly basis, you would still need to supplement your diet between sun exposure, milk or other means. That said, here is a table showing foods that contain various levels of the nutrient.
- Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces: 566
- Salmon (sockeye) cooked, 3 ounces: 477
- Tuna, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces: 154
- Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup: 137
- Milk, vitamin fortified, 1 cup: 115-124
- Yogurt, fortified with 20 percent of the daily value of vitamin D, 6 ounces: 80=
- Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines: 46
- Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces: 42
- Egg yolk, 1 large: 41
- Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce: 6
Supplementing With Vitamin D3
There’s no questioning that vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and support of one’s immune system. In most cases, if you are having milk every day as well as getting moderate sun exposure, your levels are probably ok. If not, and you are feeling fatigued or experiencing some other health issues, a daily, easy to obtain supplement can help. If you’re unsure what you need or how much you need to take, you can always consult your family doctor.
Vitamin D Supplementation With Vitamin D3: Structural Support
There are always certain instances where diet is not going to give you everything you need. There's no need to worry if your diet does not provide the necessary amount of vitamin D3. Oral supplements are available for those who want to make sure they are consuming enough in their daily diet.
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With crazy, busy schedules it is easy to be tempted by fast food, processed food, and an abundance of poor eating choices. With obesity and bad eating habits on the rise, it's more important now than ever to pay attention to what you put in your body. Your health is one of the most important investments you can make. After all, you will need it for years to come! Take care to make sure you are receiving adequate amounts of both macronutrients and micronutrients, as well as engaging in healthy exercise. Begin your journey to a healthier you today!