Vitamin D is key to helping your health! We have all been dutifully applying our daily doses of sunscreen and avoiding too much sun exposure to prevent skin cancer. So isn’t it ironic that avoiding the sun can actually cause more harm by contributing to a deficiency of Vitamin D?
The major function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. The results of too little vitamin D can be soft, thin, and brittle bones, a condition known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
Muscles need Vitamin D to move, nerves needs it to carry messages between the brain and every body part, and the immune system needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Together with calcium, Vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis.
Recent research also suggests Vitamin D may provide protection from hypertension (high blood pressure), cancers (particularly of the colon, pancreas and breast), diabetes, multiple sclerosis and several autoimmune diseases.
Also, individuals who have fat malabsorption syndromes (e.g., cystic fibrosis) or inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., Crohn’s disease) are at risk of having a deficiency. Especially important is a study led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine that suggests the use of oral Vitamin D supplements bolsters production of a protective chemical normally found in the skin, and may help prevent skin infections that are a common result of atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema.
Very few foods naturally have vitamin D. It is found in oily fish like salmon and tuna, as well as in eggs and cod liver oil, but Vitamin D is added to foods such as milk, breakfast cereals, soy products and infant formulas to ensure we receive adequate amounts in our daily diet. It is recommended that ten to fifteen minutes each day is spent in the sun to prevent a deficiency.
Too much vitamin D can also be harmful when amounts in the blood become too high. Signs of toxicity include nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness, and weight loss. And by raising blood levels of calcium, too much vitamin D can cause confusion, disorientation, and problems with heart rhythm. Excess vitamin D can also damage the kidneys.
To help your health, eat a balanced diet that includes fish, vegetables and grains, get some exercise in the sun and like mother always said, “Take Your Vitamin D!”