Vitamins and minerals are essential for the proper functioning of the body. One of the most frequently mentioned vitamins in recent years is vitamin D, which has many different functions in the human body. What is vitamin D for? What are its sources? What are the threats of its shortages? Is vitamin supplementation necessary?
Benefits of vitamin D
Vitamin D belongs to the group of fat-soluble vitamins. It is often called the sun vitamin because it is produced by the body when exposed to the sun. Vitamin D plays many roles in the body, e.g. it participates in the formation of bones in children, it can prevent hypertension, allergies, heart disease and diabetes.
Vitamin D affects the functioning of many systems and organs, including:
- Skeletal system – supports bone metabolism, participates in the formation of bones and teeth, its deficiency may result in curvature and damage to bone mineralization.
- Muscular system – too little vitamin D can cause myalgia.
- Immune system – has antibacterial and immunomodulatory properties. It can prevent cancer and getting the flu. It reduces the risk of colds.
- Circulatory system – Regular intake of vitamin D supplements may regulate inflammation in people suffering from chronic heart failure.
- Nervous system – Vitamin D deficiency can result in sleep disturbance.
Natural sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin as a result of exposure to UVB radiation. Vitamin synthesis depends mainly on the season and sunlight. In winter, when the days are short and the skin is exposed to the sun much less often, its level is usually insufficient, so it should be taken in other forms. Vitamin D can also be supplied to the body with food. Unfortunately, in this way we can usually achieve a maximum of 20% of the total daily requirement. Even the most varied diet is not able to ensure the optimal level of the vitamin. The foods richest in vitamin D are mainly fish, such as eels, herring, salmon, sardines, eggs and some types of cheese.
Vitamin D deficiency
Too low vitamin D levels are very common among people of all ages. When we don’t regularly go out in the sun or our diet is very low in vitamin D products, we can suffer from a deficiency. The effects can be very different and some of them can have long-term consequences. The most common complications related to vitamin D deficiency include rickets in children and adolescents, bone fragility, osteoporosis, degeneration of the skeletal system, osteomalacia, muscle pain, periodontal disease, insomnia, and reduced vision.
Too much vitamin D
While vitamin D is deficient in most cases, overdosing is also possible. This usually happens when we take vitamin in every form possible – we spend a lot of time in the sun, we eat a lot of foods with vitamin D, and we also take supplements. The most common effects of an overdose include nausea, weakness, loss of appetite, diseases of the nervous system, kidney and heart disorders.
How to take care of the proper level of vitamin D in the body?
In order to achieve and maintain healthy vitamin D levels, it is necessary to implement a few changes to your daily lifestyle. First, you should be aware of daily sun exposure. Just 15-20 minutes in the sun during the day is enough. When walking, you should expose as much skin as possible. What’s more, it is worth consuming sea fish, eggs, vegetable oils as well as ripening and mold cheeses. In the autumn and winter period, it is important to take vitamin D in the form of dietary supplements.
If you rarely go out in the sun and eat vitamin D products, be sure to include supplementation in your daily diet. To find out what dose of vitamin is best for you, consult a dietician who will suggest a healthy diet to supplement the level of essential vitamins and will indicate which supplements and in what amounts to take. Before your visit, you can do a vitamin D test to help the dietitian develop a diet that is entirely tailored to your needs. When compiling the menu, the specialist will take into account the test results, your nutritional preferences, and the available budget for preparing meals.