Vitamin D: Are You Getting Enough or the Right Kind?
By Michael Sharp | May 17th, 2018
The sun not only provides us with the wonderful warmth of the spring and summer months, it also provides us with a key vitamin that is essential for life, vitamin D!
How Does the Sun Give us a Vitamin?
The truth is, the sun doesn’t provide us with vitamin D itself, it assists our bodies in synthesizing it. To keep it simple, when a certain light ray, specifically Ultraviolet B, contacts the human skin, it interacts with cholesterol and, through a process called photolysis converts into vitamin D!
The Epidemic We Aren’t Aware of!
Even though we have such a readily available source of this vitamin, surprisingly, it happens to be one of the most deficient vitamins for humans in the world! Think about it, the largest source of vitamin D being the sun, which is absent for nearly half of the year in countries like Canada, on top of individuals no longer placing an importance on being outside paints a pretty picture of vitamin D deficiency. In this case, it’s no wonder why it’s one of the most deficient vitamins in the world!
If humans have an innate ability to produce vitamin D through sun exposure to the skin, the body must be telling us of its major importance! So what health benefits are we missing out on if we are in fact deficient in the sun vitamin? Keep reading on and I’ll be happy to explain!
The Many Health Benefits of the Sunshine Vitamin!
This vitamin comes with a whole host of health benefits, meaning that listing them all in this blog would lead to a 30-page post. So, here are some of the key health benefits of the sunshine vitamin:
- Bone Strength and Development:
Vitamin D is responsible for pulling dietary calcium through your intestinal wall, and towards the bones to contribute to the proper development and structure of our skeletal system!
It also has a key role in supporting the functions of other bone supporting nutrients such as vitamin K and phosphorus.
- Immune System Strength:
If we all know one benefit of vitamin D, it’s the immune benefiting properties it holds. Vitamin D has been said to support our immune systems by supporting the functioning of our immune cells or the defenders of our bodies. It seems that our immune cells all have receptors or docking sites for this all-important vitamin, showing the need these cells have for it.
- Fighting Inflammation:
Vitamin D has been said to help the body in maintaining healthy levels of inflammation. Excessive inflammation can leave the body in a crisis state, affecting everything from digestion to proper healing and functioning of key organs such as the brain and liver!
- Hormonal Health:
Being that vitamin D interacts like that of a hormone in the body, a deficiency could lead to many unfavorable symptoms of hormonal issues. This could be the reason why many of us in countries facing a lack of sun exposure throughout certain time of the year experience depressive symptoms during the winter and fall months.
Vitamin D also plays an essential role in the synthesis of estrogen and testosterone, the predominant female and male hormones.
- Healthy Blood Sugar Regulation:
Calcium plays a major role in the functioning of insulin, the hormone involved in regulating our blood sugar and, because vitamin D supports the absorption of calcium in the body, it is a key component to healthy blood sugar levels.
Supplementation: The Difference Between D3 and D2
Supplementation of vitamin D is most definitely a great option when wanting to ensure healthy levels of this key nutrient however, it is important for us to understand the main differences between the most commonly sold forms of vitamin D contained in supplements and how one will give you the edge over vitamin D deficiency than the other.
You will always find either vitamin D3 or vitamin D2 when looking at a bottle of this vitamin in your local health food store. The summary of the story is that, vitamin D3 is the type that our bodies synthesize and recognize the most and, vitamin D2 is usually synthetic (man made) and not as readily absorbable as vitamin D3. An exception to the rule of vitamin D2 is that this is also the form of vitamin D plant foods provide. There are many supplement companies now offering vegan vitamin D2 from plant foods however, it again is not as absorbable as vitamin D3 since our bodies readily produce the D3 form. Usually when purchasing vitamin D3 in supplement form, it is being sourced from sheep’s wool! This very unique source of the all-important vitamin does not harm to the animal itself, making vitamin D an animal friendly option!
The Best of Vitamin D Supplements
Now that we understand the best form to look for when purchasing vitamin D, we can discuss the options you have when selecting your supplement!
Like most other supplements, vitamin D is sold in liquid and soft gel form. Quality wise, there is not much of a difference in either form. The importance between choosing liquid or soft gels is that your body may have an easier time working with liquid since there is no shell that needs to be broken down first before having the ability to absorb the vitamin D. Usually however, most individuals with well functioning digestive systems would be able to break down the small sized soft gels vitamin D is sold in.
One other factor to consider regardless of your choice of liquid or soft gel is the type of oil the company is using with their product. An oil is added to most vitamin D supplements because it helps the vitamin be absorbed more efficiently (vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient). Stay away from vitamin D supplements using poor quality/cheap oils such as soy oil, canola oil, or corn oil. Instead look for supplements using good quality, health beneficial oils such as olive oil, flax oil, or coconut oil/MCT oil.
Some of my favourite brands of vitamin D supplements include Prairie Naturals, CanPrev, Natural Factors, and Naka.
So, there you have it! Now that you understand the shear health benefits of vitamin D and how exactly to ensure you are taking in the best possible sources, you too can raise your bodies level of one of the most important vitamins for human health!
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Keep on living holistic,
Michael Sharp, CNP, NNCP.
DISCLAIMER: The information listed above is for educational purposes and discussion of general health information only. The information, opinions, ideas, and suggestions listed above are in no way intended to diagnose disease/health issues or act as a treatment for disease/health issues and is not to act as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. Before taking part in any natural or alternative approach to health, these approaches should be reviewed by your doctor for approval especially if there are existing health conditions and if prescribed and or pharmaceutical medication is being taken due to the potential for interactions between medications and any natural approaches to health.