THE SUNSHINE HORMONE: Why You Need Vitamin D

Vitamin D is finally receiving the press it deserves after being overlooked for years in the medical community. It has emerged as an absolutely essential hormone that helps:

  • Support a healthy heart
  • Enhance muscle strength
  • Build and support bone health
  • Boost the immune system
  • Regulate insulin production
  • Fight inflammation

Vitamin D leads to broad and far-reaching positive impacts allowing people to live healthy, energetic, disease-free lives! In fact, recent studies even suggest that vitamin D reduces mortality!1

Dr. Oscar Franco, from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, and his co-authors — a team of scientists at Harvard, Oxford and other universities — found persuasive evidence that vitamin D protects against major diseases. Adults with lower levels of the vitamin in their systems had a 35 percent increased risk of death from heart disease, 14 percent greater likelihood of death from cancer, and a greater mortality risk overall.

Yet, despite the growing bout of evidence that highlight the benefits of vitamin D, population deficiencies run rampant.

Are You D Deficient?

According to Dr. John J. Cannell, who heads the nonprofit Vitamin D Council, 95 percent of Americans don’t get enough vitamin D in their daily diet. According to an article in the medical journal Pediatrics, about one in five American children (more than 6 million individuals) are deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a worldwide epidemic—affecting more than a billion people, with serious consequences. It often goes unnoticed because many who are deficient show no symptoms.

Produced in your skin in response to UV rays from sun exposure, vitamin D helps make hundreds of enzymes and proteins and has the ability to interact with and affect more than 2,000 genes. Only 20 minutes of sun exposure (sans sunscreen) can produce up to 20,000 IUs! However, if you religiously apply sunblock, vitamin D will not be activated by UV exposure and you will lose the benefit from the sun’s rays.

Also, if you live north of the 37th latitude (roughly a line drawn from Virginia to Northern California) the sunlight is not sufficient enough to activate significant amounts of vitamin D during the winter months. This factors into why vitamin D deficiency is so widespread.

Steps to Replenish D

  1. Ask your doctor to test your levels. You’ll want to specifically request a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25 OH vitamin D) test. If you can’t or prefer not to go through your doctor, ZRT Laboratory offers a test you can order.
  2. Spend more time outdoors without sunscreen—aim for modest exposure to sunlight. Of course, you want to be careful about burning if you are fair skinned, but in general, 20 minutes a day in the spring, summer, and fall on your arms or legs should suffice.
  3. While you couldn’t ever derive all of the vitamin D you need solely from foods, here are some of the few that do contain it: wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, cod liver oil, shiitake mushrooms, and egg yolks. Eating these regularly can help fill in the gaps.
  4. Supplement with vitamin D3. The amount you require largely depends on many variables, including the severity of your deficiency, your size, your age, where you live, your race, and how diligent you are with applying sunscreen; meaning, bigger, older, dark-skinned people who live in the North need more vitamin D. In general, doctors are now recommending you get 2,000-4,000 IUs daily. But if you’re deficient, you’ll want to work with your doctor to determine the exact levels needed to optimize your vitamin D levels; this can take up to six months to correct.

The Calcium Connection

Vitamin D also works synergistically with calcium—insufficient vitamin D impairs calcium absorption. The hormone is critical for maintaining normal calcium and phosphorous metabolism. When lacking in vitamin D, the parathyroid glands will pull calcium from your bones to maintain normal levels. In severe cases, growing bones will fail to mineralize, which can result in rickets, a weakening of the skeleton, and low bone density.

Although osteoporosis is most often associated with inadequate calciumintake, it appears that a vitamin D deficiency also contributes to the development of osteoporosis as a result of its link to calcium and phosphorus absorption. Adequate storage levels of vitamin D help keep your bones strong and may prevent fractures in older adults, post-menopausal women, and those at risk for secondary osteoporosis. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can be vague and nonspecific, but subtle symptoms include bone pain and fatigue.

This summer, in addition to spending more time outdoors, I am focusing on my own professional development with some new and exciting certifications to support you in reaching your health goals.

If you want to ward off fatigue and feel amazing in your body as you head into the summer months, I suggest you consider enrolling in my 14 Day Transformation. You will feast on healthy whole seasonal foods and rev your metabolism for the active and social months ahead! This program includes a wellness bag of VIP goodies, a private resource page, videos, recipes, and a one-on-one wrap up session with me. Sign-up here.

Wishing you and your family an active summer of sunshine, healthy food, peace, happiness and connection!

To your good health, Karen