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Everyone loves summer. Frolicking in the sunshine, eating watermelon by the pool and sitting beside a crackling fire at the end of a fun-filled day. In one’s eyes, it sounds like a perfect day spent with friends and family outside in nature—in the eyes of a nutritionist, it is a perfect opportunity to replenish Vitamin D levels!
Before we delve into the importance of Vitamin D in our diet, let’s spend a moment reiterating my this micronutrient is crucial for optimal health and wellbeing.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is created when we are exposed to the sun or consume vitamin D rich foods. This powerful vitamin plays a role in maintaining proper cardiovascular health, regulating blood pressure and increasing antibacterial proteins in our bodies to boost our immune system.
Vitamin D is more than just an antioxidant, it also helps to block the activation of our parathyroid hormone. Our kidneys regulate the amount of Vitamin D in our blood. When it drops too low, the parathyroid gland releases parathyroid hormone (PTH) which causes the kidneys to reabsorb calcium from the urine.
Vitamin D is also responsible for assisting our intestine to absorb calcium and phosphorus to build strong, healthy bones. Researchers have estimated that only 10 percent of calcium and 60 percent of phosphorus is absorbed when Vitamin D levels are too low. So if you want to be resistant to injuries, get adequate amounts of Vitamin D!
If Vitamin D didn’t do enough already, it also helps with improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which in turn assists with regulating blood sugar levels.
Vitamin D, an immune and mood booster, strong bone builder, diabetes preventer and a parathyroid blocking antioxidant is one of the crucially important keys for unlocking the door for optimal health. If you’re looking to take more of a food based approach, cod liver oil, egg yolks, mushrooms, salmon, oysters, herring and sardines are vitamin D rich food sources to increase your levels. A few easy ways to incorporate these foods into your diet is by blending the fish oil into your smoothie, eating an omlette with mushrooms, or sneaking some cooked liver into your meals! Another - and perhaps more delicious - way to ensure you get enough Vitamin D is through taking a supplement like the new Vitamin D3 supplement from the Ener-Life brand: Ener-D. Plant-based, sugar-free and all-natural, this formulas is sourced from organic lichen (most Vitamin D3 supplements are made Vitamin D extracted from sheep's lanolin!) and sprayed with MCT oil for optimal absorption and bioavailability. Taking a Vitamin D3 supplement can be particularly important in winter if you live in the northern hemisphere and if you have darker skin, or are over 50 (or all of the above!)
Risks of Too Little Vitamin D:
Just like other deficiences, our body is brilliant in recognizing when we are lacking vitamins and minerals and compensating accordingly. Certain individuals such as the elderly, those with dark skin pigmentation and individuals spending little time in the sun or blocking exposure with commercial products like sunscreen, are at the highest risk of low vitamin D levels.
The two biggest diseases associated with low vitamin D levels are Osteoporosis (a weakening of the bone) and Osteomalacia (a softening of the bone).
Osteoporosis is commonly found in older individuals and can be seen in the expression of back pain, fractures or bone breaks. It is caused by the loss of bone, which makes the little they have remaining, frail and prone to breakage. Those struggling with osteoporosis often complain of muscles spasms and joint pain and discomfort.
Osteomalacia, on the other hand, is the softening of bones and is typically associated with vitamin D deficiency or low calcium levels. Individuals facing this disease, often report feelings of bone pain, muscle weakness, dull aching feels in their back, pelvis, hips, legs, and ribs.
As mentioned earlier, there are numerous reasons for low vitamin D levels such as lack of sun exposure, the use of sunscreen, poor diet and lack of supplementation during the winter months. Other contributing factors that can cause low Vitamin D levels include the use of laxatives, steroids, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Over time, ignoring symptoms such as back pain, muscle weakness, and spasms, frequent colds and infections, depression, impaired wound healing, hair loss or bone loss, could lead to more serious illnesses and diseases.
Ensure that you are consuming an abundance of vitamin D rich foods or supplementing with a D3 supplement like Ener-D if you are not spending adequate amounts of time in the sunshine and supplement regularly for optimal vitamin D levels!
By Lindsay Mustard. Lindsay is a Holistic Nutritionist, foodie and firefighter-in-training with a burning passion for health and fitness. In her nutrition practice, Lindsay works with clients to craft a unique plan that is tailored to their specific health goals using a natural, whole food and supplement approach.