5 Secret Benefits of Vitamin D
By: Popeye's Team
Vitamin D has languished in obscurity for a very long time, despite it being a vitamin with a wide array of unique and essential functions. In fact, it might be a contender for one of the most important vitamins to keep you healthy and strong! We’ll take a dive into 5 big benefits of regular Vitamin D intake that might try and convince you why!
What is Vitamin D anyway?
Before going too far about the benefits of Vitamin D, let’s take a look at what exactly it is we’re dealing with, here!
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is made from human skin exposure to sunlight. However, this sunshine vitamin is not naturally present in any food. In fact, foods that you’d find it in, such as dairy products, will have been enriched with it.
As a quick note: when we talk about Vitamin D in terms of diet and supplements, we mean vitamin D3, as its counterpart Vitamin D2 is not as effective in raising overall Vitamin D levels.
The Vitamin D Conundrum
Before we get started with our list, we should take a moment and ask ourselves a question that might be sitting somewhere in your mind – “if I get Vitamin D from the sun, why do I need it in supplements?”
This is a very good question, and it makes sense to ask, especially as sunlight isn’t particularly hard to find. But roughly 1 in 3 Canadians are below the cut-off for acceptable Vitamin D levels according to a 2013 publication from Health Canada. That’s a lot of people – around 12.5 million. With such an ease of access, why are people struggling to get enough Vitamin D?
There are many factors that go into this answer. The first and most obvious is sunlight availability – in Canada, our winters are pretty tough, lots of snow, and cloudy skies. But those cloudy skies don’t let a lot of sunlight through, which means a lot less Vitamin D being made.
To make matters worse, the sunlight you DO get in the winter doesn’t even count! Those in latitudes above 37 degrees north (that’s us!) and below 37 degrees south of the equator don’t have sunlight strong enough to activate Vitamin D for most of the year – only the summer months. That’s more than ¾ of the year without the sun we need to make Vitamin D!
And we haven’t even touched how intestinal or liver disease can also affect Vitamin D levels, or that we don’t get as much sunlight as we used to when everyone moved from farms to offices.
With all these factors coming together, we need to rethink the way we get our Vitamin D. Now, let’s look at WHY we want Vitamin D.
Benefit #1: Hormone Help
Vitamin D isn’t just your garden-variety vitamin. In fact, once absorbed, it will be transformed into a hormone in the body!
Stay strong with Vitamin D! It helps maintain higher testosterone levels, while keeping estrogen in check, making it a great option to help balance hormones and keep testosterone high!
During pregnancy, a woman's nutritional needs tend to increase across the board, most notably calcium and Vitamin D, so that the baby has strong bones. To make sure you get all the vitamins you need, a prenatal multivitamin (which contains vitamin D3) will be a must-have for any expecting moms!
After menopause, nutritional priorities for women change again. Gone are the woes of iron intake (mostly), and now calcium, Vitamin D and antioxidants are more important than ever. This is because estrogen played a role in offering both bone health and antioxidant protection. But with the decline in estrogen levels from menopause, we need to look to nutrients to take up the slack!
Benefit #2: Helping Mental Health
Many different supplements can help you fight stress. But, you could say some play bigger roles than others. Vitamin D is one of them! Vitamin D regulates your levels of serotonin, which is, among other things, the neurotransmitter responsible for happiness and satisfaction.
Higher doses of Vitamin D might be able to help those who suffer from depression. Furthermore, Vitamin D can help with other mental health challenges. For example: Seasonal depression, typically associated with winter, seems to be linked to a lack of Vitamin D due to a lack of sunlight.
Some illnesses such as schizophrenia and anxiety appear to have a lower frequency of onset, as well as a lower severity when the affected person has adequate Vitamin D levels.
And as a little Coup De Grace: Vitamin D might also help with general fatigue, especially when sleep-related, in addition to helping memory. Given that fatigue is a cause to many other problems, this can cause quite the Domino Effect
Benefit #3: Bone and Joint Health
On top of helping postmenopausal women have strong, healthy bones and combating problems such as osteoporosis and osteopenia, Vitamin D will help your bones and joints healthy for a while! It’s always easier to prevent something from breaking than to fix it once broken – so you can start bringing up your Vitamin D intake even before perimenopause.
Gentlemen, you aren’t exempt from this problem! You can also be affected by bone health issues! To make sure you don’t, start bringing up your Vitamin D doses in your 40s. For better results in both men and women, combine our sunshine vitamin with calcium, vitamin K and collagen – your bones will thank you!
Benefit #4: Boost Your Immune System
Vitamin D has strong ties to our immune system. Why? Many of our immune cells, such as T-cells, B-cells, and antigen-presenting cells (APCs) have receptors that communicate with Vitamin D.
In fact, Vitamin D plays a key role when it comes to deploying our “Biological army” to counter invaders. Vitamin D also helps fight bodily inflammation – which is highly beneficial for those who suffer from auto-immune conditions.
There's even evidence that it might help with ALS, rheumatoid arthritis and IBS! Check your Vitamin D levels with your doctor, and if they're low, maybe Vitamin D can help?
Benefit #5: Vitamin D: A friend to Vegans and Vegetarians everywhere!
You might already know, but being vegan or vegetarian isn’t easy! There are a lot of nutrients, like iron, calcium, zinc, Vitamin D and vitamin B that we typically rely on meat to get plenty of. Though ingenuity and creativity always prevail, and many vegan sources of these nutrients can be found to cover all these bases. But Vitamin D can still be tricky, as one of the only ways to get it, is through fortified foods.
The topic of Vitamin D intake has generated some controversy. For a very long time, the official minimum recommended daily dose was 400 to 800 IU. However, many nutrition experts and researchers believe that this figure should be increased to 1000 IU per day.
In addition, there is a great deal of research showing that even higher doses of Vitamin D can be of great benefit. It has been illustrated that people who are not exposed to enough sunlight can benefit from 2000 to 4000 IU per day.
There are some schools of thought that recommend even higher doses – around the 5000-10,000 IU range. Though 10,000 IU is the upper limit of what your body can tolerate per day, and while 4,000 IU is the limit recognized in Canada and the United States, one should ABSOLUTELY not exceed 10,000IU. Your exact dose should be whatever prevents deficiency for you!
Be it in a multivitamin or on its own, taking Vitamin D offers nothing but great benefits! Let’s hear it for Vitamin D!
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