What is vitamin D?
The term ‘vitamin D’ generally refers to a whole group of secosteroids (a kind of molecules similar to steroids). Their presence in a human organism is necessary for proper absorption of calcium and phosphate. The components of the group that are of the biggest importance for human health are vitamins D2 and D3. Small amounts of vitamin D might be ingested from diet, though our bodies are able to synthesize them simply through a proper sunlight exposure (this is why vitamin D is often called ‘the sunshine vitamin’).
What are vitamin D benefits?
Both vitamin D2 and D3 are metabolized in the liver and kidneys. There vitamin D is converted into its biologically active form, namely calcitriol. This hormone circuits through the whole organism with blood and manages the amount of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream. This function of vitamin D is crucial for the healthy growth and remodeling of bones. Besides that, the ‘sunshine vitamin’ enhances the communication between the cells all over the body. It also helps the immune system to fight infections and improves the functioning of heart, lungs and brain. A chronically low level of this vitamin might lead to bone illnesses like osteoporosis or rickets, but this is just a tip of the iceberg. Other diseases that are proven to be linked with a vitamin D shortage are asthma, hypertension, inflammatory bowel disease, influenza, type-2 diabetes, dental cavities, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, Alzheimer’s and pretty much every kind of cancer.
Do I have a vitamin D deficiency?
People who are most likely to have such deficiency are: seniors, breastfed infants, people with dark complexion, people suffering from obesity, liver diseases, cystic fibrosis and some other conditions. A vitamin D deficiency usually comes as a result of lack of sunlight exposure, poor diet or increased requisition for the vitamin, e.g. in case of pregnancy. The symptoms of vitamin D shortage are rather vague and only in severe cases take form of pain in your bones and weakness that makes it hard to move around. The amount of vitamin D in an organism is usually measured by blood test.
Vitamin D-rich foods and supplements
While human organism is able to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight, it is commonly known that too much of such exposure might result in hastened skin aging or even skin cancer. Although to receive the required dose of vitamin D it is enough to expose yourself to the sun for 15 minutes three times a week, the weather doesn’t always allow us to do that. Therefore it is recommended to replenish your vitamin D with proper diet and supplements. Foods that contain high amounts of this vitamin are: fatty saltwater fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel), liver, egg yolks, cheese, butter, cream and oysters. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, e.g. milk, cereal or margarine. There are plenty of multivitamin supplements on the market. However, it is important not to overdose them, as almost every case of vitamin D toxicity occurs from using too many supplements.
Can I have too much of vitamin D?
Even the substance of such enormous importance for our health might nonetheless be harmful when its amount in organism is bigger than needed. Such situation leads to calcium excess in the organism which in turn creates calcium deposits in heart and lungs and causes the feeling of confusion and disorientation, kidney damage, kidney stones, nausea, weakness, vomiting, constipation and weight loss.