vitamin d supplements

Do you need a vitamin D supplement?

We all need a little sunshine throughout the year… 

Did you know, vitamin D is produced by your body as a response to sun exposure? Letting a few sun rays dance on your skin is easy in summer. It is also good for you in moderate doses. But, in winter, when your body needs vitamin D the most, you may not get enough from sunlight.

Luckily, you can keep your vitamin D levels high by consuming foods and supplements high in the “sunshine vitamin”.

Because vitamin D is so important for you all year round, we’ve provided all you need to know about it.

Vitamin D is not a vitamin

Vitamin D, for obvious reasons, is often mistaken as a vitamin. But, it’s actually a pro-hormone. This means that it’s a substance that your body converts to a hormone. 

Your kidneys produce the hormone to control blood calcium concentration and help your immune system. Your body makes vitamin D in a chemical reaction that occurs when sunlight hits your skin. 

You may have a vitamin D deficiency

Sensible sun exposure can help you produce vitamin D, however, the hormone breaks down fast, especially in winter.

According to Dr Zahid Naeem, vitamin D deficiency is an ignored epidemic. Studies have shown that a large percentage of the global population are vitamin D deficient. Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include being elderly, having a dark complexion, being overweight, consuming a poor diet and getting too little sun. 

Here are a few telltale signs you may have a vitamin D deficiency:

  • Poor immune system
  • Hair loss
  • Bone loss
  • Feeling tired and fatigued
  • Depression
  • Bone and back pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Sweaty forehead
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Struggling to sleep

Top health benefits of vitamin D

#1. Activates your immune defenses

Scientists have found that vitamin D helps activate your immune defenses. Without it, the killer cells (T cells) of your immune system can’t react and fight off serious infections in the body.

#2. Improves musculoskeletal health

Vitamin D is essential for the regulation of calcium and maintenance of phosphorus levels in the blood. These two factors are vital for maintaining healthy bones.

#3. Reduces risk of pregnancy complications

Recent studies suggest that vitamin D plays an important role in the health of the mother and baby. A vitamin D supplement is recommended for pregnant women.

#4. Aids your metabolism

Vitamin D can influence blood sugar imbalances and metabolic complications. This is because it is involved in multiple metabolic processes throughout your body.

#5. Prevents cancer

Vitamin D helps regulate cell growth and promotes cell-to-cell communication. Studies have also suggested that the biologically active form of vitamin D, calcitriol, can slow down the development of new blood vessels and cancerous tissue, thus reducing cancer progression.

Who should take a vitamin D supplement

The only way to determine whether you are deficient is by means of a blood test. Your healthcare provider will measure the levels of calcifediol, the storage form of vitamin D, in your blood.

One microgram of vitamin D = 40 IU of vitamin D. According to the National Institutes of Health, here are the recommended daily allowances for vitamin D set on the basis of minimal sun exposure:

Age

Male

Female

Pregnant

Lactating

0–12 months

(AI)

400 IU

(10 mcg)

400 IU

(10 mcg)

1–13 years

 

600 IU

(15 mcg)

600 IU

(15 mcg)

14–18 years

 

600 IU

(15 mcg)

600 IU

(15 mcg)

600 IU

(15 mcg)

600 IU

(15 mcg)

19–50 years

 

600 IU

(15 mcg)

600 IU

(15 mcg)

600 IU

(15 mcg)

600 IU

(15 mcg)

51–70 years

 

600 IU

(15 mcg)

600 IU

(15 mcg)

>70 years

 

800 IU

(20 mcg)

800 IU

(20 mcg)

The best time to take a vitamin D supplement

Vitamin D is better absorbed into your body after a meal as it is not water soluble. Try taking it regularly after breakfast time to prevent any sleep disturbances. Studies have shown that vitamin D may affect your sleep quality if it is taken closer to evening time.

Taking a vitamin D supplement can help you keep your vitamin D levels up throughout the year. Your body may need more vitamin D during winter and when your immune system is low.

Read immune boosting tips here.

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