Vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” due to the fact that it is produced in your skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Your body actually makes vitamin D from cholesterol when sunlight has contact with your skin.
Vitamin D is very important to your health and is difficult to come by naturally in foods. It can be found in certain foods like fatty fish and dairy products that have been fortified with the vitamin, however it is difficult to get a sufficient amount from food alone, so people often have to supplement their diets with a high-quality vitamin D supplement if they are not able to get enough sun exposure. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, and is in a family of compounds including vitamins D1, D2, and D3. It is so important to the body that it can affect up to 2,000 genes.
Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D functions in the body like a hormone. Each and every cell in your body actually has a receptor for vitamin D, making it important for overall health.
Some if the most important functions if vitamin D are to regular the body’s absorption of calcium and phosphorous, and facilitate the healthy function of the immune system. Getting enough vitamin D is important for the healthy growth and development of teeth and bones, as well as proper immunity against certain diseases.
According to Scientific American, 41.6% of people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D.
Some common risk factors of being deficient in vitamin D include:
- having dark skin
- old age
- not consuming enough milk or fish
- living far from the equator with limited sun exposure
- overuse of sunscreen
- being overweight
- staying inside
Most people who are deficient in vitamin D do not realize it because the symptoms are mild and may go unnoticed.
Symptoms of Deficiency
According to AuthorityNutrition, there are several symptoms that one should look for if they suspect they may be at risk for having a vitamin D deficiency. Some of these include:
- Feeling tired often
- Frequently getting sick
- Having bone, muscle and/or back pain
- Slow healing of wounds
- Hair loss
- Bone loss
These symptoms may be mild and seem non-specific, but they can certainly be linked to the common deficiency of vitamin D. The good news is that fixing a vitamin D deficiency is relatively easy, even though it is difficult to get from your diet alone. Spending just five minutes in direct sunlight each day will provide your body with the vitamin D it needs. Also, there are several quality supplements that can be purchased in addition to adding fortified milk and cereals to your everyday diet.