BASKING IN THE SUN: How to Avoid a Vitamin D Deficiency

Did you know that a vitamin D deficiency may negatively impact your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to sickness, depression, weight gain, and skin irritation?  Vitamin D – often referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ – is an essential nutrient.  Unfortunately, not everyone gets enough. 

If you want to live your life to the fullest, here is what you should know about avoiding a vitamin D deficiency.

What Is Vitamin D and What Does it Do for the Body?

Without getting too technical, vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble nutrients that play an important role in your ability to absorb other nutrients.

You need vitamin D to properly absorb magnesium, calcium, and phosphate. By regulating these nutrients, vitamin D helps you build stronger bones.

Vitamin D is also needed to regulate the neuromuscular system and the immune system, along with promoting the growth of new cells.  Vitamin D also has skin benefits in addition to contributing to the health of hair follicles.

Too Little Vitamin D?

So, you now know why vitamin D is essential but how do you know if you’re not getting enough? Some of the most common symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency include:

    • Frequent illnesses
    • Feeling tired or fatigued
    • Back pain or aching bones
    • Bone loss
    • Hair loss
    • Depression
    • Weight gain
    • Acne
    • Increased severity of eczema or rosacea

Without enough vitamin D, your immune function decreases. This leads to inflammation and decreased insulin sensitivity, which can negatively affect the health of your skin.

One of the more surprising effects of vitamin D deficiency is weight gain. Studies have linked increased belly fat and obesity to a lack of vitamin D.

What Causes a Vitamin D Deficiency?

If you don’t eat enough food with vitamin D or if you don’t spend enough time outdoors or have proper exposure to sunlight you may end up with a deficiency.  There is also a seasonal impact as vitamin D deficiencies are more common in the winter due to the lack of sunlight. People spend less time outdoors during the colder months.

As the days grow shorter and colder, you may start to notice some of the vitamin D deficiency symptoms discussed. This is when you need to pay more attention to healthy sources of this essential nutrient.

What Are the Best Sources of Vitamin D?

Fish and seafood are the top food sources for vitamin D. One serving of cooked trout provides 645 IUs of the nutrient, which is more than the daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for men and women under the age of 70.

Other sources of vitamin D include:

    • Milk
    • Fortified breakfast cereal
    • Eggs
    • Beef
    • Cheese
    • Poultry

To put things in perspective, one large scrambled egg contains about 44 IUs while a cup of 2% milk supplies 120 IUs.

Don’t forget to seek healthy sun exposure throughout the week.  When your skin is exposed to sunlight, the ultraviolet (UV-B) rays triggers your body to produce more vitamin D. Typically, spending about 15 to 20 minutes outdoors a few times per week should supply your body with all the vitamin D that you need.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

The National Institutes of Health set the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D at 600 IU for men and women between the ages of 1 and 70. As you get older, you need more vitamin D, with an RDA of 800 IU for those over 70.

How much vitamin D is too much? According to the Institute of Medicine, you can safely intake about 4000 IU of vitamin D each day, so you shouldn’t need to worry about overdoing it unless you eat fish and drink milk all day.

When you reach 10,000 IU, you may suffer from increased toxicity, which negatively impacts your liver and overall health.

The bottom line is that vitamin D is an important part of any healthy diet.

If you want to maintain healthy skin, bones, hair, and nails, make sure that you spend more time outdoors and incorporate foods containing vitamin D into a healthy diet.

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