Did you know that vitamin D is actually considered a pro-hormone and not a vitamin? It is capable of producing its own vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin, giving it the nickname, sunshine vitamin. Vitamins are nutrients that cannot be synthesized by the body and must be acquired through the diet or supplements.
It is estimated that sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows the body the ability to produce sufficient vitamin D. Recent studies have suggested that up to 50% of adults and children worldwide are vitamin D deficient.
So what are some of the health benefits of vitamin D?
- Healthy bones: Vitamin D plays an important role in the regulation of calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood, two factors that are extremely important for maintaining healthy bones. We need vitamin D to absorb calcium in the intestines and to reclaim calcium that would otherwise be excreted through the kidneys.
- Vitamin D deficiency in children is call rickets, a disease characterized by a severely bow-legged appearance and softening of the bones.
- Vitamin D deficiency in adults is called osteoporosis.
- Boosts the immune system: Vitamin D triggers and arms the body’s T cells, the cells in the body that seek out and destroy any invading bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses and that without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system, the T cells, will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body. The T cells rely on vitamin D in order to activate and they would remain dormant to the possibility of threat if vitamin D is lacking in the blood.
- Reduces the risk of diabetes: Studies have shown that people who have the lowest vitamin D levels in their blood are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, studies have shown that people who have the lowest serum vitamin D levels are at an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life.
- Healthy pregnancy: Pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin D seem to be at greater risk of developing preeclampsia and needing a C-section. Poor vitamin D levels are also associated with gestational diabetes mellitus and bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women.
- There has also been research showing the importance of adequate vitamin D levels to help prevent autism and autoimmune diseases
- Prevents cancer: Vitamin D is extremely important for regulating cell growth and for cell-to-cell communication. Some studies have suggested that the hormonally active form of vitamind D, calcitriol, can reduce cancer progression by slowing the growth and development of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue, increasing cancer cell death and by reducing cell proliferation and metastases.
- There is even research being done to show that low levels of vitamin D increase the risk of heart disease.
If you are interested in what your vitamin D levels are, I would recommend getting your blood work done. You can either get vitamin D from the sun, certain foods or a vitamin D supplement. Who knew one vitamin had so many health benefits!
Dr. Jessica Stensland is a busy family wellness Chiropractor in Urbandale, Iowa. She spends her weeks taking care of dozens of families. Not only does Dr. Jessica specialize in pediatric and pregnancy chiropractic care, but she’s a board certified Acupuncturist. Dr. Jessica believes that a healthier community means taking care of all ages. She is a Minnesota native and enjoys seeing family and friends in her free time, in addition to staying active and reading the many books she has on her kindle