Ever wondered if you should supplement with Vitamin D? This little vitamin carries out some pretty big roles in our body. Vitamin D actually acts much like a hormone in our body, and has a significant impact on bone, immune and mental health and might be a supplement you should consider taking during the winter.
Although I love the holiday season and cozy winter evenings, I do reach a point here in southern Ontario in the fall and winter where I begin to feel a little deprived of some bright, warm sunlight—and rightly so—we need it!
Sunshine is what enables our body to manufacture Vitamin D. It is made from the cholesterol in our skin when we’re exposed to sunlight, but here’s the catch: those of us living in cooler climates with limited sun exposure during parts of the year need a bit of a boost. Many people can benefit greatly from supplementing with this sunshine vitamin during the fall and winter months.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF VITAMIN D
Vitamin D acts more like a hormone in our body than a “vitamin” and has countless important roles because nearly every tissue type in our body has a vitamin D receptor! This means having adequate amounts of this vitamin D is critical for good health and the function of many different systems in our body.
One of the main roles of Vitamin D is in stimulating and controlling the absorption of calcium. It helps draw calcium into the bloodstream and increase its absorption from our intestines. Vitamin D also works synergistically alongside magnesium and vitamin K2 for optimal bone health. Vitamin K delivers calcium from the bloodstream to bones and teeth and helps remove calcium deposits found in soft tissue.
The sunshine vitamin supports our immune system and actually helps activate the T cells in our body. These cells seek out and destroy different bacteria and viruses that can cause colds and flu.
Vitamin D helps to effectively activate our “feel good” neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. This can be especially helpful for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) where a lack of sunlight has an adverse effect on mental health. It also helps maintain our nervous system.
Are you low in Vitamin D?
Low levels of vitamin D are more common than people would think. Dry skin, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), osteoporosis, and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer, can be signs of low deficiency. A lowered immune function—such as frequent colds or flu—can also be implicated in vitamin D deficiency. Be sure to get your levels checked if you are concerned.
Supplementing with Vitamin D
There are two kinds of vitamin D you can take as a supplement:
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)
D3 is derived from lanolin—the oil found in sheep’s wool—while D2 is a plant-based source. D2 is a popular choice amongst vegans and vegetarians alike, however if possible, I recommend opting for D3 as it’s easier for the body to absorb.
You can take vitamin D in a liquid, soft gel, or tablet form. Vitamin D is fat-soluble and is therefore better absorbed and assimilated when taken as liquid or encapsulated in an oil, as opposed to a hard, chalky tablet. Vitamin D absorption is enhanced when taken with a full meal, so be sure to take it with your biggest meal of the day!
Dosages vary depending on individual needs, but a safe amount to start with is 1,000IU, although many people require much more than that. Be sure to speak with your natural health care practitioner for the appropriate dose.
Some food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, cod liver oil and grass-fed butter.