Vitamin D (The Sunshine Vitamin) and Why you Need it.
Vitamin D was something I only somewhat recently started supplementing with, like in the past six months or so. I was familiar with the general benefits of this nutrient, but in the past week I decided to hit the books (and yes, the almighty Google too), and learn as much as I could about Vitamin D. And low and behold, I was pretty amazed, enthralled, and in awe at all this powerful nutrient does to keep us nice and healthy. In this blog post I'll give a bit of background info about vitamin D, 5 amazing benefits it has for our bodies, and why we should be taking it. Enjoy!
An intro into vitamin D
Despite being called a vitamin, this nutrient is more like a hormone and can be synthesized in the body through skin exposure to the sun (hence sunshine vitamin). Vitamins cannot be synthesized or made by the body, whereas vitamin D can. Our bodies are really good at making it too; in fact, if you stand outside in the summer (without sunscreen or clothes...if you roll like that) for 20 minutes, you would get about 20,000 units of Vitamin D, which is 100 times more than the RDA (recommended daily allowance)!! (Carr 170).
It is estimated that over one billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient, which is a lot of peeps! (Greenblatt). People living north of the equator are more susceptible to deficiency, since, you know, winter and all. But other factors can also impact how much vitamin D your body can make, such as skin pigmentation, body fat percentage, health conditions, and age. Unfortunately, as we became more cautionary with the sun and started to avoid it and lather our skin with sunscreen, we also began to become deficient in vitamin D. Although I absolutely agree we should be preventing our chances of skin cancer, we can also learn to get a little sun to help our bodies naturally make vitamin D. Exposing our skin to the sun in the spring, summer, and fall, for about 20 minutes should be enough to help us make sufficient vitamin D; we can expose our arms, legs, or face and neck, whichever you choose!
Ok, now that we're more familiar with vitamin D, let's talk about 5 benefits!
Strong bones and teeth!
So, most of us are pretty familiar with vitamin D being an important factor for strong bones and teeth, hence why foods like orange juice or milk are fortified with it (although there's better sources! I'll tell ya in a bit 😉 ). What this vitamin does is help us absorb calcium through our intestines and thus helps us build strong bones, teeth, and muscle. So if we are looking to avoid osteopenia (bones that are thinner than normal), or osteoporosis, vitamin D is a go to.
Regulates our immune system
It turns out every tissue in our bodies including our immune system, brain, and muscles, has vitamin D receptors, meaning our entire body needs this nutrient in order to function properly. Vitamin D will turn on genes that regulate the immune system, helping us get sick less often (hello flu/cold free winter!) (Greenblatt). Ahh the possibilities, less tissues, runny noses, and sore throats? Yes please!
During the winter we are prone to feeling a little more gloomy as opposed to the summer, when sunshine, warmer weather, and lots of outdoor activities keep us happy and active. Many people will begin to feel depressed in the winter, and this is known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Since during the winter time we are exposed to far less sunshine than the rest of the year, our levels can drop substantially, leading to symptoms such as depression. Like I mentioned before, the brain has vitamin D receptors which release neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitter are chemical messengers which allow neurons in our brain to communicate, and are essential for mood and brain health. Serotonin is known as the happy hormone, and dopamine is the pleasure and reward hormone; it also helps us focus and pay attention (Hyman, 102). So if we are feeling the winter blues, vitamin D is definitely one of the best supplements to take! You're brain will thank you 🙂
Reduces inflammation in the body
Since vitamin D has receptors in all body tissues, researchers have found that it activates genes which will eventually reduce proteins which are known to cause inflammation. Less inflammation in the body means less disease, particularly chronic illness. In fact, researchers say supplementing with vitamin D may be beneficial to patients suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases such as asthma, arthritis, and prostate cancer (Zhang et al.).
Helps regulate blood sugar levels
Vitamin D seems to help our pancreas create insulin, which then makes it easier for the cells in our bodies to take up glucose, meaning it is beneficial for controlling blood sugar levels (WebMD). Vitamin D is also great for those who already have type 2 diabetes and want to better manage their condition, plus research has shown supplementing with this vitamin can lower chances of developing type 1 diabetes (Medical News Today).
So, this vitamin (well, hormone), is amazing and my current obsession. Every time I take it I am amazed that the 3 drops I take could be helping my body out in so many ways. If your looking for dietary sources of vitamin D, salmon, sardines, and eggs are great sources, however, they will not supply you with very high amounts, so I would recommend supplementing, particularly in the winter. It's been shown that a vitamin D deficiency can lead to diabetes, hypertension, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, and even Alzheimer's disease! (NCBI). And that is more than enough reason for me to supplement, plus, I really do feel like it gives my mood a little boost 🙂
Hope this is helpful, interesting information!
Much love! Laura
Carr, Kris. Crazy Sexy Diet. Skirt!, 2011.
Greenblatt, James M. “Psychological Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 14 Nov. 2011, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-breakthrough-depression-solution/201111/psychological-consequences-vitamin-d-deficiency.
Hyman, Mark. The Ultramind Solution. Scribner, 2009.
Naeem, Zahid. “Vitamin D Deficiency- An Ignored Epidemic.” International Journal of Health Sciences, Qassim University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jan. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068797/.
Let's Talk Self Care, Baby
What does taking care of yourself mean to you? Is it going to soul cycle and taking a spin class? Making some green juice or a delicious smoothie? Opting for the salad as the side to your burger instead of the fries? Being a holistic nutritionist is of course very much centered around food, but the word holistic in this title makes it key. I have been focusing so much on food and supplements for the past few years, that I sometimes lose sight of things which are also extremely important, such as what we are feeding our mind, bodies, souls, and hearts.
Of course healthy nutritious food is essential for our health and well being, but, at least for me, I can eat all the kale salad and wild Alaskan salmon, but in the end, if I don't feel loved, cared for, if I don't do things I enjoy, if I don't spend time with people I love and service others, if I neglect to listen to my body, and if I don't follow my life calling, then I feel stumped, and my growth is cut off. I feel almost suffocated, like I am in a very small stuffy room and can't find the door out.
I've been doing mindfulness meditation (almost!) every day now, and I feel much more in tune with what is going on with my body. I am able to listen more now, catch emotions as they develop. And so I began to become more aware of how much I have been neglecting taking care of my heart and soul. I take care of my body well, I eat healthy, take my supplements, exercise; and my mind is also well cared for; I love to read and learn, as I develop my business I am constantly challenging my mind, and as I develop protocols and plan workshops, well, it's all a workout for the mind. But, my heart and soul have been very much neglected.
My heart – what does it need? What does it pine for? What is it asking for?
My soul – what is it saying? What makes it feel fulfilled? What calms and soothes her?
These are questions I won't answer here, but they are good to delve into. I feel there are two main reasons I fail to do more soul searching. These are:
I am afraid of what I will find
I feel I have no time // don't feel like it
In the end, the best advice I can give myself and you if you relate to the above reasons, is there is always enough time, we just have to spend less time doing things which are unfulfilling – social media is the biggest one for me. As for being afraid of what I find, I think even though it is uncomfortable at first, the more you do it, the more you gain insight into who you are, the more you appreciate yourself, and the more you learn how to care for yourself.
Ask yourself these questions more often. Sit quietly in meditation and ask your heart, spirit, and mind what they want. Just for 5 minutes, and see what happens. I will also be doing the same.