Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies today in the United States. And to think, you don’t even need to eat any vitamin D in order to get enough of it. That is because ultraviolet radiation, in the form of sunlight, can turn a certain form of cholesterol in your skin into vitamin D. And lucky for you, summer is right around the corner. It is estimated that even as little as about 10 minutes of direct sun exposure 2-3 times a week is enough to get an adequate amount of vitamin D. You don’t need to go to the beach, lay out, and get fried for 3 hours. We’re talking a short walk to the corner store, a little light gardening outside, or just reading the morning paper in the sunshine. When it comes to sunlight and vitamin D, a little goes a long way.
Vitamin D has many functions throughout the body, and scientists are still finding new ones. For one, it helps calcium absorption in the small intestine. Celiac patients as well those with gluten sensitivity can often suffer from poor absorption of vitamins and nutrients, so vitamin D’s role in enhancing calcium absorption is particularly important. The more vitamin D you have, the better your overall calcium status will be and calcium itself is very important for overall health. Vitamin D also plays a role in immune function, bone and tooth health, skin and muscle health, and gene expression and regulation. It also helps regulate proper levels of calcium and phosphorous in the body, another important way it maintains overall body health.
A deficiency of vitamin D can have many negative health consequences. Osteoporosis is perhaps the best known condition related to a deficiency of vitamin D. The condition involves a weakening and diminished bone mass, and literally translates to “porous bones.” It is associated with aging, but many studies have found that vitamin D can slow the onset or even perhaps reverse the development of osteoporosis. It is a very common disease in postmenopausal women, but older men are also afflicted. Another bone condition known as osteomalacia (or Rickets in children) can result from low vitamin D, and leads to weak and brittle bones, bone pain, and muscle weakness. Low vitamin D is also associated with serious conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis, as well as overall mortality. Basically, those with adequate amounts of vitamin D will be in much better overall health than those without. And again, being that vitamin D deficiency is becoming so common in the U.S., this is of particular concern.
Beyond just a little bit of sun exposure a few times a week, vitamin D can be consumed through the diet as well. Not only is sunlight gluten-free, but dietary sources are generally gluten-free as well. Most milk sold in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D. Yogurt is a good source of vitamin D. If one happens to be dairy-free as well, soy milk is often fortified with vitamin D. Fatty fish such as salmon is a good source. The humble mushroom is a good plant-based source of vitamin D. But with summer coming up, you probably don’t even need to worry about getting enough vitamin D in the diet. Just make sure you get 10-15 minutes of direct sunshine a few times a week. It is good for the body and there’s just something about getting sunshine that is good for the mind and spirit as well.
Article Courtesy: Andrew Steingrube