Why Do I Need Vitamin D?

 

Surely you have heard of vitamin D. You may even understand the role it plays in supporting your bone health. What many people don’t know is that vitamin D plays a critical part in the health of your immune system and is essential for long-term optimal health.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient essential for supporting the body’s natural defenses against viruses, bacteria, chronic disease, and autoimmune disorders. We know that vitamin D deficiency is linked to an increased risk for the common cold and flu, allergies and asthma as well as more serious chronic diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. What can you take away from this? Everyone can benefit from higher levels of vitamin D – especially those of us living in industrialized countries where our lifestyle exacerbates vitamin D deficiency.

So, how do you get more vitamin D? The most effective way is with direct sun exposure. Our body actually converts ultraviolet rays into vitamin D3 through the skin. This could be one reason that colds and flu are more prevalent in the colder months when we’re all bundled up or trying to stay warm indoors. But, sun exposure isn’t necessarily the best option, considering you’d have to forego clothing and sunscreen to reap the most benefit. Not to mention that in inclement weather and during the colder months, exposure to sunlight is nearly impossible and may increase your risk of skin cancer anyway.

Making a few healthy changes to your diet is a great way to increase your vitamin D levels. Foods naturally high in vitamin D include salmon, mackerel, herring, cod liver oil, and eggs – adding these foods to your diet regularly will help naturally increase your vitamin D levels. Taking a vitamin D supplement in addition to eating a healthy nutrient-rich diet is, in my opinion, the safest and most effective way to increase your vitamin D level. When you’re buying a supplement, remember to choose one that is specifically labeled D3 (also called cholecalciferol), which is the most bio-available form of vitamin D and make sure to take it with food containing healthy fats, as this will help with its absorption. Your doctor should be able to check your blood serum levels through your normal lab work and recommend an appropriate dose based on your clinical needs. Don’t wait until you get sick – give your body what it needs now so that you can coast through cold and flu season this year.

Be well and stay healthy!

– Ashley Howell, CHC

*For more information, check out the following online resources:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2812815/
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/managing-your-healthcare/infectious-diseases/articles/2009/02/23/too-little-vitamin-d-may-mean-more-colds-and-flu

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