‘The sunshine vitamin’ is more important than you think!
Did you know that vitamin D is actually a hormone? It is produced in the skin after being exposed to ultraviolet B-rays (UVB rays) in sunlight. Vitamin D is also a micronutrient that can be taken in the diet from natural sources, fortified foods, and as a supplement.
We all know that vitamin D is required for the health of our bones. It enables absorption of important minerals like calcium and phosphorus to build strong bones and teeth. But, vitamin D plays many more essential roles beyond bone health. Let’s read ahead!
- Vitamin D is vital for your immunity
When it comes to immunity, vitamin C usually takes all the spotlight, but vitamin D also plays a critical role in our fight against infectious diseases. Our immune system cells contain receptors where vitamin D binds and regulates their functioning. Low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of respiratory diseases including tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and other viral and bacterial infections.
2. Vitamin D keeps your hormones in balance
Several scientific studies have found out the association of vitamin D deficiency with female hormonal disorders. Vitamin D plays an important role in producing the female sex hormone estrogen. The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is about 67–85%. Vitamin D also has an important link with the hormone insulin, which regulates glucose metabolism. Several studies reported that vitamin D deficiency affects both insulin secretion and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance (a condition in which body cells become unresponsive to insulin, leading to high blood sugar) is an important risk factor for diseases like type-2 diabetes and obesity. You can read more about insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes in our previous blog.
3. Vitamin D deficiency is linked with chronic inflammation
Chronic low-grade inflammation is associated with several diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, and some cancers. One major deficiency commonly found in people with low-grade inflammation is that of vitamin D. People with vitamin D deficiency are also highly susceptible to inflammatory conditions like allergies, asthma, eczema etc.
Curious about chronic inflammation? Check out our previous blog.
4. Vitamin D deficiency can increase risk of heart disease
Vitamin D plays a number of roles to protect heart health. It regulates blood pressure and prevents hypertension; improves overall functioning of blood vessels; and also protects the heart tissues. It has also been proven to lower inflammation and serum lipid levels — both are risk factors for heart disease.
We don’t have enough clinical studies to determine whether correcting vitamin D deficiency with supplements can reverse the risk factors associated with heart disease. But there is enough research to support that optimal vitamin D levels can prevent heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
5. Vitamin D affects your mental health
Vitamin D is involved in activating the production of some neurochemicals like serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a feel-good chemical that stabilizes mood. Melatonin regulates sleep and circadian rhythms. Vitamin D plays important roles in the brain. It shows neuroprotective effects because of its anti-inflammatory/antioxidant properties. There is ongoing scientific research trying to understand the role of vitamin D in cognitive brain functions like memory and attention.
Despite its dire importance for overall health, vitamin D deficiency is quite common around the world. Thus, the use of vitamin D supplements has increased in recent years. However, there have been many cases of vitamin D toxicity resulting from excessive intake of these supplements. So, it is best to consult your doctor if there are any signs of vitamin D deficiency like lower back pain, fatigue, mood disorders, hair loss, poor wound healing. The best way to naturally raise your vitamin D levels is to have sunlight exposure for 15–20 minutes, several times a week. It is estimated that 90% of the daily body requirements are met by sunlight exposure. Some natural food sources of Vitamin D are mushrooms, egg yolks, salmon fish, and milk.
Remember, the only person who can keep YOU the healthiest is YOU!
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