Since the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in recommendations to boost Vitamin D. It was not an unknown vitamin until then. We have all heard that spending time in the sun could increase Vitamin D levels – but do you know why your level is important? Are you curious what’s D got to do with it?
Vitamin D is both a nutrient and a prohormone – a precursor to the hormone, calcitriol. It has many functions in the body touching the gut, bones, hormones, immune system, and gene expression. It’s an important part of healthy living.
Protects Tight Junctions
Starting with the gut, low levels of Vitamin D increase the risk of intestinal permeability or leaky gut. This is when the tight junctions between microvilli in the small intestines separate. As a result, larger than molecule-size particles pass through into the bloodstream. The downstream effect can be the development of food sensitivities.
Supports Bone Health
A good level of Vitamin D helps to promote absorption of calcium in the gut and maintains adequate calcium and phosphorus levels for bone mineralization. This is why Vitamin D is recognized as important for bone health. If calcium isn’t properly channeled into bones, it can be carried around by the circulatory system and settle in soft organ tissue.
Strengthens Immune System
Vitamin D improves the responsiveness of the immune system. Most immune cells have Vitamin D receptors, indicating its importance for their function. A deficiency is associated with an increased risk of autoimmune activity, where the immune system mistakes itself as a threat.
Balances Hormone Levels
Hormone balance is key for everyone, and menopausal women seem to be at greater risk for imbalances. Science has shown that Vitamin D can help to balance estrogen levels for women in menopause. In turn, this can protect from metabolic syndrome and the development of diabetes.
Controls Gene Expression
Scientists have mapped the points at which Vitamin D interacts with our DNA and identified over 200 genes that it directly influences. The expression of genes can be turned on and off by interaction with nutrients. Thus, a deficiency of Vitamin D can contribute to a wide range of diseases.
This lays out a strong case for the importance of monitoring your Vitamin D levels. Sadly, our doctors do not regularly test this, but you can request it is added to your annual lab work. Don’t just settle for your doctor saying your level is “fine” because it is within the reference range. Evidence is showing that a level of 50-70 ng/ml is optimal, yet the average on lab testing is around 20 ng/ml. That leaves a lot of room for improved function!
Boosting Vitamin D Levels
There are several options for increasing your Vitamin D levels. The more natural way is to spend some time out in the sun. The caveat here is that you need to have your arms and legs exposed and not wear sunscreen. Depending on your skin tone, you may not need to be outside for very long. Fair-skinned people can spend just 10 minutes outside to gain benefit, while darker skin tones require slightly longer exposure.
This can work in the spring and summer months, but the farther north you live, the less benefit you will receive in the fall and winter. If you live above 40° N latitude (north of Kansas), it will be difficult to use outdoor exposure because the strength of the sun is reduced by the earth’s tilt.
Another option is to take a supplement to boost your Vitamin D levels. Here is where I have a strong recommendation to not only take Vitamin D3 but also Magnesium Glycinate. This is because your body uses Magnesium to put Vitamin D to work, so taking just Vitamin D3 can deplete your supply of Magnesium. The importance of Magnesium is a topic I have shared frequently, and many have low levels.
I have talked with many since the pandemic who reported that their doctors put them on Vitamin D supplements. Usually, they were taking 5000 or 10000 IUs daily without added Magnesium. They need to go together.
Now that you know the importance of Vitamin D, I hope you will take steps to evaluate your levels regularly. It is one of the important nutrient building blocks that enable your body to function well. A proactive approach is always better than waiting to react to a problem.