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Let's talk about Vitamin D and why you should understand its importance at every age.

Kim Shapira
April 17, 2023
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Why is vitamin D important to your body?

Vitamin D has two important roles, 1. It is a NUTRIENT we eat and 2. It’s a HORMONE our bodies make. Vitamin D it is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps our bodies absorb and retain phosphorus and calcium; both are critical for building bone.  It is also known to reduce cancer cells, reduce inflammation and control infections (think common cold, flu, covid-19).   Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, it is produced in our bodies when ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun hit our skin. Vitamin D is used by every cell in our body. And correct levels of Vitamin D are important for our immune system to work properly.  Many diseases are linked to low Vitamin D levels. We can also get Vitamin D from supplementation and some foods, and foods that are fortified. Normal level of Vitamin D is also needed to absorb calcium from food. Calcium is vital in building strong bones and teeth and is important for the nervous system.

How can my body get access to vitamin D? 90% is from sunlight and 10% is your food source.

Ninety per cent of vitamin D is made from sunlight exposure directly on to the skin (not through glass) and no, you cannot get vitamin D through clothing. That misconception is always out there floating around. The only way to trigger the chemical reaction that results in vitamin D production is for actual sunlight to reach your skin directly. I get asked all the time, can I still get vitamin D on an overcast day? Yes, can you get a sunburn on an overcast day, is my normal response? It is absolutely possible to get the ultraviolet-B rays needed for the skin to synthesize vitamin D even when skies are cloudy and gray. I recommend taking a walk in the morning without sunglasses or a hat. You can wear sunscreen, but exposing the whites of your eyes to the sun rays and even the palms of your hands for 10 minutes a day will get the job done. Only about 10 per cent of vitamin D comes from food sources such as oily fish (swordfish, cod liver oil, salmon, tuna, and sardines), fortified dairy and plant milks, beef liver, fortified cereals, mushrooms, cheese and egg yolks. This is why supplements help.

Another question I get asked is, do people who cover their body for cultural, religious reasons or skin sensitivity get enough vitamin D? This is where I suggest the importance of supplements.

What are the main reasons that you become deficient in vitamin D? As a dietitian I remind you that it's difficult to get enough Vitamin D from your diet alone. We are meant to be outside, and many of us work indoors and we just do not get enough outside time. We need to make this a priority.

Symptoms that appear when vitamin D is deficient-

  • Fatigue.
  • Not sleeping well.
  • Bone pain or achiness.
  • Depression or feelings of sadness.
  • Hair loss.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Getting sick more easily.

If you are going to buy or do take supplements know the difference between vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. D2(ergocalciferol) is made from plants and is found in fortified food and some supplements. D3(cholecalciferol) is naturally produce from the human body and is found in animal foods. D3 may raise levels higher and longer than D2.

Symptoms of vitamin D toxicity-

  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Hardening of blood vessels and tissues due to increased blood levels of calcium, potentially leading to damage of the kidneys and heart.

If you are concerned about your levels your doctor can order a blood test.

Kim Shapira

Kim Shapira

dietitian and nutrition therapist.

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