May is more than just a time for blooming wildflowers and long sunny days, it’s also National Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention Month!
Is there any better time, then, to shed some light on the trending “sunshine vitamin” that’s also a powerful bone support supplement?
We think not!
Vitamin D has been making the rounds on wellness blogs and the health-forward side of TikTok for a while now — it’s one of those vitamins that everyone should be taking, they say. But is it really worth all the hype?
(Hint: it kind of is! We consider it one of the Vital5 for a reason.)
As always, we turn to the notoriously skeptical holistic pharmacist, Dr. Neal, for his expertise on the matter. Read on, sunbeam, for the down-low on Vitamin D — how it actually impacts our bodies from blood and bones to bad moods.
In This Article:
- What does Vitamin D do?
- Benefits of Vitamin D
- Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency
- Best supplement forms of Vitamin D
What Does Vitamin D Do?
It’s always Vitamin D this and Vitamin D that, but did you know it’s not really a vitamin?
That’s right! Vitamin D is actually a hormone that plays a vital role in maintaining our health… Just probably not the way you thought it did.
Learn More: Vitamin D: Not What We Think It Is | Dr. Neal Smoller
Vitamin D is the term used to refer to fat-soluble secosteroids that the body produces in response to sun exposure, or foods and supplements high in the hormone. This critical compound regulates immune functions, balances inflammation, and increases the absorption of minerals in the gut.
The sunshine vitamin is, in fact, essential for overall health, but some of the benefits need some clarification.
Common Vitamin D Benefits
If those “Got Milk?” ads taught us anything, it’s that milk is supposed to build stronger bones due to its calcium and Vitamin D content. The science, however, isn’t as straightforward.
Vitamin D does help our bodies absorb calcium properly, but calcium doesn’t directly translate to increased bone mass or density. In fact, calcium and Vitamin D merely slow bone density loss.
Learn More: Calcium Doesn’t Work (Like You Think It Does)
The connection between Vitamin D and muscle support is still being fully discovered and dissected by the scientific community, but recent findings are promising!
Observational studies have shown a not-insignificant, positive effect of Vitamin D supplementation on muscle strength in elderly folks. For youngins, unfortunately, there’s a gap in the data currently.
Autoimmune diseases affect more than 24 million people in the US alone, so it’s no wonder the relationship between Vitamin D and chronic conditions is being examined.
Vitamin D can, indeed, regulate the immune system and stave off infection, but autoimmune diseases are extraordinarily complex. We hope that the recent research showcasing the positive effects of Vitamin D for autoimmune diseases paves the way for further investigation.
By the same token, though, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased autoimmunity, so take your supplements, people!
Ever notice how, sometimes, a warm, sunny day has the power to shift the mood of your whole week?
It’s not just the light bequeathing us feel-good feelings — it’s the Vitamin D in the sunshine, most likely. Clinical studies have been scattered, but the correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and depression symptoms is pretty concrete.
Cutting-edge research is now looking at the relationship between Vitamin D deficiency and anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, too.
Are You Vitamin D Deficient?
Despite the evermore apparent importance of Vitamin D, many people still aren’t getting enough of it. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 50% of the world’s population is deficient in Vitamin D.
This is partly due to our modern lifestyles. We spend more time indoors, wear sunscreen when we’re outside, and don’t consume nearly enough Vitamin D-rich foods.
And just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s cool — Vitamin D deficiency is no walk in the park.
Common Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms:
- General fatigue
- Weight gain
- Bone pain
- Hair loss
- Weakened muscles
- Muscles cramps or aches
- Depression or sudden mood changes
Vitamin D is the only vitamin — ahem, hormone — that your body can make on its own. So, the next question we asked wellness wisecracker, Dr. Neal, was this:
What can we do to ensure we’re getting enough Vitamin D?
Get More Sunlight
One, fairly obvious option is to spend more time in the sun. Duh! Why didn’t we think of that?
Just 15 minutes of sun exposure a day can help our bodies produce Vitamin D and jumpstart your journey to optimal health.
Simple as it is though, sunbathing is just the first step. Regular sun exposure isn’t always possible, especially for those in colder climates, working the day shift, or with darker skin tones.
Eat More Vitamin D-Rich Foods
Your next option, then, is to beef up your diet with more Vitamin D-rich eats. Luckily for us foodies, there are a lot of options to choose from including:
- Butter or ghee
- Egg yolk
- Cheese and milk
- Oily or fatty fish
- Kale, spinach, collard greens
But if you, like us, struggle with getting yourself to wolf down a can of sardines every day… Supplementation is the next step!
Taking a high-quality Vitamin D supplement can help ensure you’re getting enough of this important nutrient, especially if you’re at risk for deficiency.
Supplementing Vitamin D: Don’t Be Dull, Be D3lightful!
There are two main forms of Vitamin D: D2 and D3.
D2 is found and derived from plants, while D3 is produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight and can also be found in foods and supplements. Can you guess which one is more bioavailable and therefore a better investment?
Listen: The Supplement Quality Standard | Wellness Upside Down Podcast Ep. 24
Research shows that Vitamin D3 may be more effective at raising and maintaining Vitamin D levels in the body. So, if you’re going to supplement, look for a D3 option to get the most bang for your buck.
But Don’t Overdo It, Sunflower
If you’re one of the many, many people with a Vitamin D deficiency, you’re probably wondering: How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
The recommended daily intake of Vitamin D varies depending on factors such as age, sex, and overall health status. But, if you’re an adult, you can usually aim for around 600-800 IU per day.
While Vitamin D is essential for overall health, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Taking too much Vitamin D can lead to a condition called hypervitaminosis D, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and kidney problems.
However, some people may need more, especially if they aren’t getting enough sun exposure.
Just remember, it’s important not to go overboard with your Vitamin D supplements. Taking too much can be harmful, so be sure to consult with your doctor to determine the right dosage for you.
What To Look For In A Vitamin D Supplement
Before you begin your hunt for a quality supplement, you should know that not all Vitamin D supplements are created equally.
First step: find the Vitamin D3s.
Then, health-conscious folks will want to look for Vitamin D supplements that have a high-potency dose of at least 1,000 IU; this can help you reach and maintain that golden standard of 50 ng/ml.
Because Vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone, you’ll also want a supplement with added fats to enhance bioavailability and absorption. It doesn’t hurt to have a balanced meal with protein, carbs, and fat before you take your supplement, either!
Listen: Multivitamins – Safe Buying | Wellness Upside Down Podcast Ep. 11
Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that the supplement industry is a wild frontier. Regulations are loose, profit is top of mind, and marketing schemes are slicker than a greased hog.
Find a vitamin manufacturer you can trust — one with meticulously defined standards and a transparency-forward approach.
The Bottom Line: Get The Dose of D You Need, But Don’t Go Overboard
- Vitamin D does help your bones by increasing calcium absorption, which slows bone density loss.
- It does a whole bunch of other beneficial stuff in your body too, though.
- Vitamin D deficiency is a huge pain, literally and figuratively — supplementation might be the wellness game-changer you’ve been looking for.
Just remember that, as with all health advice on the internet, it’s important to do your own research, cultivate self-sufficiency, and consult with your healthcare provider.
Dial in with our very own Dr. Neal via a free, Counterside Consult to discuss your supplement strategy, Vitamin D options, and all other things wellness related!