The Basics Of Vitamin D
Also known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is produced in your body through exposure to the sun. When sunlight reaches us on the Earth's surface, it contains two types of UV light: UVA and UVB. The UVB light interacts with a derivative of cholesterol in the skin to make vitamin D. AN important observation to make here is that glass allows UVA sunlight to pass through, but blocks UVB. This means that just sitting close to a sunny window is not enough to get Vitamin D, but rather being outdoors is the best practice. Although direct sunlight is the best way to get vitamin D in your system, it can also be found in some foods and can be ingested as a vitamin D supplement.
The fact is, that Vitamin D isn't just one "thing" -- it's a collection of molecules. Vitamin D that's produced in our skin or absorbed from food starts off as inactive vitamin D. On the skin it would be vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) and when its coming from food or supplements it's Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol). (Today, Vitamin D3 is also supplemented from dietary supplements). It then travels to the liver where it is packaged into the circulating form of Vitamin D (Calcifediol). This is exactly what doctors are measuring for in your blood when testing for Vitamin D levels. Finally, the packaged vitamin D is unpacked in the kidney to form active vitamin D, which is more potent than circulating Vitamin D.
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
There are two main factors that influence the amount of Vitamin D that our body is able to make: The first is our skin type and the second is the amount of UV exposure. It's important to find the right balance of UV light. This is because if you get too little, you risk becoming Vitamin D deficient and if you get too much, it increases your risk of developing skin cancer and accelerates skin aging. It's extremely difficult to give specific recommendations on the amount of sunlight that each person needs and that is because skin types vary among people so dramatically, but overall you don't need that much sunlight to get enough Vitamin D. Sufficient Vitamin D is important for normal body function but extra vitamin D has not been shown to improve health.
If you really want to get a better idea of how much sunlight you need, there are plenty of resources available online to check the UV index in your city. Typically, if the UV index is less than 3 then about half an hour in the sun should be fine for those who don't have sensitive skin. If the maximum UV index is 3 or higher, people with fair skin can produce enough vitamin D very quickly so even 5-10 minutes of sunlight is enough. Note that these suggestions are for people with fair skin, people with darker skin tend to be more UV resilient and studies suggest that darker skin tones require 3 times more sunlight. For those who live further north, and get practically no sunlight for half of the year, getting Vitamin D from your diet is much more important in the winter months, which means getting more egg, liver, and salmon in the diet.
The most commonly understood and discussed effects of Vitamin D is on the bones. Vitamin D is known to regulate the absorption of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium to help maintain healthy bones. Research also shows that Vitamin D can help the body to break down worn out bone and build new bone. Vitamin D is also commonly known for regulating moods and boosting your immune system.
Vitamin D in food is scarce and isn't as prevalent as other common vitamins. That said, however, some brands fortify their products to include the vitamin. Egg yolks, fatty fish like salmon, cod liver oil, and some cheeses naturally have vitamin D in them. You can also consume fortified milk and yogurt for your daily dose of vitamin D.
Is It Better To Take Vitamin D At Night Or In The Morning?
While there isn't one best time to take vitamin D, it's generally agreed upon to take the vitamin after a meal, especially a meal with high fats. This is because vitamin D is fat-soluble; it is best absorbed with high-fat containing foods, much like CBD and other cannabinoids.
Despite the many studies done on this topic, taking it after a meal is only a suggestion, and not necessarily a recommendation. Some doctors also suggest taking vitamin D first thing in the morning. This promotes consistent consumption and gets it out of the way; you need not remember to take it later on. Others may suggest you take it during the day, and taking it with or without food doesn't really make a difference. As mentioned earlier, vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin, because naturally, it comes from the sunlight, so taking it during the daylight hours makes sense.
There are competing studies regarding the vitamin's role in affecting your body's melatonin levels, the hormone that regulates your sleep quality. Some researchers posited anecdotal reports stating lower levels of the vitamin can be correlated to lower sleep quality and is a cause for the interference of melatonin production. More research needs to be done on the matter, but that's not to say you shouldn't ever take your supplements with your last meal of the day.
Why Do People Take Vitamin D?
Getting the right amount of vitamin D in the body is vital to maintaining a healthy immune system. So, what happens when your vitamin D is too low? Deficiency can be linked to a variety of issues. These include higher blood pressure, susceptibility to bouts of depression and anxiety, bone and muscle pain, and general body tiredness.
In some studies, researchers found individuals with a higher rate of vitamin D in their system were able to fight their depression better. The vitamin regulates mood imbalances, making it easier for those with depression and anxiety to managing their conditions. The studies were conducted with another group taking placebos to test the efficacy of regular vitamin D consumption.
Moreover, managing body weight was also positively affected with higher levels of vitamin D. In conjunction with calcium, combining the two suppressed the individual's appetite, helping them manage their eating habits and promoting weight loss.
Is Vitamin D Good For Your Skin?
It should be noted there are individuals who are at a higher risk of developing deficiencies in vitamin D. People living in major cities, regions with little direct sunlight, and individuals with darker skin all require more vitamin D intake than those with lighter skin, or those living in places with more direct sunlight.
The reason is multifaceted. In larger cities, chances are you are surrounded by high-rises and shaded areas. Your body only produces the vitamin through direct exposure to the sun. It's that reaction that signals the body to produce more vitamin D. Moreover, individuals with darker skin tones will find their bodies need more sunlight to produce the appropriate amount of Vitamin D.
What Does Vitamin D Do For A Woman's Body?
Women are generally more prone to deficiency as a result of their biological makeup. The case is more significant with pregnant women, as they are providing nutrients to two bodies, not just their own.
A fetus acquires vitamin D directly from their mothers. As such, the mother needs to have higher levels of vitamin D in her system to sufficiently provide for her child. This is necessary to promote proper bone development and growth.
Expecting mothers should introduce their system to a diet that incorporates vitamin D foods and supplements in their meals. Otherwise, the baby may be malnourished.
For most healthy adults and children, sunlight in moderate amounts is all that's needed to get enough vitamin D. In fact, the benefits of the sun's rays may even extend beyond Vitamin D. Spending time in the sun means that you are getting outside and getting some exercise out in the sun which also improves overall mood. Another thing to remember is that Vitamin D is one of the four fat-soluble Vitamins, which means that the body can store vitamin D and release it slowly. This is good news for those of us who live further up north and deal with the darker winter months. The Vitamin D that your body produces and stores in the summer months can be released slowly for some time to get you through winter. There are some people who are at a high risk of Vitamin D deficiency and may benefit from taking vitamin D supplements. This includes older people who are at risk of fractures and people who are naturally very dark-skinned but live in less sunny climates, those who spend long hours indoors, and women that are already vitamin D deficient.