You have probably heard of Vitamin D as it's been getting a lot of hype recently, but what is Vitamin D exactly? What does it do? Should you and your family be supplementing with it? Below I answer these questions and explain why Vitamin D is considered absolutely essential for good health.
1. What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is actually a hormone that is synthesized in our bodies from two precursor sources... 1) sunlight and 2) food, primarily animal products, especially fish products. Importantly, it is very difficult to get the necessary amount of daily Vitamin D from food alone so whether or not we have access to an appropriate amount of sunlight is important.
2. What are the benefits of Vitamin D?
Since Vitamin D is a hormone, it plays a role in a TON of systems and functional roles in the body. It helps with immune system function, important for bone and skin health, necessary for proper heart function, plays a role in memory and concentration, affects mood, and seems to help defend against cancer and other disease. Needless to say, if a person is Vitamin D deficient they can experience symptoms related to any of these systems.
3.) How much Vitamin D do I need?
The USDA's recommendation is 600 IU of vitamin D for most people. It is important to understand however that daily recommendations are based on what daily amounts prevent symptoms of deficiency... in other words, the minimum amount needed. For most people in my clinic, I recommend between 1000 IU and 5000 IU of Vitamin D daily. I recommend consulting with your chiropractor or other healthcare provider before starting any supplement.
4.) Do I need to supplement for Vitamin D?
It is estimated that at least half the US population is deficient in Vitamin D. I would go as far to say that if you live in Minnesota (or north of Tennessee in the US) and you are NOT currently supplementing with Vitamin D, you are likely deficient. The reason for this is because in order for our bodies to create Vitamin D from the sun, the sun has to have a certain degree of intensity which is not present for most of the year in most of the US. Since it's difficult to get enough from food alone, supplementing with Vitamin D is the next best option. You can test Vitamin D levels with a blood test which can be ordered by your chiropractor of primary care provider. Vitamin D is considered to be very safe as a supplement with rare negative side-effects at extremely high levels.
5.) What should I look for in a Vitamin D supplement?
I always recommend consulting with your chiropractor or health professional before starting any nutritional product. With any supplement, quality is first and foremost. I ONLY recommend supplements that are sold through a healthcare provider or health food store as the supplement industry is wildly unregulated and consumers should be wary of untested or non-certified products. Vitamin D is often paired with K2 which helps for absorption and any Vitamin D supplement should be taken with food.