Grasping The Importance Of Vitamin D | Growing Up Herbal | Learn all about vitamin d, why you need it, how to get it, and why it's good for your health!

Do you know about the importance of vitamin d? It’s one of those vitamins we’ve all heard about it. We know it’s important. We know we get it from the sun. It’s one of those “essential vitamins” that are added back into foods because we’re not getting enough of it naturally, and we know that the majority of people are deficient in it.

Yet… we still don’t REALLY know what it is and why it’s important.

This month on the blog, I’m going to be talking about sun exposure, UV rays, protecting ourselves and our little’s skin from overexposure to these rays, and sunscreen ,but today, let’s start at the beginning… with the sun… with vitamin D. Let’s look into it and learn a bit more than we already know so we can grasp the importance of vitamin d and what that means to our health. 

The Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin… meaning you need healthy fats to utilize it.

Let me stop here and say that I think this is only important if you’re taking vitamin D supplements as it needs the fat in our diet in order to help the vitamin D to be absorbed through our intestinal wall.

If you’re like me and you’d rather skip supplements and go the natural route, then you don’t need to worry so much about fat and vitamin D levels because your body produces vitamin D from sun exposure. Essentially, the UV rays of the sun act on the oils of the skin causing the body to produce and absorb the vitamin D created. Lighter skinned individuals produce more vitamin D than darker skinned persons because the UV rays can penetrate the skin easier.

Once vitamin D is made and absorbed, it is then stored in the body, mainly by the liver and then utilized.

What Does It Do

Vitamin D does a lot of good things for us. It’s thought to be one of the most overlooked nutrients in our diets.

One of the main things it does is it helps the body assimilate calcium. If you don’t have enough vitamin D, you may not be absorbing enough calcium from the foods you eat. This means weak bones and teeth, problems with nerve function and brain health, and sleeping problems.

Another benefit to vitamin D is that it stimulates the immune system to function quickly and properly. Studies have shown that when sufficient levels of vitamin D are in the blood stream, the bodies T cells become “armed” and begin to fight against microorganisms and invading pathogens. [1]

It’s also thought that a deficiency in vitamin D can lead to many different types of cancers, diabetes, and skin conditions like psoriasis!

Grasping The Importance Of Vitamin D | Growing Up Herbal | Learn all about vitamin d, why you need it, how to get it, and why it's good for your health!

Where Do We Get It

You can get some vitamin D from food and herbal sources, but definitely not enough to give your body the daily recommended amount that’s needed. You need to combine this with another way of getting a good amount of vitamin D.

The main source of vitamin D is the sun… specifically, the UV rays the sun produces. 

How much vitamin D a person gets from the sun varies depending on three things.

  1. How long they’re in the sun.
  2. How much of their body is exposed to the UV rays.
  3. How close they are to the sun.

The umbrella recommendation is 20 minutes of good sun exposure a day, but I’m not sure how much stock I’d put in that. In my opinion, healthy sun exposure is a good thing, and we need to get a lot of it. I’m not going to go into that so much today, but later on this month I’ll be talking about getting out in the sun and doing it safely.

You also have the option of going with a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin D3 is the natural form of vitamin D, and vitamin D2 is the synthetic form of vitamin D. Both of these must be converted into a more active form once they are in the body, but vitamin D3 converts much quicker than vitamin D2. Vitamin D2 also has a shorter shelf-life, and this is the most common form of vitamin D that you’ll get from a prescription. [2]

Food Sources

  • fish liver oils – specifically cod liver
  • salmon, herring, sardines, tuna
  • egg yolk
  • bone meal
  • organ meats

Herbal Sources

  • alfalfa
  • bee pollen
  • chickweed
  • eyebright
  • fenugreek
  • mullein
  • papaya
  • red raspberry
  • rosehips
  • sarsaparilla

Grasping The Importance Of Vitamin D | Growing Up Herbal | Learn all about vitamin d, why you need it, how to get it, and why it's good for your health!

How Much Vitamin D Do We Need

Seeing as how you can’t get enough vitamin D from foods to even reach the minimum recommended amount to prevent rickets (bone deformities), supplements and safe sun exposure are your best bets.

Like I said before, I’m not a big fan of supplements. However, if I lived somewhere that I couldn’t get a lot of good quality sunlight (like during the winter months), I’d go for supplements… specifically a natural supplement like cod liver oil or this vitamin d3 capsule or spray from Garden of Life (my favorite supplement company).

As far as a recommended amount, 400 IU (international units) is the amount recommended to prevent rickets, but many experts believe we need much more than that. Some even estimate that we need 5,000 IU a day in order to have our vitamin D levels be in the therapeutic range. How much you or your child needs can really only be determined by blood tests, and again this will change depending on where you live and the time of the year it is. During some times of the year, we may need that much, and during other times we may need less… or more.


I love this quote from an article by Food Matters…

“As a general rule, older people need more Vitamin D than younger people, large people need more that small people, fat people need more than skinny people, northern people need more than southern people, dark-skinned people need more than fair skinned people, winter people need more than summer people, sun-phobes need more than sun worshipers, and ill people may need more than well people.” [3]

This really only matters, again, if you’re using supplements. If you’re getting your vitamin D from the sun… the body is smart. Once your skin has produced enough vitamin D, it stops. How great is that! You don’t have to worry about over doing it. Supplements on the other hand…. eh-yeah… some say you can overdose on vitamin D and get toxic on it. Toxic levels of vitamin D are said to be 30,000 IU daily for infants, 50,000 IU daily for children, and 100,000 daily for adults when taken for extended amounts of time. [4]

So What Does All This Mean?

To break it down and put it plainly… stop being afraid of the sun. Get out in it, unprotected, a little at a time, building up your exposure levels. Do this every day if possible.

If you don’t get enough vitamin D through the sun, eat as many foods that contain vitamin D or supplement with things like fermented cod liver oil in order to get what you need.

If that supplement isn’t an option, find a vitamin D3 supplement to use over a vitamin D2 one, and have your blood tested regularly to make sure you’re getting what you need.

How do you go about getting enough vitamin D for yourself and your children?

REFERENCES:

1 – http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/the-truth-about-vitamin-d
2 – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/10/10/vitamin-d-experts-reveal-the-truth.aspx
3 – http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/vitamin-d-myths-and-facts
4 – The How To Herb Book