Some people call vitamin D the sunshine vitamin for an excellent reason. This crucial substance isn’t really a vitamin at all — it’s a hormone your body produces in reaction to el sol.
However, getting sufficient intake either from sun exposure or dietary means is vital to keeping multiple systems of your body working as designed. This nutrient benefits everything from your teeth to your immune system. Here are six ways vitamin D benefits the body and how to get more of it.
The Health Benefits Of Vitamin D
While western medicine treats the human body compartmentally — take this pill for your eyes and this one for your heart — the reality is far more complex. Everything you put in your body affects multiple systems, and nutrients are no exception. Here are six ways vitamin D benefits the body.
1. It Stimulates Endorphin Production
Endorphins are natural body chemicals that act as opioids without the adverse effects, destroying pain and elevating your mood. In one 2007 study, researchers found that the popularity of tanning beds arose from the rush of this feel-good hormone people experienced when exposed to ultraviolet light. Correcting an underlying vitamin D deficiency can help in the treatment of many addictions.
2. It Is Vital For Bone Health
When you think of nutrients that help your bones, your mind probably turns to calcium. However, your body can’t absorb that mineral without sufficient vitamin D stores. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in your gut, helping you maintain the ideal serum concentration of calcium and phosphorus to enable normal bone mineralization.
Vitamin D is also crucial to bone growth and bone remodeling by osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Insufficient intake of this nutrient can result in brittle bones and frequent breaks. It also increases your risk of osteoporosis.
3. It Boosts Immunity
Vitamin D impacts your immune system cells, helping them to treat infections. Even before scientists fully understood the uses of this nutrient, they unwittingly used exposure to sunlight and cod liver oil — rich in vitamin D — to treat tuberculosis. Those individuals with deficiencies often suffer more frequent infections.
Vitamin D deficiency may also play a role in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and lupus. Lower maternal intake of this nutrient during pregnancy increases the risk that your child will develop one of these disorders.
Some researchers believe that high vitamin D levels might lower your risk of coming down with severe COVID-19. Although the evidence is mixed, it couldn’t hurt to increase your time spent outdoors or eat foods rich in this nutrient.
4. It Reduces Inflammation
Vitamin D helps to reduce inflammation, particularly that frequently associated with autoimmune disorders. It regulates the production of inflammatory cytokines and inhibits the proliferation of pro-inflammatory cells. It may also play a role in conditions ranging from atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular disease, asthma, chronic kidney disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
5. It Improves Heart Function
A growing number of studies indicate that vitamin D deficiency may play a role in heart attacks and strokes. The 2018 VITAL study shows, however, that supplementation with excessive amounts is potentially dangerous.
The bottom line? Balance matters in all things. Excess amounts could increase the risk of blood calcification, forming plaques in your arteries, especially if you also supplement with calcium. If you do choose to supplement, don’t exceed the current recommended daily allowance (RDA).
6. It Helps Build Muscle
Some studies show a correlation between vitamin D supplementation and increases in muscle strength. High serum levels of this nutrient may reduce injury rates and improve sports performance.
Ways To Get More Vitamin D
Now that you understand how crucial vitamin D is to health, how can you increase your intake without overdoing it? Here are three methods:
- Go Outside – The easiest and perhaps most effective way to get your vitamin D is also free. Expose yourself to sunlight for at least 10 to 15 minutes each day — more is better. You can’t overdose using this method. Your body won’t produce more than it needs.
- Improve Your Diet – If you’re a pescatarian, you’re in luck. Fish like cod, tuna, salmon, herring and sardines are rich in this nutrient. You’ll also find it in mushrooms and eggs. Many manufacturers fortify their prepared food with this nutrient but opt for whole whenever possible.
- Supplement – You can find vitamin D supplements at nearly any grocery or health food store. Please don’t go overboard — stick to the recommended amount.
Vitamin D Benefits the Body in So Many Ways!
The sunshine vitamin benefits multiple systems of your body. Start getting more of it using a few simple methods!