The Essential Guide to Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

By: Tori Bowlin

April 07, 2023

Young mother and her two daughters running downhill with rainbow behind them

Vitamin D, often hailed as the sunshine vitamin, plays a crucial role in our health by helping the body absorb calcium and promoting bone and teeth strength. However, despite its importance, Vitamin D deficiency is widespread, contributing to various health issues ranging from osteoporosis to type 2 diabetes.

We asked Alexandra Westover, APRN for Renown Health, for more information.

Understanding Vitamin D and Sun Exposure

How Vitamin D is Synthesized

Vitamin D functions like a pro-hormone produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight. It's vital for bone health and immune function and can even reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 15%.

Challenges in Vitamin D Synthesis

Achieving adequate Vitamin D levels is more complex than basking in the sun. The vitamin breaks down quickly; during winter in northern latitudes, UVB rays are often too weak to contribute to its production.

Expert Insight

Alexandra shares, "Vitamin D deficiency is linked to multiple health concerns, including cancer and depression. Unfortunately, deficiency rates are high in the U.S., partly due to limited dietary sources and the increasing prevalence of obesity."

Dietary Sources of Vitamin D

Foods High in Vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish like salmon and tuna
  • Fortified milk and orange juices
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggs
  • Cod Liver Oil

Alexandra's Advice on Supplements

"While foods and over-the-counter supplements can help, they often fail to correct deficiencies. Many individuals need prescription-strength doses of Vitamin D."

The Top 5 Benefits of Vitamin D

  1. Bone and Dental Health: Essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth.
  2. Immune System Support: Plays a key role in immune health and may prevent certain illnesses.
  3. Regulation of Insulin: Helps manage diabetes by influencing insulin levels.
  4. Supports Cardiovascular Health: Vital for lung function and heart health.
  5. Cancer Prevention: Influences genes linked to cancer development.

Guidelines for Vitamin D Supplementation

  • Infants (0-12 months): 400 IU (10 mcg)
  • Children (1-18 years) and Adults (up to age 70): 600 IU (15 mcg)
  • Older Adults (over 70): 800 IU (20 mcg)
  • Pregnant or Lactating Women: 600 IU (15 mcg)
  • Caution! Exceeding 4000 IU daily can be harmful and lead to adverse effects.

Recognizing a Vitamin D Deficiency

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Low bone density or fractures
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Muscle cramps and joint pain
  • Mood swings and irritability

Getting Tested

A simple blood test can determine your Vitamin D levels and help you take steps to address any deficiency.


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