Thursday, 2 March 2017

Post 47: All About Vitamin D




Hi guys,

I felt that I was going a little “dark-path” again, and needed to turn the light around, and back to health. Psychology, motivation and philosophy are still big parts of healthy living, but I want the main focus of this blog to be on bringing information to you guys in an enjoyably articulate way.

Today’s post is on Vitamin D and has been on my list of “to-dos” (or should that be “to-writes”... - C), for a few months now. It’s all over the news and is enjoying a fashion of-sorts at the moment. On top of that, Spring is just around the corner, which makes this topic much more actionable!

Vitamin D deficiency is widespread. This is because of a combination of people not being outside enough or living in climates which they aren’t fully evolved for. Initial signs of a deficiency include tiredness, muscle pain, and having higher susceptibility to colds and flu.

Way back in my mini-supplement review (which you can find here), I mentioned that I used Vitamin D; it’s been part of my “stack” for about seven months now (you might hear the word “stack” bandied around the internet and your friendly local health store; it’s a phrase for the collection of vitamins/supplements you take each day).




Vitamin D: what is it?

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone which comes in two forms: D2 and D3 (the one we need). It’s naturally produced by our bodies when UV-B rays from the sun interact with the cholesterol in our skin. Because we can produce the cholesterol we need for this process in our own bodies, we can say that Vitamin D is non-essential; what this means is that we can get all we need without eating anything. On the other hand, for example, Vitamin C is an essential nutrient, meaning it has to be eaten in some way for us to have it.

For fair skinned people, you need about 30 minutes of direct sun exposure each day. People with dark skin need considerably more (some sources saying up to three hours), because their skin allow less of the UV-B rays through to interact with the cholesterol. Obese people also need more because Vitamin D can be absorbed into fat.

Sounds quite simple then, right? The problem is that with our modern regime of office blocks, clothing, pollution, and sunscreen (which primarily blocks UV-B rather than UV-A), in combination with not living near the equator, we are not making enough D.

N.B. food is another way to obtain Vitamin D, especially from fatty cold-water fish, but this method does not provide enough unfortunately.



What does it do?

Vitamin D has a myriad of effects on the body (no wonder it’s so popular in the news: people must consider it a cure-all - C).

The first job of Vitamin D is to regulate blood calcium levels, and if there isn’t enough, then your blood will take calcium from bones. This is why a deficiency leads to rickets, osteoporosis, and other bone related diseases. But don’t be fooled by cereals fortified with Vitamin D, as they have actually been shown to reduce calcium levels.

Once its primary purpose is fulfilled, D gets to work on a lot more. Including:
  • Gene expression
  • Better sleep (Vitamin D inversely relates to melatonin - the sleepy hormone - and promotes healthy circadian rhythms) when taken in the morning via sunlight or supplementation
  • Testosterone, human-growth hormone, and estrogen
  • Immune function
  • Lowers inflammation
  • Cardiovascular health and fitness



How to get more D in your life

So, we already know about one method: sunlight. It’s free, incredibly cheap, and completely natural. Unfortunately, it’s not available for parts of the year. The problem is that we still need Vitamin D, a lot!

Vitamin D is fat soluble, meaning that if you take it as a supplement you need to eat some fat at the same time otherwise your body won’t absorb it.

The two methods lead to exactly the same end product, the only difference is the possibility of toxicity if you supplement too much. Our bodies have an in-built off switch for production once we’ve got enough, but theoretically you could take more and more supplements and eventually harm yourself. On the other hand, you would need to take a hell of lot to reach that level.

Sunlight is clearly preferred, but for most of us, we’ll need some supplementation. I follow the Vitamin D council’s recommendation of 1000 IUs per 25 pounds of bodyweight, and use the Solgar brand.



Takeaways

I hope you enjoyed today’s post and have one foot out the door to either catch some rays or buy a supplement. Here’s this week’s takeaways:

  1. Vitamin D is required for bone health as well as a huge array of bodily functions
  2. If you can get sunlight, then go down that route; you could do this by simply going for a quick walk during your lunchtime
  3. Otherwise, get a supplement, and remember to eat some fat at the same time!

Until next time,
Cowlean

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