Vitamin D (aka the “sunshine vitamin”) is a fat-soluble vitamin that promotes several functions in the body. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium to stimulate bone and joint health, improves digestion, increases concentration and memory, boosts mood, supports immune health, and prevents certain disease and ailments (breast cancer, heart disease, depression, and weight gain, to name a few). Vitamin D is produced and stored in the body with direct sun exposure. The only other ways to get this sunshine vitamin are through certain foods (such as fatty fish, beef liver, and some dairy-rich foods), or through a good old fashioned supplement.
According to Statistics Canada, approximately one third of Canadians are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most prevalent nutrient deficiencies for people living outside of the tropics. In our wet and grey West Coast climate and for anyone living in an environment lacking sunshine or a lifestyle that keeps your indoors (for example, working 9-5 in an office), it’s safe to say that a daily vitamin D supplement may be necessary, at least throughout the winter months.
One of the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency is that it can lead to anemia – a condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells (hemoglobin) in the bloodstream, resulting in pallor, weariness, and lethargy. Without enough red blood cells, inadequate amounts of oxygen are carried to the body’s tissues, which results in anemics feeling tired and sluggish. Hemolytic anemia is a type of anemia cause by hemolysis, which is the abnormal breakdown of red blood cells either in the bloodstream or sometimes in the spleen. Vitamin D supports red blood cells to rebuild and absorb iron, which is another reason for its link to anemia. According to a study cited by the Vitamin D Council, the oxygen-carrying capacity of athletes surveyed peaked in late summer, suggesting that the blood’s ability to carry oxygen is increased with sun exposure (vitamin D absorption).
Have we convinced you yet that you should make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D? The body needs about 400–800 IU, or 10–20 micrograms daily intake of vitamin D. The best way to get your vitamin D is from direct sun exposure (being careful to avoid sun burns). The body absorbs ultraviolet (UV) rays that help synthesize vitamin D, which can be stored in the body for months. Vitamin D researcher Dr. Michael F. Holick wrote a book called The Vitamin D Solution, and it contains tables you can use to determine the amount of sun exposure you need year round to get adequate levels of vitamin D, given your location and skin type.
As mentioned above, sometimes direct sun exposure is not an option. In this case, you’re left with food and supplement sources. Check out our previous blog listing vitamin D rich foods – but be warned in case you’re not a fish lover – raw salmon ranks in at number one, with 988 IUs per 3.5oz serving. Last but not least, vitamin D supplements are an excellent source, especially during the winter months. Our Nutristart Quick D is made with some of the safest, most stable and natural ingredients available. These one a day vitamins are easy to carry with you or take on the go. One drop contains 1000 IUs of vitamin D, so it’s also a cost-effective option with over 960 drops per bottle.
For more information about vitamin D, visit our vitamin D resources page, with links to valuable articles, research, and industry news about this important nutrient.