Vitamin D is also known as the sunlight vitamin because the body manufactures it when the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit the skin. It is technically a hormone because it is the only vitamin that the body manufactures. It is vital in building strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D also strengthens the immune system and prevents some types of cancer. Ten to fifteen minutes walk in the summer sun for a few days weekly is enough supply of vitamin D. Those who can’t get out in the sun may require a supplement especially during winter where people do not get enough sun. The body’s capacity to manufacture vitamin D seems to decline with age. Older adults therefore need more vitamin D from food or supplements whether they have sunlight exposure or not.
There are a number of health benefits you can enjoy from vitamin D. These include:
§ It prevents osteoporosis. Vitamin D promotes absorption and balance of calcium and phosphorous in the body thereby strengthening bones and teeth and promotes normal muscle contraction and nerve function. If calcium in the blood is low, the body is forced to steal the mineral from the bones and supply the muscles and nerves with the calcium they need. Continuous loss of calcium may lead to osteoporosis. Vitamin D together with calcium has a vital role in promoting bone density.
§ It protects against some type of cancer. Vitamin D may be essential in preventing breast, colon and prostate cancer.
§ It slows down joint damage due to arthritis. 400 IU or more of vitamin D can effectively stop osteoarthritis of the knees.
§ It eases back pain. Vitamin D promotes strong bones and cartilage easing back pain.
§ It protects against multiple sclerosis. Studies indicate possible connection between vitamin D and MS.
§ It relieves symptoms of psoriasis. It helps in skin cell metabolism and growth thereby contributing to the treatment of skin diseases. Individuals with psoriasis have low levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is sold in tablet, softgel, liquid and capsule formulation. Recommended intake of Vitamin D includes the following:
Ø Men and women ages 19 to 50, take 200 IU per day.
Ø Men and women ages 51 to 70, take 400 IU per day.
Ø Men and women ages 71 and older, take 600 IU per day.
Those that have vitamin D deficiency may develop osteoporosis later on. Other symptoms include nervousness, muscle twitches, insomnia and diarrhea. Children, in case of severe deficiency, may develop a bone-weakening disease called rickets.
If you take excessive doses of vitamin D, usually more than 1,000 IU a day, may notice signs and symptoms of toxic reaction. These symptoms may include: loss of appetite, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination. Taking 10,000 to 15,000 IU on daily basis may lead to weight loss, paleness, constipation, fever and a host of other ailments. Taking Vitamin at more than 1,000 IU daily for an extended period of time may possibly result in high blood pressure, premature hardening of arteries, weaken bones, calcium buildup in the muscles and kidney damage.
In order to get the most vitamin D, expose yourself between 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M. twice or thrice daily can give you all the vitamin D you need. Do not take more than 800 IU of vitamin D supplements per day. For faster absorption, take fat-soluble vitamin with food that has some fat. Vitamin D should be taken with antacids that have magnesium as this can cause high levels of magnesium. Do not take Vitamin D with thiazide diuretics as this can cause toxic levels of calcium that causes kidneys to fail.