The Importance of Vitamin D

Winter is coming. We had quite a mild September, with a lot of sun, but we have to now think of all the dark months we have ahead. Vitamin D is synthetized mostly in the presence of sunlight, meaning that winter is not the best time of the year to get Vitamin D. We are spending more and more time inside therefore we are not getting anywhere near enough sunlight as we require. We know that Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins in our body. It has a lot of functions, and it is so important that it acts similar to a hormone.

Like other hormones, vit D participates in a whole lot of bodily processes which include

  • muscle movement; it’s involved in carrying messages from the brain to the body and back to the brain.
  • It’s important for the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses.
  • It also helps us absorb calcium and maintain our bones healthy
  • It plays an important role in reducing inflammation.

vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of:

  • cancer
  • autoimmune diseases
  • cardiovascular diseases
  • infectious diseases
While more research is necessary to fully understand how vitamin D works in our bodies, we know enough to know we should make sure we’re getting enough of it. Vitamin D is very important for everyone, but women over 40 should especially be sure they’re getting enough.
Vitamin D can be criiticle for women in midlife, as it may also play a role in moderating several perimenopause and menopause symptoms and concerns. Menopausal women are at higher risk of osteoporosis due to the lack of oestrogen. Even If you take calcium in order to prevent osteoporosis, you will still need Vitamin D in order to get calcium into your bones. In fact, calcium and Vitamin D are usually coupled together as a supplement as they rely so heavily on each other.
Recent studies demonstrate a link between menopausal symptoms and Vit D deficiency. In fact, it is known that oestrogen increases the activity of the enzyme responsible for activating vitamin D and so declining oestrogen levels during the menopausal transition could lead to symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D supplementation can improve mood in non-menopausal populations as well. Having said that, it is pivotal for women to get tested for Vit D serum level. This will tell you if you need supplement (or get more sun) in order to get the values back to normal. Osteoporosis, which is called the silent disease must be taken seriously. Not only it is progressive and unnoticeable, but also, once the disease is severe it is difficult to manage.
Prevention is the key. And one of the pillar of the prevention of osteoporosis are Vitamin D levels. But, how much Vit D we need? According to different studies, we need between 800 and 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D — preferably D3 — per day. Unfortunately, we don’t get enough from the foods we eat, (it is a bit better if the food is fortified) and thanks to the use sunblock and our preference (of course not everyone) with indoor entertainment, we rarely absorb enough from the sun.
Sunblock blocks up to 90% of the rays we need to get vitamin D. Glass filters out the beneficial UV rays, so sitting in the window while playing on your smart phone isn’t going to do it either.
So, myu advice, get out! Seriously, get outside, particularly if you live in a sunny climate and it’s summer, when the sun’s rays are at the right wavelength. For the fairer skinned, 10 to 15 minutes in the midday sun is probably more than enough. Those with darker skin may need considerably longer — up to six times as long, depending on skin pigmentation (as a darker skin tone prevents partially the absorption) If you can’t get outside more, or if it’s winter and there’s no sun out there, there are some foods that provide a good amount of vitamin D. For example, mostly fatty fish like salmon, herring, and sardines. Cod liver oil, if you can get it down, also has vitamin A and Omega 3s; tuna, oysters, shrimp, mushrooms and egg yolks. Because Vit.D can be tough to get, and not everyone can eat all the foods containing Vit D, many other foods are fortified with it. Milk, milk substitutes like almond or soy milk, some cereals, some varieties of yogurt, and orange juice may contain vitamin D, but be sure to check the label. Moreover, supplements are a good way to get your D supply. Many experts believe D3 is more bioavailable (you absorb more of the nutrients).
How do you know if you are deficient? Beside getting blood test, there are some signs that may indicate you are not getting enough Vit D.

Common signs of D deficiency include:

  • Getting sick more often.
  • Feeling fatigued.
  • Various amount of pain, particularly in the back, legs, ribs, joints, and/or muscles.