Vitamin D: Pros and Cons of Sunshine Vitamin

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto

Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is a chemical that the skin generates when exposed to sunlight. The skin produces vitamin D through a series of chemical processes. This is the only vitamin that the body can produce; other vitamins are taken from the food we eat.

Just like any type of vitamin, vitamin D have a long list of health benefits including managing the calcium in the blood; helping maintain normal cell functions; fighting infections; aiding in healing; and maintaining normal heart, lungs, and brain functions. Needless to say, vitamin D is an essential part of our body function and it’s important that we take enough vitamin D to maintain a healthy body.

Although we get our vitamin D mainly by being exposed to the sun, certain types of foods do contain this vitamin, but in very little amount. To increase your vitamin D intake, you could also take supplements like cod liver oil capsules or boosting your consumption of fatty fishes like wild salmon or tuna.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Toxicity

Too little or too much of a good thing can be harmful to the body — this does not exempt the sunshine vitamin. Although vitamin D deficiency is a well-known condition that affects millions of people each year, the same thing cannot be said for vitamin D toxicity, both of which we will expound below.

What is Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency occurs when you’re not getting enough vitamin D to maintain normal body functions. Apart from inhibiting the body from functioning properly, vitamin D insufficiency could also lead to obesity, an increased risk in cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and cognitive impairment in older adults. In children, vitamin D deficiency could also result in severe asthma.

To prevent vitamin D insufficiency, we recommend spending several hours outdoors, ideally from 8 to 10 in the morning and then 4 to 5 at night. This is the safest periods when the sun isn’t as strong. If you’re diagnosed with vitamin D insufficiency, you could also take supplements and eat foods rich in vitamin D like beef liver, eggs, or vitamin D-enriched dairy products.

The most common causes of vitamin D deficiency is not getting enough of the vitamin from one’s diet, having dark skin, and spending limited time outside. In rare cases, a person whose kidneys could not convert vitamin D to its active form will result in vitamin D deficiency.

What is Vitamin D Toxicity?

Vitamin D toxicity, also known as hypervitaminosis D, is an extremely rare disorder when the body is abnormally high in vitamin D. This is a potentially serious condition that could cause severe buildup of calcium in the blood, causing a variety of symptoms ranging from nausea to weakness, kidney disease, and vomiting. This condition is aggravated if you have a history of liver and kidney problems.

To prevent vitamin D toxicity, do not exceed the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D supplements. This condition is common to people who take vitamin D supplements. If you have a history of liver and kidney disease, we recommend talking to your doctor first to discuss the risks and proper dosage of vitamin D prior to taking supplements.

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