Vitamin D is a critical nutrient that is technically a hormone. It plays significant roles in the body regarding immunity, bone health, gut health, and much more. (1) (2)
Since vitamin D is technically a hormone, it acts as one in the body. That means low levels of vitamin D can throw off hormone balance, affect those with menopause, as some examples.
There are two forms of vitamin D, D2 and D3. Humans require both to maintain optimal health. Many foods contain vitamin D2, but it is necessary to attain vitamin D3 from the sun or supplements as well.
Making sure you get enough vitamin D every day is crucial to maintain overall health in many areas of the body. Many doctors do not check vitamin D levels regularly unless you request it.
It can be helpful to know your levels once a year, and you can find out what they are with a simple blood test. Normal levels of vitamin D are 30-40, but optimal levels are between 45-60.
Those who do not get a lot of sun or live in northern regions normally benefit from a supplement, especially in the colder months.
Table of Contents
- Health Benefits of Vitamin D
- Foods that Have Vitamin D
- Potential Health Risks of Vitamin D Toxicity
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Read below to check out the many health benefits of vitamin D, as well as with the best dietary sources, and possible risk factors of taking too much below.
1. It Can Help Defend Against Viruses
Many nutrients are necessary to keep your immune system functioning properly, like vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D.
Vitamin D can help to defend against viruses, and even the common cold, because it builds safeguards in the body, especially the respiratory system. (3)
A balance of immune boosting nutrients like vitamin D is ideal to keep your body healthy, your immune system strong, and decrease the chances of your developing a virus or cold.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it can store in the body, unlike water-soluble vitamins. It is crucial to monitor your levels, especially if you are supplementing.
Make sure to have some vitamin D around the house, especially during the winter months, to help defend your body from sickness such as the common cold, viruses, and more. You can take vitamin D via powder, liquid, or pill form.
2. It Can Protect Bone Health
One of the most vital functions of vitamin D is to help build and maintain strong bones. While calcium is also important for this, without vitamin D, it would be impossible to maintain structure.
Healthy, strong bones need adequate amounts of vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K, and calcium to work best. Vitamin K2 can even help boost the absorption of vitamin D, so it is present in many vitamin D supplements. (4)
Without adequate magnesium levels, vitamin D cannot convert to its final form in the body. Calcium is essential to get from food to promote bone health as well.
However, since calcium is present in many common foods, it can be rare for a young to middle aged person to become deficient. That is why food will typically suffice when it comes to calcium.
Those who are deficient in vitamin D may suffer from muscle spasms, joint pain, and more. Make sure you understand the importance of these four nutrients when thinking about keeping your bones health for the long haul.
3. It May Prevent Chronic Disease
Chronic disease such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and stroke are the most common diseases in the United States. Heart disease is the number one contributor of death in the United States. It affects nearly 800,000 Americans every year, as an example.
What does vitamin D have to do with these diseases? It turns out, it may have a significant impact. Many studies show that those who have lower levels of vitamin D have a higher chance of developing all four of these diseases. (5)
Vitamin D may have the power to lower inflammation in the body, which is the number one contributor to all four chronic diseases. On top of that, it can boost the immune system, leaving your body a better fighting chance at battling such disease. It can also help to prevent vitamin D, because it can lower insulin levels.
Lifestyle factors and overall dietary consumption are critical to consider when preventing or reducing heart disease, too. Remember, those with heart disease tend to have lower levels of vitamin D.
4. It May Aid in Digestion
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in a healthy digestive system. It can help prevent intestinal permeability by supporting the microvilli in the intestinal tract, and much more.
There is some research that shows vitamin D can regulate gastrointestinal dysfunction that results in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD.)
Vitamin D can even affect the health of the gut microbiome as a whole. The gut microbiome holds tens of trillions of bacteria, and it is necessary to replenish those bacteria with good bacteria from food or supplements. (6)
This vitamin and hormone can help regulate the function of the gut, promoting more good bacteria throughout the intestinal tract.
There is even some research that is can help prevent colorectal cancer, too. (7)
Many people throughout the world suffer from digestive disorders like IBS, IBD, and more. The good news is, vitamin D is a cost-effective and highly therapeutic hormone for many people who suffer from digestive distress.
5. It May Help with Allergies
Some studies suggest that there may be a connection between vitamin D levels and allergies like allergic rhinitis. While more research is necessary, the most promising studies come from those involving children. (8)
One study suggests there may be a direct connect with low vitamin D levels and many allergic disorders like asthma, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema. (9)
While more research is necessary to support these claims, studies do show that children with lower vitamin D levels are more susceptible to asthma, food allergies, and atopic dermatitis.
If you have a child with one of these common allergies, be sure to get their vitamin D levels tested by their doctor to rule out any deficiency of this necessary steroid hormone.
6. It Can Help with Sleep and Weight
Vitamin D can help improve sleep, and even help you lose weight. That is because it gives you a more energy and it helps to boost metabolism.
Adequate sleep is one of the most important factors to support a healthy, thriving life. It is arguably even more important than food in certain cases.
If you are eating right, but only sleeping a few hours a night, your body will not be able to function and repair itself. That can easily make you more susceptible to sickness through viruses and more.
Luckily, optimal vitamin D levels can help you get the right amount of sleep each night. Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency shows to be more present in those with sleep disorders. (10)
Since vitamin D also boosts metabolism, there is an excellent chance it can help you lose weight as well. In fact, many observational studies show that obese people tend to have lower levels of vitamin D. (11)
7. It Can Improve Your Mood
Vitamin D is a powerful vitamin and hormone that is crucial to living your best, healthy life by preventing disease, allergies, and more. But can it even help with your mental health?
The answer is, it very well could. Vitamin D shows a strong correlation with mood regulation because of its power as a hormone in the body. Hormones act as messenger molecules throughout the cells, reacting from the brain to the heart and most organs.
To have healthy hormone levels, you must have sufficient and ideally optimal levels of vitamin D. It can be so strong that it may even prevent you from experiencing depression. (12)
A common mood disorder known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) sweeps through the northern hemisphere every winter affecting millions. There may be a direct link between this disorder, which occurs during the darkest and coldest months of the year, and vitamin D.
That is because you need the sun or supplementation in order to get enough vitamin D3. Depressive disorders are disabling for many, and everyone is different in the treatment they require. (13)
While trauma and environmental concerns need to be addressed, vitamin levels in those who suffer the most can also be exceedingly helpful and an easy, cost-effective relief.
Foods that Have Vitamin D
There are foods that have vitamin D, some higher than others. Foods with vitamin D contain the form D2, not D3. So, it is still essential to get vitamin D3 from either the sun or supplements for optimal health.
All you need to get more vitamin D3 from the sun is to sit and relax outside for around 15-30 minutes. Try to get direct sunlight on your hands, feet, face, and chest if you can for the best absorption.
Get your vitamin D2 from foods like the one listed below:
- Beef Liver
- Egg yolk
- Fortified cereal, plant-based milks, and juices
As you can see, there are not a ton of foods that are high in vitamin D, so it is crucial to some of these foods at least occasionally. Do you get at least some of these foods in your daily diet? See where you can start eating more vitamin-D rich foods today.
Potential Health Risks of Vitamin D Toxicity
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it is possible to get too much of it. It is impossible to get too much from food alone. Your body can get too much when you extremely high doses of the supplement either in vitamin D2 or D3 form.
Make sure to get plenty of vitamin D from food and keep vitamin D3 supplement levels to no more than 5,000 International Units (IU).
Get your level tested before you take a supplement, and if you cannot do that, taking 1,000 IU-2,000 IU per day is typically safe, especially if you are not getting any exposure to sunlight.
Some potential health risks that can occur from too much vitamin D include:
- Frequent urination
- Kidney problems such as calcium stones
- Bone pains
Remember that many people throughout the world are already deficient in vitamin D. Therefore, even though it is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is rare to take too much, unless you are taking medically prescribed or higher dosages, which can sometimes start at 50,000 IU.
Ideally, it is better to start dosages at a lower level and work up to more, unless you are severely deficient.
You can get vitamin D from food, supplements, and sunlight, in either form D2 or D3. This vitamin works as a hormone in the body, and it is an essential component to overall maintaining health.
Adequate and optimal Vitamin D can help to prevent many illnesses, viruses, depression, allergies, and even certain types of cancer like colorectal cancer.
This powerful nutrient helps to maintain bone health long term, in connection with calcium, vitamin K, and magnesium.
Remember to eat foods high in vitamin D to get enough D2 and get into the sun daily for at least 15 minutes to attain D3. If you cannot do that, many people benefit from a supplement for their mental and physical wellbeing.