Spend all day tapping away at a computer keyboard, or otherwise working indoors? Do you find yourself constantly reminding your kids, as well as yourself, to get outside and enjoy some quality time in the sun?
If so, good for you, and keep it up. If this doesn’t sound like you, however, it’s time to get out and explore the great outdoors. Exposing your bare skin to sunshine is one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re getting adequate vitamin D, which is essential at helping your body fight off all kinds of diseases and health concerns. While vitamin D is found in small quantities in some foods, the vast majority of what your body gets is gained through direct sun exposure.
Experts at the Institute of Medicine recommend that if you’re between the ages of 9 and 70, you should be getting a minimum of 600 international units, or IUs, of vitamin D every day. Some experts argue this figure should be far higher because vitamin D deficiency has been linked to so many negative side effects. If you’re failing to take in adequate amounts of this essential vitamin, you may experience:
Autoimmune System Issues
Autoimmune diseases, or those that prevent your body from properly fighting off and preventing illness and other health problems, affect millions, and to date, there is no cure. While there is still much to be learned about what exactly causes autoimmune diseases, one finding evidence has shown is that those with vitamin D deficiencies are at higher risk for these disorders than the rest of the general population.
Osteoporosis and Other Bone Density Problems
Vitamin D is critical for optimum bone health for individuals of all ages. If you’re young, proper intake helps with the generation of strong, dense bones. Vitamin D also helps prevent osteoporosis among older adults when used alongside adequate calcium intake. Osteoporosis can lead to bone loss, low bone density and particularly brittle bones that are prone to breakage.
Severe Asthma Among Children
Studies show that children who don’t receive adequate amounts of vitamin D are at higher risk of developing severe asthma. One study showed that 68.1 percent of asthmatic children were also vitamin D-deficient, compared with only 36.1 percent of children studied without asthma. There is still a lot to be learned about the connection between asthma and vitamin D, but all signs point to a strong link between the two. Scientists are currently exploring whether children aged 3 and under can reduce their risk of developing asthma by receiving adequate amounts of the vitamin.
Cognitive Impairment, Particularly Among the Elderly
Cognitive impairment, or what’s sometimes referred to as “brain fog,” has been linked to low levels of vitamin D by numerous scientific studies. This is especially true among elderly populations, which is why it is essential that today’s seniors, and particularly those who do not spend much time outside, properly supplement their vitamin D intake. It is believed that vitamin D helps reduce cognitive impairment by regulating calcium levels and the immune system, and it also helps the body ward off toxins, among other benefits.
Enhanced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease or Complications
The number of studies indicating a link between heart health and vitamin D levels continues to grow. Research suggests it plays a key role in the prevention of numerous related conditions and diseases, among them heart attacks, strokes, congestive heart failure and peripheral artery disease. Additionally, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to other factors that can lead to heart disease, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
While the link between vitamin D and cancer is still being explored, many researchers believe in a connection between vitamin D deficiency and your risk of developing cancer. One epidemiologic study revealed that the cancer prevalence, and related death rates, are lower among populations that live in the southern hemisphere, where they regularly see more sunlight. There is still much to be studied about the connection between vitamin D and minimizing your risk of cancer, but early indications suggest a strong link.
Periodontal, or gum disease, is a chronic condition that can lead to swelling, reddening and bleeding of the gums. When the gums around the teeth become damaged, they may experience what is known as “attachment loss,” which is then classified as mild, moderate or severe. Several studies conducted in the U.S. show that attachment loss was generally more severe among people who already had low vitamin D levels than it was for those receiving adequate amounts. This was shown to be particularly true among pregnant women, making it even more important for this population to ensure adequate intake through proper eating, outdoor activity and supplements.
Ensuring Adequate Vitamin D Intake
Now that you know how important vitamin D is to your overall health and well-being, let’s explore a bit more closely how you can be sure you’re getting your fair share. For starters, as mentioned, get outdoors. The vast majority of your intake comes from exposure to direct sunlight.
Secondly, unless you have strict diet restrictions, try and incorporate more foods that contain the vitamin into your daily diet. While some juices and milks have vitamin D added to them (you may see them advertised as “vitamin D-fortified”), the vitamin occurs naturally in fish oils, cheeses, egg yolks and beef liver. Vitamin D portions found in foods aren’t particularly large, however, which is why you may want to try a PurMedica vitamin D-rich supplement if you still fear you aren’t getting enough.
Not only does a need for vitamin D give you a great excuse to get out and enjoy the outdoors, but it also offers tremendous health benefits. The question is, are you getting enough?