By Curtis Banton
Vitamin D is widely known as the "sunshine" vitamin and is necessary for our overall health and well being— fighting off chronic diseases and illness and being key to our immune system function. Sadly, about 50% of the world’s population is deficient, and there’s a few reasons why. Firstly, in most modern and industrialized parts of the world, people aren’t engaging in enough outdoor activities. We work in offices, workout in gyms, and hang out at home, leaving little to no time for enjoying the sun’s rays. Another reason why most of us are deficient is because we are living in cities with unhealthy amounts of pollution, reducing the sunlight’s effectiveness. Ensuring that we have regular and safe exposure to natural sunlight is essential for maintaining healthy vitamin D levels, mainly because it accounts for approximately 90% of vitamin D production.
However, it is believed that vitamin D from the sun, synthesised in the skin, does not fulfill the RDA (recommended daily allowance), which is due to factors such as wearing clothes, sunscreen, skin pigmentation, obesity, season and time of day. Because of this, Vitamin D is a supplement that most of us should be taking on a daily basis.
Fortunately, vitamin D can also be naturally obtained through consumption of sun-exposed mushrooms and oil-rich fish such as salmon and mackerel. We can also take vitamin D in liposomal form, which may enhance bioavailability in the gastrointestinal tract. Vitamin D seems to follow the league of lipid metabolism in the gastrointestinal tract and therefore assumes that fat is highly influential on absorbability. The best time to take this fat-soluble vitamin is when paired with a healthy, high-fat meal. We can also consume dietary supplements, get vitamin D shots, attain a healthy dietary pattern and maintain a healthy weight to improve our vitamin D status.
Vitamin D is key to a healthy heart, with one study showing that people with low vitamin D concentrations had a 60% higher risk of heart disease than those with higher concentrations. It has been evidenced in several studies that this may be through suppression of inflammation or by directly protecting cells of the heart and blood vessel walls. Ultimately, a warm heart is a healthy heart!
Additionally, our skin produces beta-endorphin in response to sunlight exposure, resulting in an increase in pain relief, promoting relaxation, enhancing a feeling of well-being and boosting our immune system. This is especially important in current times, when vitamin D has been shown to strengthen immunity and lessen the severity of respiratory tract infections, such as COVID-19. This is believed to be through increasing the production of natural antibodies, inducing monocyte differentiation and inhibiting lymphocyte proliferation.
By spending more time outdoors, whether it’s gardening, hiking, playing sports with friends, sitting on a patio during weekends etc, we can work toward increasing our vitamin D levels and living healthier, happier, longer lives.