All about the "sunshine vitamin", from Dynamic Health and Performance's naturopath, Dr. Roshen Bhunnoo!
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts more like a hormone than a vitamin. Nearly every cell in your body has a vitamin D receptor and it can influence the expression of over 1000 different genes. It is best known for its role in calcium absorption and bone health, but it has a number of health benefits such as supporting immune function, managing inflammation, supporting mental health, and many more.
Vitamin D and Immunity
Vitamin D is a major player in regulating your immune system. It is critical for the production of white blood cells to help fight off and resolve infections. It also has direct anti-inflammatory activity which may help calm an overactive immune system such as in cases of autoimmune disease. There is also a connection between vitamin D and acute respiratory infections (colds and flus 🤒). Both adults and children with optimal vitamin D levels, showed a reduced risk of infection and less severity of symptoms.
While some limited amounts are found in foods (fatty fish 🐟, eggs 🥚, and other fortified foods 🥛), most vitamin D is produced from sunlight and cholesterol in the skin ☀️. Unfortunately, during the winter months, most of us are not getting adequate sun exposure which can put us at risk for deficiency. Even with adequate sun exposure, there are many other factors such as age, weight, skin color, and genetics which can determine how well you absorb Vitamin D and convert it into its active form.
Lab Testing 🧪
The simplest way to determine your vitamin D status is through a blood test that measures your levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. The reference range is typically between 75 – 250 nmol/L. If low, you may need to ensure adequate sunlight exposure and/or consider supplementation.
- It is also possible to have too high levels of vitamin D, which can increase the amount of calcium circulating in your blood and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- There are also some medications such as steroids, diuretics, and epileptic drugs that can interfere with vitamin D.
- I would strongly advise to consult with your health care practitioner prior to supplementing and to monitor your levels periodically. In my practice, I will often test individuals at the end of summer and at the end of winter to ensure levels are in the optimal range.
If interested in learning more about your own vitamin D levels, contact Dynamic Health and Performance through our website or phone to book an appointment with our naturopath, Dr. Roshen Bhunnoo!