Vitamin D is both a nutrient we eat and a hormone our bodies make. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that has long been known to help the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus; both are critical for building bone. Also, laboratory studies show that vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation. Many of the body’s organs and tissues have receptors for vitamin D, which suggest important roles beyond bone health, and scientists are actively investigating other possible functions.
Despite its name, vitamin D is not a vitamin, but a prohormone, or precursor of a hormone.
Vitamins are nutrients that the body cannot create, and so a person must consume them in the diet. However, the body can produce vitamin D.
In this article, we look at the benefits of vitamin D, what happens to the body when people do not get enough, and how to boost vitamin D intake.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D provides the daily amount needed to maintain healthy bones and normal calcium metabolism in healthy people. It assumes minimal sun exposure.
RDA: The Recommended Dietary Allowance for adults 19 years and older is 600 IU daily for men and women, and for adults >70 years it is 800 IU daily.
UL: The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is the maximum daily intake unlikely to cause harmful effects on health. The UL for vitamin D for adults and children ages 9+ is 4,000 IU.
How does vitamin D affect immune health?
Vitamin D is necessary for the proper functioning of your immune system, which is your body’s first line of defense against infection and disease.
In fact, the vitamin is so important for immune function that low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased susceptibility to infection, disease, and immune-related disorders (Vitamin D and the Immune System).
Vitamin D is one of many vitamins our bodies need to stay healthy. This vitamin has many functions, including:
Keeping bones strong: Having healthy bones protects you from various conditions, including rickets. Rickets is a disorder that causes children to have bones that are weak and soft. It is caused by a lack of vitamin D in the body. You need vitamin D so that calcium and phosphorus can be used to build bones. In adults, having soft bones is a condition called osteomalacia.
Absorbing calcium: Vitamin D, along with calcium, helps build bones and keep bones strong and healthy. Weak bones can lead to osteoporosis, the loss of bone density, which can lead to fractures. Vitamin D, once either taken orally or from sunshine exposure is then converted to an active form of the vitamin. It is that active form that promotes optimal absorption of calcium from your diet.
Working with parathyroid glands: The parathyroid glands work minute to minute to balance the calcium in the blood by communicating with the kidneys, gut and skeleton. When there is sufficient calcium in the diet and sufficient active Vitamin D, dietary calcium is absorbed and put to good use throughout the body. If calcium intake is insufficient, or vitamin D is low, the parathyroid glands will ‘borrow’ calcium from the skeleton in order to keep the blood calcium in the normal range.
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Getting sufficient sunlight is the best way to help the body produce enough vitamin D. Plentiful food sources of vitamin D include:
fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna
fortified cereals and juices
Research on Vitamin D
Medical Reseach Studies on Vitamin D
Vitamin D and the Immune System - Vitamin D has important functions beyond those of calcium and bone homeostasis which include modulation of the innate and adaptive immune responses. Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in autoimmune disease. Cells of the immune system are capable of synthesizing and responding to vitamin D. Immune cells in autoimmune diseases are responsive to the ameliorative effects of vitamin D suggesting that the beneficial effects of supplementing vitamin D deficient individuals with autoimmune disease may extend beyond effects on bone and calcium homeostasis. Research
Vitamin D Helps the Immune System During Cold and Flu Season - it is important for pharmacists to convey that daily and weekly vitamin D supplementation helps keep the immune system balanced during the cold and flu season. Research
Self-Care for Common Colds: The Pivotal Role of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea in Three Main Immune Interactive Clusters - Vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and Echinacea have pivotal roles of three main immunoreactive clusters (physical barriers, innate and adaptive immunity) in terms of prevention and treatment (shortening the duration and/or lessening the severity of symptoms) of common colds. The present narrative review demonstrated that current evidence of efficacy for zinc, vitamins D and C, and Echinacea is quite strong that CC patients may be encouraged to try them for preventing/treating their colds.. Research
Recommended Vitamin D Supplements
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