Vitamin D works with calcium and phosphorus to build and maintain strong bones. It is also involved in nerve transmission, neuromuscular, and immune function, and is a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin D plays a critical role in both immunity and bone strength, as getting too little can increase your risk of infections and limit bone development.
Other than oily fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fortified dairy and dairy alternatives, not many foods are high in vitamin D. This is why most of our vitamin D must come from sun exposure or supplementation. When sunlight hits our skin, it produces a hormone which then leads to the formation of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is having quite a moment. In the span of a few months, evidence has been growing that the “sunshine vitamin” not only has an important role in bone and muscle health but might also help prevent a range of cancers, reduce the chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis, protect against multiple sclerosis and cut the risk of colds and flu.
But is vitamin D truly a cure-all? And if the benefits are real, should we all be taking vitamin D supplements or even fortifying our foods?
Vitamin D is not one chemical, but a label that covers a group of substances, including vitamin D2 and D3. The latter is the form made when sunlight hits your skin and is also found in other animals. Non-animal sources such as fungi and yeasts primarily produce the D2 form. Once in the body, these substances are converted into biologically active steroids that circulate in the blood. Vitamin D also regulates calcium metabolism. It also supports the body’s immune system and, when deficient, this serves as a risk factor for heart disease. About 35 percent of people tested are deficient and, over the last 30 years, the trend is only increasing.
Sunlight contains ultraviolet light that converts the vitamin D we consume into a form the body needs, vitamin D3. Next, this form must also be modified in the liver and kidneys before it assumes its active form. You can also buy vitamin D2 in the store, but D3 is a better supplement because it stays in the body longer so it can be converted to its active form. If deficient, you can develop decreased bone density and muscle weakness.
Vitamin D supplementation is good for everyone. 2000 IU/day is an adequate yet safe daily dose, although some people can safely take much more than this. Take it with food that contains some fat to achieve better absorption. And with adequate supplementation, you’re taking over where the sun left off.
Essential for strong bones, vitamin D is produced by the body and helps the body absorb calcium, which is critical to bone health and strength. As the experts explain, without the vitamin, our bodies may lose bone tissue, leading to bone pain, muscle weakness and possible skeletal deformity.
We also need the vitamin in order to:
Lack of vitamin D can happen year-round, not just in the winter. Consistent sun exposure on bare skin generally gives you all the vitamin you need. But, in the winter months, time spent indoors prevents the vitamin from penetrating the skin. Even in super sunny climates, it’s not uncommon to see Vitamin D deficiency because we all spend less time outdoors than in the past.
As the experts describe, older people are prone to certain risk factors, such as:
A six-year study found that seniors aged 65-88 with a vitamin D deficiency are nearly twice as likely to have a physical limitation compared to seniors with the highest vitamin levels.
The study, also indicated that 70% of seniors in this age group already have at least one physical limitation and are likely to develop additional physical limitations over time.
Low vitamin D level symptoms are usually so subtle that, generally, people are unable to realize that they are having this issue. Even when it’s having a considerable negative effect on their quality of life, they may not notice it. Moreover, vitamin D insufficiency symptoms can be vague or change over time and are similar to symptoms of many other diseases.
Hence, it is recommended that instead of self-diagnosing, it’s better to check with your doctor about whether you are having an issue with Vitamin D.
Just for the sake of knowledge, here are the most common symptoms and effects of vitamin D deficiency:
One of vitamin D’s important roles is maintaining your immune system, enabling you to fend off viruses and bacteria that can otherwise lead to illness. There can be many causes for falling sick frequently due to cold and flu, and vitamin D deficiency is one of them.
A number of large empirical studies have found a connection between low vitamin D levels and respiratory tract infections like colds, bronchitis and pneumonia. Several studies have shown that taking a dosage of vitamin D supplements up to 2,000 IU every day may cut down the risk of respiratory tract infections.
In one research study in which people with the chronic lung disorder, COPD, participated, only those who had severely low vitamin D levels experienced considerable benefit after taking a high-dose of vitamin D for one year.
Being low in vitamin D can possibly be a reason for feeling tired or exhausted even after having enough rest and sleep. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked.
Many observational studies have found that very low vitamin D levels may cause a constant feeling of tiredness that can have a serious negative impact on the quality of one’s life. In one case study, a woman who was suffering from chronic daytime tiredness and headaches was shown to have a vitamin D blood level of just 5.9 ng/ml. This is very low, as anything below 20-50 ng/ml is considered deficient. When this woman was put on vitamin D supplementation, her level augmented to 39 ng/ml and her symptoms disappeared.
However, even a slightly low vitamin D level may have a negative effect on the energy levels. A large experimental study examined the correlation between vitamin D and fatigue in young women. The study discovered that women with vitamin D levels lower than 20 ng/ml or even 21–29 ng/ml were more likely to complain of tiredness and exhaustion compared to those with blood levels over 30 ng/ml.
Another research study in female nurses showed a distinct relationship between low vitamin D levels and self-reported tiredness. Moreover, the researchers observed that 89% of the nurses were vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining bones health in several ways. For example, it boosts your body’s ability to absorb calcium effectively. Bone pain & lower back pain may be indications of inadequate levels of vitamin D in your blood.
Many observatory studies have discovered a connection between the insufficiency of vitamin D and chronic lower back pain. One large observational study examined more than 9,000 older women for the relationship between vitamin D levels and back pain. The researchers discovered that people with deficiency of vitamin D were more prone to have back pain; so much so – sometimes even severe back pain that limited their everyday routine activities.
In one controlled observational study, it was found that people lacking in vitamin D were about two times more likely to suffer from bone pain in their legs, ribs or joints than those having blood levels in the normal range.
Vitamin D has a key role in bone metabolism and calcium absorption. Whereas the majority of elderly people who suffer from bone loss believe that they need to take more calcium, the real cause could be that they are deficient in vitamin D.
Low bone density is a sign that the bones have lost calcium and other minerals. This puts older adults, particularly women, at an enhanced risk of fractures. In a large research study in which more than 1,100 middle-aged women, in the menopause or post menopausal period, participated – the researchers discovered a strong connection between vitamin D deficiency and low bone mineral density.
In view of these discoveries, sufficient vitamin D intake and maintaining it within the recommended range could be a workable approach for conserving bone mass and decreasing fracture risk.
Vitamin D deficiency may also lead to a depressed mood. Many research studies have found vitamin D deficiency in adults can be a reason for depression and anxiety.
In one review of many observational studies, a close relationship was revealed between low vitamin D levels in the blood and depression in 65% of the cases.
Hair loss occurs often because of stress. Moreover, when hair loss is acute, it could be due to a disease or nutrient deficiency. Lack of vitamin D in women may lead to a typical female-pattern hair loss.
Alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease, is characterized by acute hair loss from the head and other parts of the body. It’s linked to rickets, a disease that leads to soft bones in children because of vitamin D deficiency.
Other observational studies have also linked low vitamin D levels with alopecia areata, which supports the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for onset and progression of this disease. Another study on people suffering from alopecia areata found that lower vitamin D levels are likely to be linked with acute hair loss.
The exact cause of muscle pain is often difficult to ascertain. There is some evidence that low levels of vitamin D can be a possible reason for muscle pain in children and adults. In one research study, 71 percent of people suffering from chronic pain were found to be having vitamin D deficiency.
Some studies have observed that taking an adequate dose of vitamin D supplements may ease different types of pain in people who are deficient. One study involving 120 children who were deficient in vitamin D and suffering from growing pains showed that a single dose of the vitamin D decreased pain scores by an average of 57 percent.
One unexpected symptom of vitamin D deficiency is slower-than-normal wound healing. This action may be connected to the role that vitamin D has in controlling inflammation, although the precise mechanism is not known.
Additionally, a study suggested that vitamin D can have a positive interaction with other factors in the wound healing process. Potentially, this pattern means that increasing vitamin D levels in vitamin D deficient patients can help to speed up the process of wound healing. However, this is not an area that has been studied in much detail.
One study did note that they found low levels of vitamin D in most patients with leg ulcers and that those with higher vitamin D levels experienced better healing, although the effect appears to have been non-significant
An abnormal addition to this list is the propensity of people to sweat more while suffering with vitamin D deficiency. Contrary to many of the symptoms on this list, medical experts aren’t fairly confident why people sweat more with low vitamin D levels.
If you're getting a little dewy when you're at rest without much strain, this may be another sign that something is off. Excessive sweating, particularly on the head, has been associated with low vitamin D levels.
In order to learn what Vitamin D does to your body, you need to know about the family members of the vitamin D family.
Ergocalciferol is vitamin D2. This is the form also made in certain yeasts and mushrooms from the sun or UVB rays, but what’s in the supplement is chemically synthesized. It can be as effective as vitamin D3.
Cholecalciferol is vitamin D3. This is the form that’s made in your skin by the sun or any ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
Calcidiol is the resulting step after the formation of vitamin D3. It’s known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This form isn’t available as an over-the-counter supplement.
Calcitriol is the active form of vitamin D3. This is a hormone and is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada as a drug. It’s very potent so you wouldn’t want to take it.
Now, onto the benefits!
Researchers have hypothesized that low vitamin-D levels may contribute to obesity. Studies have shown that people with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30 typically have systems low in vitamin D.
A study found that since the body uses vitamin D as an environmental sensor, low levels of vitamin D tell the body to stock extra energy for times of limited resources. The body mostly stocks this surplus energy as fat. For many individuals, this excess fat accumulates around the waistline for easy access to the bloodstream through the digestive system.
A minimum of 20 ng/mL (nanograms per millilitre) level of vitamin D within the bloodstream can help the body counter this storage of excess belly fat and may help some individuals lose weight.
As one of the 24 micronutrients necessary for survival, vitamin D affects genes within nearly every organ of your body. Vitamin D is responsible for the synthesis of numerous peptides that reduce stress and help the body fight off infection.
The nutrient also engages in molecular signalling to inhibit inflammatory substances from adhering to cell walls and causing stress and inflammation. In addition, the body’s organs also have receptors that turn vitamin D into the activated or hormonal form known as calcitriol.
This hormonal form of vitamin D assists in healing cells, fights oxidation, and may even increase longevity.
A study found that combining vitamin D with aerobic exercise and resistance training can result in more calorie loss than exercise alone. Vitamin D may also assist with energy production during strenuous workouts, and the nutrient can increase lean muscle mass over the course of a year.
In men, vitamin D can greatly raise internal testosterone levels that prompt weight loss.
Combined with the benefits of exercise, the body stores vitamin D and allows it to play an important role in muscle repair. Muscle tissue has superior receptors for vitamin D that empower the nutrient to build up muscle fibers and help facilitate recovery from cellular damage.
Studies have shown that people with type II diabetes or those who are at risk for the condition may increase insulin secretion through vitamin D intake. The nutrient can also help with hunger and overeating associated with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
A study found that high vitamin D levels result in the release of the hormone leptin. This hormone indicates to the body that it is full and may improve insulin sensitivity toward healthier foods.
Many people view gastric bypass surgery as a viable option for extreme weight loss. Also known as bariatric surgery, this procedure removes or restricts a large portion of the stomach and intestines. One of the problems with altering these organs is that it can significantly limit the amount of vitamin D absorbed from food.
In turn, this lack of vitamin D can lessen the long-term benefits of undergoing this surgery. Following the procedure, medical professionals may advise you to increase your vitamin D intake to help lower the risk of this deficiency.
Sunshine Vitamin D has gotten its name for a specific reason. The UV-B present in sun rays is needed to trigger the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin. The result of which is vitamin D3 cholecalciferol, also known as the activated form of vitamin D. The most significant function is regulation of calcium and phosphorus levels in your body. In simple words, your body will not be able to absorb calcium and phosphorus without the adequate participation of vitamin D.
One of the most promising benefits if vitamin D is its ability to regulate cell growth. By maintaining proper levels of vitamin D, you will face a lower risk of developing cancer. Studies show that activated vitamin D slows the growth of cancer cells.
Vitamin D may not only help in cancer prevention but also supports the body to actively fight different types of cancer. It's considered as one of the best benefits of vitamin D, an ability to reverse cancer and extend years of human life.
Sun is the ultimate and unlimited source of vitamin D. Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are an important part of the sun’s light, which is considered as the natural resource to get vitamin D.
When you expose your entire body to summer sun, huge quantities of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) are produced in your skin. It’s a quick process and usually takes around half the time before to begin to burn your skin. So be careful! However, this process also depends on your skin tone, as people with lighter skin tones may complete the process in 10-15 minutes while people have a darker skin tones may need to be outdoors for longer.
However, there are other ways to get the required amount of vitamin D, and you don’t have to spend tons of time in the sun to do it. Nature has enriched foods with vitamin D which we can benefit from. On the other hand, we also have a variety of supplements to choose from. Many people choose to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement because they get all or most of what they need for all of the required micronutrients in one pill. Only the minerals that are required in large amounts like calcium and phosphorus are provided in levels less than the current recommendations. (That would make the pill too large.)
There are many good multivitamin and mineral supplements. Just read the label and make sure whatever you choose has at least 75 percent of the recommended levels of all the essential nutrients.
Here are a few tips to make sure you get adequate vitamin D:
There are a number of different and healthy vitamin D foods, and here are the top natural sources of vitamin D:
1. Egg Yolks
Most of you health conscious people would only prefer to eat egg whites and throw away the yolk, but did you know it serves you just the right amount of vitamin D? Whether you have them for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even in desserts, egg yolks have more health benefits than you might think. Keep the egg whole, and you’ll be much healthier for it!
This widespread breakfast meal is the ultimate way to start your day with good D3 intake. Many bowls of cereal are fortified with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D; however it is always wise to check the sugar content of cereal and keep it under 6 grams. Usually, these cereals have around average 100-200 IU of vitamin D per serving.
Salmon is the greatest vitamin D food out there (wild salmon has more than farmed salmon, FYI). Just half a fillet of salmon has more than the daily recommended allowance for one person.
Fortified milk contains one-fifth a day’s worth of vitamin D — and whole milk has more than skim. You might be using a lot of these, but some specific products such as butter, buttermilk, and yogurt are all great sources of vitamin D. Oh, and if you’re vegan or vegetarian, most of the plant based options out there are going to have just as much (if not more) vitamin D.
Yay for plants! Mushrooms are the solitary natural plant source of vitamin D. When mushrooms are exposed to sunlight, they automatically generate vitamin D. And you benefit from this every time you enjoy that portabella!
6. Cod liver oil
Unlike a lot of other regular oils, cod liver oil is often flavored with mint or citrus and even comes in the form of a capsule. Just one tablespoon can give you more than the required amount of vitamin D for a day, and it won’t exceed the maximum upper-level intake in any scenario.
Full of nutrients and low in calories, this food is a wonderful source of vitamin D. If you have a hard time with the texture of oysters (like I do!), there are many other ways they can be prepared besides raw. Simply ask the server at your favorite seafood restaurant what their recommendations would be.
8. Canned Tuna
Canned tuna is a simple, on-the-go meal that can provide a wonderful source of vitamin D, as well as vitamin K and niacin. This is something you will only have once in awhile, however, because canned tuna does contain methylmercury and can be hazardous to your health in large quantities.
Shrimp is a great option to up your vitamin D intake, especially if you love shrimp cocktail or a shrimp salad. Although they contain a hefty amount of cholesterol per serving, this is usually not an area for concern since shrimp are such a great source of vitamin D.
With loads of products available in the market and on the internet, it’s almost impossible to choose the right one. Some might be expensive, might offer an insufficient quantity of Vitamin D, or might be loaded with things you don’t need. So how can you identify your body’s need for Vitamin D?
As explained above, you’ll find two forms of vitamin D in dietary supplements: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
D2 originates from plants, so vegan supplements contain this form. However, it’s incredibly ineffective. To become 25-hydroxyvitamin D, D2 must be converted to D3, and the human body does a very poor job at that. It’s much easier to take D3.
Virtually every time, researchers use cholecalciferol to study vitamin D’s effects on the body. It is most often extracted from sheep’s wool.
Having said that, not all cholecalciferol is the same. Pure vitamin D is incredibly small. It’s so minor that raw material suppliers, the companies that make the ingredients for supplement manufacturers, usually thin it to make it easier to work with. Most of the time, they dilute cholecalciferol with lactose, BHT, BHA, sodium benzoate, or sorbic acid.
Here’s where it can get deceptive…Subsequently the raw material the supplement company orders is cholecalciferol, and the lactose is only included to dilute the nutrient, so the lactose does not need to be disclosed on the label of the finished product.
When you buy low-priced vitamin D, it’s probably diluted with lactose or one of the other questionable materials mentioned above. If you have lactose intolerance, you could end up scratching your head, wondering why you have constant GI issues even though you don’t consume milk.
To sustain optimal vitamin D levels, the vitamin D council recommends:
The following are our recommendations for the best vitamin D supplements:
The reason we have listed this at the top is because it combines Vitamins K2 and D3, and they were simply meant to be together. We have already discussed the benefits of Vitamin D (its role in bone strength, immune system support, healthy muscle function, etc.), but what you may not know is that Vitamin D NEEDS Vitamin K2 to maximize benefits. In the case of Vitamin D deficiency or in order to prevent it, you need to complement with Vitamin K2 as well. Zhou’s K2+D3 has you protected- adding just the right amount of each for maximum results.
As a matter of fact, D3 helps your body absorb the all-important calcium, and Vitamin K2 (as MK-7, the form of K2 with the highest bioavailability) directs the calcium to your bones, and not into your joints and arteries, where too much calcium could be problematic.
One of the best benefits of this supplement is avoiding calcification. Ever heard the term “hardening of the arteries”?... it’s referring to calcification. Calcification occurs when calcium has been absorbed by the body but deposited in arteries instead of bones. This supplement supports the proper absorption of calcium with D3, and the correct distribution to your bones where you need it most.
Another healthy and effective supplement by Nordic Naturals, this vitamin offers a healthy serving of vitamin D. it comes in soft gels which are made from cholecalciferol, considered as the natural form of vitamin D and preferred for optimal absorption. Vitamin D3 meets the daily recommendation for adults who do not receive adequate sun exposure.
It fulfills the demand of 1000 IU of vitamin D in each serving, which can help replenish the body's stores of vitamin D. It has been proven to perform a variety of functions in optimizing health including aiding in mineral absorption. Also, this supplement can help regulate immunity, mood, and the neuromuscular system with just one soft gel a day taken with food.
The makers are well known for leading the way in sustainable and ethical practices in the natural products industry and are committed to using only non-GMO ingredients. Additionally, it’s gluten and dairy free with no artificial colors or preservatives, and it’s suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
This supplement helps boost your immune system with 2,000 IU (500% DV) vitamin D3 and 10 organic mushrooms, so it’s a certified vegan formula.
It is considered as one of the finest vitamin D3 supplements to boost calcium absorption and contribute to bone health. The best part is it’s a delicious chewable candy-like tablet offered in an organic raspberry-lemon flavour with no added sugars or stevia. It’s known to be the best natural supplement as its certified vegan and made from all natural material. We love this one and so will your entire family!
This is known as one of the best vitamin D3 supplements, supporting calcium absorption and retention to support optimal bone health. Additional benefits offered are promotion of colon, breast, and prostate health by supporting healthy cellular function.
Moreover, we love this company. The company manufactures a line of hypoallergenic, research-based dietary supplements, and they can be trusted to give results. The products are accurately designed using pure ingredients designed to deliver predictable results for the benefit of all patients, even the most sensitive. And the best part... its gluten-free, vegan and allergy free too.
Viva Naturals Vitamin D is famous for making bones, teeth, and muscles healthy and strong. It contains vitamin D3, which is important to support your body and help you absorb calcium, a mineral essential for healthy bones and teeth. It’s even been effective to maintain healthy muscle function. The key element of vitamin D is also recognized as boosting aspects of your immune system.
Viva Naturals Vitamin D3 conveys the uppermost quality non-GMO ingredients, and it’s free of soy, gluten, artificial colours, and preservatives. If you’re looking for a higher dose of vitamin D3, this is a great one to choose.
This supplement is perfect for those who are suffering from vitamin D deficiency and require a high amount of it. It contains 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per capsule to fulfil your needs without being too much. It is highly effective and helps maintain immune function, and promotes cardiovascular, muscle, and bone health. Its made for everyone but especially for those who are lactose intolerant. It contains no lactose, BHT, BHA, sodium benzoate, or sorbic acid, which can be detrimental to sensitive individuals.
A perfect fit to support high-performance nutrition programs, this choice is NSF Certified. Additionally, every Thorne product is prepared with the purest possible ingredients – devoid of gluten or other major allergens (eggs, tree nuts, peanuts). This product is also free from dairy, soy, yeast, fish, or shellfish. Thorne is definitely a company you can trust.
Are you one of the pill haters? Stay on the sunny side with these lemon vitamin D3 gummies. This gummy is loaded with active vitamin D3, which aids your body in absorbing calcium used for strong bones and helps support your immune system. It is designed to make you active, balance energy, aloow for better sleep, and get you back to health.
These yummy supplements help you catch sunny vitamin D goodness even on grey days. There is a kid inside everyone, and these chewable vitamins can bring it out. This gummy supplement will make it easy and fun to get your daily dose. If you’re not big on taking pills, this chewable is a great option for you!
Another from our favorite list, this is a great supplement which supports absorption of calcium and phosphorus, the necessary minerals thriving bone health. It also works as an aid to boost immune system function and helps regulate mood and sleep rhythms.
This choice supplies the perfect dosage of 1000 IU (25 mcg) of natural vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) per gummy. For all you pill haters out there, this gummy is suitable for you and everyone in your family.
This supplement contains a powerful combo of Vitamins D3 & K2 which are known as natural partners. Most of you may recognize the benefits of vitamin D (maintaining strong bones, immune system support, healthy muscle function, etc.), but many don’t realize that vitamin D benefits are boosted when combined with Vitamin K2.
Each liquid drop holds 1,400 IU of Vitamin D3 and 25mcg of Vitamin K (as MK-7), the form of K2 with the highest bioavailability. Besides being easier to consume, liquid drops may also have a reasonably higher absorption rate when compared to supplements in solid form. We love this choice for kids and anyone who hates taking supplements. Simply drop it into water or your morning smoothie!
The sunshine vitamin by Douglas Labs has many benefits, including proper modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function health, ensuring normal calcium absorption and maintenance of healthy plasma calcium levels. It’s a dietary supplement designed to provide valuable support in filling significant nutrient gaps in adults. If you’re looking for a great vitamin D3 supplement, this is it!
The dosage recommended by the Endocrine Society is 1,000-2,000 IU of vitamin D per day to maintain healthy bones, teeth, muscles and immune function. This can be perfectly fulfilled by NatureWise Vitamin D3, and it delivers the same biologically active form of vitamin D that is naturally produced in the body from sunlight while avoiding the risky UVB exposure. This is another great option to get in your vitamin D!
Do you have a favorite vitamin D supplement? Let us know in the comments below!
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