by Dr. Will Cole
Sometimes our lives get so busy that we forget to appreciate the wonders of the body and everything it allows us to do. You have 60,000 miles of blood vessels running through your body, and you produce 25 million new cells each second!
And while your trillions of cells all have their own purpose, they also have one thing in common: They all need vitamin D.
The sunshine vitamin
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because our awesome bodies manufacture it when sunlight hits our skin. Your body absorbs sunlight using cholesterol, which helps convert sunlight into a form of vitamin D that your body can use. Sunlight is life to your body. And you might not guess it from its name, but vitamin D is actually more like a hormone than a vitamin. It helps to regulate hundreds of different pathways in your body. It is so important that vitamin D and your thyroid hormones are the only two hormones every cell needs, making them the king and queen of all hormones, and essential for good health including:
1. Fights depression
Have you ever noticed how sitting in the sun makes you feel good? The vitamin D activated by that sun exposure acts as an antidepressant in your system, which makes sense when you consider how many people get the “winter blues” coinciding with decreasing amounts of sunshine during the colder months. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to a 14 percent increase in depression and a 50 percent increase in suicide rates! That makes this sunshine vitamin pretty essential!
2. Reduces asthma
Studies show that pregnant moms with higher vitamin D intake give birth to babies with a 40 percent reduced risk of developing asthma. Other research suggests that vitamin D has a protective effect against upper-respiratory infections in adults.
3. Balances immunity
Vitamin D is an integral part of your immune system, so it’s no surprise that low levels of vitamin D are associated with autoimmune conditions such as MS, Parkinson’s, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disorders, and autoimmune thyroid problems (like Hashimoto’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis). Conversely, optimal levels are linked with symptom improvement.
4. Strengthens bones
Just in case you haven’t heard, vitamin D prevents the breakdown of bone and increases the strength of the skeletal system.
5. Boosts brain power
6. Fights cancer
People who have optimal vitamin D levels have lower levels of breast, prostate, colon, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer. There is also some evidence that this vitamin can both kill cancer cells and impede their growth by up to 50 percent!
7. Improves fertility
8. Protects the heart
9. Calms inflammation
Inflammation is the common link between most chronic health problems, and vitamin D is an essential part of the body’s capability to squelch the inflammatory storm going on.
10. Revs up metabolism
11. Enhances physical performance
Supplementing with this important vitamin has been shown to boost muscle strength and physical performance. Vitamin D has also been shown in some studies to increase balance, decreasing falls by 20 percent.
12. Improves sleep
Sleep is so important for feeling and looking your best, and healthy levels of D are associated with better sleep quality.
Ok, vitamin D is super important; so what can I do about it?
Here’s your new vitamin D-boosting lifestyle plan:
1. Test your vitamin D levels.
In functional medicine, we aim for optimally healthy levels (not just within the lab’s reference range), which we consider to be somewhere between 60 and 80, depending on the person.
2. Get some sun.
Spending some time out in the sun, about 20 to 60 minutes (depending on where you live in the world and your skin tone) without sunscreen is a great way to boost your D levels.
3. Eat more vitamin D-rich food.
These are some of my favorites:
- Cod liver oil: 1 teaspoon: 440 IU (over 100 percent Daily Value)
- Sardines: 3 ounces: 164 IU (41 percent Daily Value)
- Salmon: 3 ounces: 400 IU (100 percent Daily Value)
- Mackerel: 3 ounces: 400 IU (100 percent Daily Value)
- Tuna: 3 ounces: 228 IU (57 percent Daily Value)
- Raw grass-fed milk: 1 cup: 98 IU (24 percent Daily Value)
- Caviar: 1 ounce: 33 IU (8 percent Daily Value)
- Organic eggs: 1 large: 41 IU (10 percent Daily Value)
- Mushrooms: 1 cup: 2 IU (1 percent Daily Value)
4. Supplement as needed.
Since it’s difficult to get vitamin D exclusively through food, and most of us don’t spend enough time outside in the sun, supplementation may be necessary. Based on where your starting level is, I typically suggest supplementing with anywhere between 2,000 and 6,000 IU of vitamin D each day. Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, I prefer the drops and capsules that include mct or coconut oil. Look for supplements without added fillers or colors, and retest every two or three months to ensure your levels don’t go too high, which isn’t good either.
5. Tap into vitamin synergy.
When getting your vitamin D levels up to where they should be, it’s best to include the other fat-soluble vitamins: A, E, and K2. These vitamins are uber important in their own right and help balance out the vitamin D, making it more bioavailable but also preventing levels from getting too high. You can supplement with these, but I also suggest focusing on food jam-packed with these fat-soluble vitamins. Check out my article on the subject to learn more.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.
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