If you’ve ever laid out in the sun and felt limitless after, you know a thing or two about how vitamin D works. One of the primary ways our bodies absorb vitamin D is through sunshine, which means the reason sunshine feels so good is because vitamin D is so good for you.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Vitamin D was discovered in 1920, culminating the long search for a way to cure rickets, a painful childhood bone disease. Within a decade, the fortification of foods with vitamin D was under way, and rickets became rare in the United States. But solving the problem of rickets was only the beginning of research into vitamin D. Research results suggest that vitamin D may have a role in other aspects of human health.”
If vitamin D is so effective it made a once common disease (rickets) obsolete, it clearly has some power. So what exactly are the benefits vitamin D offers in terms of human health? We reached out to our team of experts for their thoughts.
Here’s what they said:
Vitamin D may offer protection against autoimmune diseases
Sufficient vitamin D levels may be protective against autoimmune diseases, especially multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
This comes as no surprise, as vitamin D has a well recognized role in regulating the immune system. Autoimmune diseases are characterized by an immune system gone rogue, wherein your body starts attacking its own tissue. Proper vitamin D levels can balance the immune response, potentially preventing the onset of an autoimmune disease and even reducing the severity of established autoimmunity.
For those with a history of autoimmune diseases in their family, it is particularly important to monitor and optimize vitamin D levels as a preventive measure.
Maya Rose, MS, CNS, Functional Nutritionist,
Vitamin D can play an important role in regulating the immune system and preventing severe disease, including COVID-19. According to one study, vitamin D deficiency was linked to severe symptoms of COVID-19, inflammation, and other respiratory conditions.
Heather Hanks, MS CAM, Medical Advisor, Medical Solutions BCN
Vitamin D can help prevent uterine fibroids.
In vitro studies proved vitamin D efficacy in inhibiting uterine fibroid growth by targeting pathways involved in the regulation of various biological processes, including proliferation, extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling, DNA repair, signaling, and apoptosis.
Eric DePopas MD, Interventional Radiologist and Chief Medical Officer, PainTheory
Vitamin D helps maintain optimal bone and muscle health
While calcium is a major player in building and strengthening your bones, vitamin D is also essential in helping prevent osteoporosis. Your body can absorb calcium only when Vitamin D is present. It also plays a role in maintaining phosphorus levels, which is needed to mineralize bone density properly. Vitamin D improves muscle function as it strengthens your muscles.
Oliver Martin, Sales & Marketing Manager, National MRSI
It may help boost mood
Vitamin D may play a role in mood disorders, such as depression. A meta-analysis of 61 studies found an inverse relationship between vitamin D levels and depression, meaning that people with low levels of vitamin D were more likely to be depressed than people with higher levels of vitamin D. Researchers think vitamin D may impact depression because of its role in helping to ease inflammation, which is linked with depression.
Diana Gariglio-Clelland, Registered Dietitian for NextLuxury
Vitamin D can benefit hormone regulation
Vitamin D plays a major role in hormone production and is a precursor for hormones. It’s known as the “sunshine” vitamin, because it’s formed in the body by the action of the sun’s ultraviolet rays on the skin, converting the biological precursor 7-dehydroergosterol into vitamin D3. Research has shown that low levels of vitamin D are associated with inflammation and disease.
Vitamin D works to help produce estrogen in men and women, partly by helping maintain calcium balance and also by expression of the aromatase gene, which functions to convert androgens into estrogen. An excessive amount of androgen has been associated with acne, hair loss, facial hair, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Vitamin D supplementation has also been reported to increase levels of testosterone in healthy men.
Paulina Lee, MSHS, RD, LD4, Founder Savvy Stummy
While one method of soaking in vitamin D is spending time with the sun, New York City Board-Certified Dermatologist Dr. Orit Markowitz of OptiSkin (@yourdermsderm) recommends against it.
“The best natural source of Vitamin D is a healthy diet and not the sun,” says Dr. Markowitz. “While the sunshine may feel good, the UV radiation can be very harmful, causing the increase of wrinkles, age lines, and sunspots, not to mention the risk of skin cancer.”
Instead, Dr. Markowitz encourages foods that are high in vitamin D, including fatty fishes (salmon, herring, sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna), egg yolks, mushrooms, soy and cow milk, and cold pressed juice shots.
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