As more people choose to live in northern climates, consistent Vitamin D supplementation is quickly becoming a must for your health and wellbeing.
But why? Doctors continuously recommend it, but most people still don't know what Vitamin D is, let alone how it works.
In this article, we'll be providing you a with a concise, practical run-down of the various immune system benefits (and drawbacks) to Vitamin D consumption, so you can make an educated choice in terms of your personal supplementation and your health.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is often used to fortify foods and supplements. It can be found in many natural sources such as eggs, fatty fish, and mushrooms. It's also produced by the body when it's exposed to sunlight (especially when there are low levels of pollution in the environment).
Technically speaking, Vitamin D describes a group of fat-soluble secosteroids, including 25-hydroxyvitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, and others. For most people, however, knowing that vitamin D is fat-soluble and produced by exposure to sunlight is enough.
One of the most well-known and well-documented benefits of Vitamin D supplementation is its effect on our immune system. Generally speaking, there are two main ways that Vitamin D benefits your immune health:
When your body is in the throes of an infection, it creates substances called pro-inflammatory cytokines. These substances trigger the creation of other chemicals that cause inflammation, and can ultimately lead to tissue damage and organ failure.
This is where Vitamin D steps in. When it interacts with cells, Vitamin D decreases production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which in turn decreases inflammation and protects your cells from damage.
It also improves antibody production, which helps fight the spread of infections more generally. Basically, Vitamin D is a two-for-one combo that improves the good parts of your immmune system, while decreasing the bad parts.
That said, while too little Vitamin D may have a negative impact on our immune system, too much can also be detrimental to our health. As Vitamin D levels increase in the body, some cells are stimulated to grow and reproduce more quickly. This can lead to an overproduction of cells, which may be a risk factor for certain cancers.
In addition, if Vitamin D levels are too high, the production of insulin may be hindered, leading to diabetes and obesity. Generally speaking, modern medicine recommends no more than ~5,000 IU of Vitamin D per day, which is about 5-10 capsules IU per day. The best way to determine the appropriate dosage for you is to have your doctor test your serum Vitamin D levels.
In addition to immune system benefits, there are also tertiary health benefits you may find useful.
The most well-known benefit to Vitamin D is its role in bone health. It helps with the absorption of calcium, which helps form and maintain healthy bones. There is also evidence that vitamin D can reduce the risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone mineral density. Many people with osteoporosis are deficient in vitamin D.
Another overlooked benefit to Vitamin D is its ability to reduce fatigue and increase energy levels. By helping your body absorb calcium and preventing certain types of cells from producing substances that can lead to fatigue, vitamin D may be able to help reduce or eliminate fatigue.
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Thanks for reading!