The beautiful North Shore region of BC is renowned for its grey, rainy days. Sunshine can be in short supply during the winter months. And even if you prefer the colder weather and muted colors of winter, it is a time when many Canadians lack enough vitamin D3.
Where Does Vitamin D3 Come From?
Vitamin D is not technically a vitamin. It could actually be considered a hormone, activated in a form called Cholecalciferol when your skin is exposed to sunshine. It is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because of the way it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight. Usually, you only need to spend ten to fifteen minutes in the sun a couple of times a week before protecting your skin with sunscreen.
You can also get it through certain foods and supplements to ensure adequate levels of the vitamin in your blood.
Why Do We Need Vitamin D3?
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones because it helps the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus from food. These are both essential minerals for bone health. Naturally, since your teeth are made of bone, a lack of Vitamin D3 can impact the health and condition of your teeth. If your body doesn’t get enough vitamin D, you’re at risk of developing deteriorating teeth and gums as well as bone abnormalities such as soft bones (osteomalacia) or fragile bones (osteoporosis).
It is crucial for women who are post-menopausal to ensure they obtain enough Vitamin D and calcium to help build stronger bones as otherwise, their risk of osteoporosis could be higher. Osteoporosis is a serious condition causing brittle and fragile bones later in life, and it can lead to severe injuries.
Vitamin D is used in other ways too, as it helps your muscles to move and your nerves need it to carry messages throughout your body. If your muscles don’t receive enough Vitamin D, they might feel weak, will hurt or are more likely to cramp. Ensuring you receive enough Vitamin D can help your health in other ways by preventing disorders that can cause weak bones such as rickets.
The vitamin has also been linked to fighting depression. In one study, scientists found that people with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms.
Which Foods Contain Vitamin D?
Some foods are fortified with vitamin D, for example, milk and certain cereals, yogurts, orange juice and soy beverages. If possible, it is better to get this vitamin from your diet and from sunlight whenever it makes an appearance. Foods naturally containing Vitamin D include fatty fish such as tuna and salmon, and these are some of the best sources. Otherwise, you’ll find some in beef liver, egg yolks and in cheese. Mushrooms contain a small amount of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D2 and D3 are very similar, but D3 is two to three times as potent as Vitamin D2 and easier for your body to use.
Ensuring you receive enough Vitamin D3 can help your health in many ways by preventing disorders that can cause weak bones and deteriorating teeth.
Who Might Need to Take Vitamin D Supplements?
One of the first symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency can be the condition of your teeth and gums. Vitamin D deficiency is connected to increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease in the mouth. Nearly every patient with dental disease, also has vitamin D deficiency.
Other symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency in adults include tiredness, aches and pains, and a general sense of not feeling well. Severe bone or muscle pain or weakness that may cause difficulty climbing stairs or getting up from the floor or a low chair can be other indications that you are not meeting your body’s needs for Vitamin D. Doctors can diagnose a vitamin D deficiency by performing a simple blood test. If you have a deficiency, your doctor may order X-rays to check the strength of your bones.
Ideally, a balanced diet and exposure to small amounts of sunlight is the best way to keep your Vitamin D3 levels topped up, but this isn’t always possible. You might benefit from supplements if you are over age 50 or have limited exposure to sunlight. Vegans are less likely to get enough Vitamin D.
People who are lactose intolerant may be deficient because they cannot digest dairy foods. Infants who are only breastfeeding might need Vitamin D drops. Many supplements in Canada are cholecalciferol or Vitamin D3, but it is worth checking the label.
Those suffering from Osteoporosis need to make sure that they get enough Calcium and Vitamin D. You should always talk to your doctor before taking additional supplements to ensure that you understand the right dosages and how these supplements might interact with other parts of your diet.
How Much Vitamin D3 is Necessary?
The amount varies according to age. Up until age 1, infants need 400 IU (international units) each day. This figure increases to 600 IU from age 1 and till age 70. From then on, Health Link BC recommends 800 IU a day.
Is It Possible to Have Too Much Vitamin D?
Although Vitamin D seems safe at normal levels, it is worth checking with your GP before taking any supplements. Some can interact with medications for heart problems and high blood pressure.
Too much Vitamin D can cause weight loss, excessive urination and a loss of appetite. Because Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, excessive quantities can increase the amount of calcium in your blood, potentially causing an irregular heart rhythm or confusion.
However, the upper levels for Vitamin D intake are very high at 4000 IU for children and adults aged over nine. Upper levels for infants and children up to age 8 range from 1000 IU 3000 IU. Anyone with a healthy diet or who takes ordinary vitamin D supplements as directed would be highly unlikely to exceed these amounts and can reap the benefits of having strong and healthy bones.