Vitamin D called as Sunshine Vitamin is a nutrient, needed for overall health and strong bones. But as per the latest data, about 50-80% of adult Indians are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and hormone that is essential for maintaining normal calcium metabolism, muscle, cardiac and neurological functions and regulation of inflammation.
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) can be synthesised by humans in the skin upon exposure to ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation from sunlight, or it can be obtained from the diet. Plants synthesise ergosterol, which is converted to vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) by Ultraviolet light. When exposure to UVB radiation is insufficient for the synthesis of adequate amounts of vitamin D3 in the skin, adequate intake of vitamin D from the diet is essential for health.
It can be found in small amounts in a few foods, including milk, whole grains, cheese, butter, and cod liver oil. To make vitamin D more available, it is added to dairy products, juices, and cereals that are then said to be fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D itself is biologically inactive, and it must be metabolised to its biologically active forms. After it is consumed in the diet or synthesised in the epidermis of skin, vitamin D enters the circulation and is transported to the liver. In the liver, vitamin D is hydroxylated to form 25-hydroxy vitamin D (calcidiol- 25-hydroxy vitamin D); the major circulating form of vitamin D. 25(OH) D is frequently measured as an index of vitamin D status. In the human body, the highest concentration of 25(OH) D is noted in the plasma.
But the largest pool of 25(OH) D is in adipose tissue and muscle.
But most of vitamin D 80% to 90% of what the body gets – is obtained through exposure to sunlight, for as little as 10 minutes.
Exposure of the hands, face, arms and legs to sunlight two to three times a week will help the skin to produce enough vitamin D and prevent deficiency. The necessary exposure time varies with age, skin type, season, time of day, etc.
Older people are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. They are less likely to spend time in the sun, have fewer “receptors” in their skin that convert sunlight to vitamin D, may not get vitamin D in their diet, may have trouble absorbing vitamin D due to aging kidneys.
Normal Levels of Vitamin D:
Ideal – Is 40-60 ng/ml
Insufficient – Is 21-29 ng/ml
Deficient – Is less than 20 ng/ml
Intoxication (excess) – Is more than 150 ng/ml
Vitamin D toxicity:
(Hypervitaminosis D) induces abnormally high serum calcium levels (hypercalcemia), which could result in bone loss, kidney stones, and calcification of organs like the heart and kidneys if untreated over a long period of time.
Naturopathy and Yoga advices the sun bath as “Heliotherapy” for vitamin D synthesis and absorption.
Every day early morning or late evening sun exposure for 20-30 minutes, yogic exercises, pranayama and barefoot walking on grass is beneficial to combat vitamin D deficiency.
Natural diet emphasizing on raw salads, sprouts, cereals, green leafy vegetables, soya milk, and nuts helps to maintain vitamin D at the optimum level.
Benefits of Vitamin D:
Bone health: Prevents osteopenla,osteoporosis, osteomalacia, Rickets and fractures
Cellular health: Prevents certain cancers, such as prostate, pancreatic, breast, ovarian, and colon; prevents infectious diseases and upper respiratory- tract infections, asthma, and wheezing disorders
Organ health: Prevents heart disease and stroke; prevents type -2 diabetes, periodontitis and tooth loss, and other inflammatory diseases
Muscular health: Supports muscle strength
Autoimmune health: Prevents multiple sclerosis, type I diabetes mellitus, crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis
Brain health: Prevents depression, schizophrenia, alzheimer’s disease, and dementia
Mood health: Prevents seasonal affective related disorder, premenstrual syndrome (PMS’, also known as premenstrual tension), and sleeping disorders, elevates the sense well-being