Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods but essential for optimum health. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to autoimmune diseases and some cancers. Do you suffer from muscle aches and weakness, bone pain or frequent bone fractures, low energy and chronic fatigue, depression or lack of sun exposure? You may need to eat more foods rich in Vitamin D and get out in the sun.
Last week we asked, “What can we eat to reduce autoimmune disease symptoms associated with chronic inflammation?” The answer: consume a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin D and probiotics. We offered recipes and ideas about eating anti-inflammatory foods, Red & Green Kale Spa Salad Recipe, and Arugula Salad with Pears and Seeds Recipe,
Today, we focus on Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat soluble steroid hormone that functions at the cell level to promote calcium absorption and bone health; protect against inflammation and cancer; support immune function; and when converted to calcitriol, Vitamin D repairs cell damage. Our body can synthesize Vitamin D (in the form of D3) when exposed to adequate amounts of sunshine. (Many vitamin supplements are D2, which are not as potent in raising and maintaining Vitamin D levels as D3.)
Vitamin D deficiencies has been associated with many health conditions and autoimmune diseases including: heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, muscle and nerve pain, muscle weakness, MS, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer of the breast, prostate, colon and pancreas. It appears that Vitamin D deficiency can be an environmental trigger for the development of many autoimmune diseases in genetically susceptible people, just as gluten is a trigger for people with celiac disease.
How much Vitamin D do you need for disease prevention? The current recommended daily allowance is 400-600 IU (international units) per day. Many experts believe 1000-2000 IU of the vitamin may be optimal for preventing disease. It is important to note that Vitamin D supplements have varying levels of efficacy. Therefore it is important to have Vitamin D levels checked yearly by a blood test to make sure any supplements you are taking are increasing the D level in your body. The research on Vitamin D is still inconclusive and new so do your research carefully from reputable Internet sources.
What are Sources of Vitamin D?
1. Sunshine is the best and most effective source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is created through exposure of your skin to the sun, but due to most of us working indoors, recommendations to avoid the sun and use of sun block, over 75% of the US population have deficiencies. Through 15 to 20 minutes of summer sun exposure, the body creates 10,000 to 20,000 IUs of Vitamin D3- less in the winter. For latitudes and vitamin D production in the skin see this map.
2. Fatty fish species, such as:
Catfish 85 g (3 oz)= 425 IU
Salmon 100 g (3.5 oz)= 360 IU
Mackerel 100 g (3.5 oz)= 345 IU
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 50 g (1.75 oz)= 250 IU
Tuna 100 g (3.5 oz)= 235 IU (2.35 IU/g)
Eel, 100 g (3.5 oz)= 200 IU (2.00 IU/g)
3. Egg Yolk= 20-40 IU
4. Cod Liver Oil= 1360 IU per tablespoon
5. VEGAN Sources:
UV-irradiated portabella mushrooms, 100 g =130-1000 IU
Wild chanterelles & morels, 100 g=100-500 IU
6. Fortified Foods such as nutritional yeast and orange juice (variable)
The bottom line: if you are vegan get outside for 15-20 minutes per day and eat UV-irradiated or wild mushrooms and fortified foods. If you are not vegan, get outside for 15-20 minutes per day and consume fatty fish and eggs several times per week. Plus have your Vitamin D levels checked yearly.