There are several nutrients our body cannot produce on its own, so we need them mainly from food. However, Vitamin D is an exception. Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for optimal health and its role has become more and more prominent during the pandemic. Vitamin D plays a variety of roles in our body; from calcium and mineral absorption to maintaining good immunity and optimal gut health and even regulation of hormonal and mental health. Severe Vitamin D3 deficiency has been linked to auto-immune issues, depression and osteoporosis. It can also hinder the growth and mental health of young ones.
85% of us Indians are deficient in Vitamin D3 despite our body being capable to produce it on our own when exposed to UVB Rays (sunlight)! Not to mention, Vitamin D3 has a huge role in our immune system and suppression of inflammatory cytokines. We mostly get Vitamin D3 from sunlight.
Why Are Indians Deficient In Vitamin D3?
Then why is it a very common deficiency despite sunlight being so abundantly available in our country? There are multiple reasons for that:
1. Our lifestyle: Staying indoors for the most part or intentionally not going out in the sun or getting enough sunlight (because we do not want to get 'tanned').
2. Timing and frequency of getting sunlight exposure: Sun at 25 degrees (that would be an early morning for most) of angle is more efficient for vitamin D3 production.
3. Not being aware of the importance of sunlight: Apart from D3, sunlight can also help us improve our sleep (by regulating our circadian rhythm through optic nerve signaling and hence improving melatonin production)
Also remember, darker the skin (more melanin), more sunlight we would need for optimal vitamin d3 production.
4. Usage of Sunscreen lotion (esp. higher SPF) can also hinder the production of Vitamin D3.
How Can We Improve Vitamin D3 levels?
Getting ample direct sunlight early in the morning without sunscreen on is recommended. 20-30 minutes every morning is a great starting point for most.
Supplementing with Vitamin D3 would be a great option for those who cannot get enough sunlight or are still deficient in vitamin D3 despite getting enough sunlight (or vitamin d3 levels are still low despite getting enough sunlight). However, always take supplements under the guidance of a qualified nutritionist or under a doctor's supervision.
Remember, Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin, so having it with a fat source can enhance its absorption!
Also, vitamin D3 can be stored in our adipose tissues so weekly supplementation is fine too. Also, note that vitamin D's toxicity is possible. (However, it's very rare)
Getting regular blood work done can help us keep an eye on vitamin D3 levels.
If one is deficient in vitamin D, the status of other minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and even iron should also be checked regularly.
For some food sources of Vitamin D, click here.
About Author: Yash Vardhan Swami is a health and fitness educator and a coach as well as a nutritionist.
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