Now that it is getting colder and we’re spending more time inside it’s important to pay attention to your vitamin D intake!Vitamin D is so freakin’ cool. It is the only vitamin our bodies actually have the ability to make. It also acts differently in the body than the other vitamins and minerals do. It actually has specific target tissues within the body which means it works as a steroid hormone.
So, like other steroid hormones, the body starts by making a precursor (7-dehydrocholesterol, in case you were wondering) in the liver. Then, these super cool glands we have on our skin toss a little 7-dehydrocholesterol on to the skin surface. UV light then comes through and converts that little precursor to vitamin D3 (aka cholecalciferol). Our homeboy D3 then must travel back to the liver for another conversion and finally to the kidneys for a final conversion where it reaches it’s active form- 1,25(OH)2D3 (aka calcitriol). I tell you this for 2 reasons. 1. so I don’t feel like I wasted my time memorizing this in college and 2. so you realize you need functionality in your skin, liver and kidneys, and exposure to sunlight, in order to produce the active form of vitamin D.
So it’s a process to make it, but what exactly does it do in the body? So many cool things. I bet you already know it has some sort of association with calcium, right? Right. Vitamin D is (obviously) a component of the vitamin D receptor (VDR), which is a family of receptors that regulate gene expression. Without the active form of vitamin D, VDR can’t work. VDR then plays a role in maintaining the proper amounts of both calcium and phosphorus in our bodies. This is super important because these two combined minerals are what makes up 60-70% of our bones. VDR can affect the intestines, the kidneys, and the bones to make changes which will either increase or decrease the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.
If you don’t think that is cool enough get this. The active form of vitamin D also has a roll in the growth of our skin, muscles, pancreas, nerves, parathyroid gland, and immune system. It can influence the development of scary things like multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetic neuropathy. It also activates other enzymes and thereby ends up playing a role in immunity, blood vessel function, and the health of the heart cells. There are actually more than 50 genes which are regulated by vitamin D. So if you are deficient in vitamin D you’re really screwing with a bunch of stuff! Low vitamin D levels are linked with inflammatory markers and signs of cell damage. Sounds like a cancer precursor to me.Guess what? Deficiency is super common. NHNES data published in 2011 found the overall prevalence of deficiency in the US to be at 41.6%. It’s even more of a pain in the bootay for anyone who lives in the north. If you’re above the 37th parallel (anywhere above NC, TN, OK, NM, AZ, etc.) you’re pretty much screwed because of the angle the sun takes to the earth as well as the fact that no one in their right mind is going out in a t-shirt and shorts in December. There was another study done in Philidelphia that found 68% of white children and 94% of black children to be deficient. It isn’t one of those super obvious deficiencies, either. Adults may experience chronic muscle aches and pains and, later on, osteopenia and osteoporosis. It is more obvious in children when they develop bowed legs. So what do we do?
Get ya booty outside! Now don’t go out and give yourself a sunburn but 15 minutes of exposure on your face, arms, and legs will do the trick. Extra points if this outdoor activity is something physical. And, of course, food! Beef liver (man up and do it), herring, salmon, mackerel, sardines, and codfish, chicken, eggs and even shiitake mushrooms. YUM.
Please don’t forget that vitamin D toxicity is also a real thing. It can cause high levels of blood calcium which can then turn into kidney stones. Painful. It is uncommon, but it is a possibility with excessive supplementation. Which is why, as always, you should get your nutrients from the REAL THING, not something synthesized in a factory.
That being said, if you are like Pearl and Sassy living in the north there is a good chance you’re not getting enough. Our favorite vitamin D supplement is this Fermented Cod Liver Oil* from Green Pasture because although it is a supplement it is also a REAL FOOD which contains all of our fat-soluble vitamins and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. They have a few different flavors but I prefer the orange!
How do you get Vitamin D in the winter? Let us know by using the hashtag #adventuresofsassyandpearl on social media! Questions you’d like to see covered in a future podcast or blog post? Add a comment below and we’ll get on it!