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Vitamin D: Why Most People Aren’t Getting Enough

Vitamin D is essential to human health, yet an estimated one billion people worldwide are deficient in it. Vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin at all—it functions more like a hormone and is synthesized in the skin upon exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.

Why is vitamin D essential?

“Most people don’t realize how important vitamin D is,” said Dr. Fulginiti, a surgeon who specializes in wound care and integrative medicine. “Every single cell in the body has a receptor for it. That fact alone should give you a clue about just how crucial it is. Vitamin D has a huge impact on the health and function of your whole system and is responsible for regulating hundreds of genes.”

Vitamin D acts on receptors, cellular docking stations of sorts, which then send messages to genes. It plays a vital role in numerous functions including preventing cancer, reducing inflammation, regulating calcium absorption, boosting mood, building strong bones, and easing muscle aches, just to name a few things.

According to Dr. Fulginiti, when a person is deficient in vitamin D, every aspect of their health can be affected because it affects the way cells and genes function.

Deficiency in this essential vitamin has been linked to many cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic muscle pain, bone loss, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.

Another important factor to mention is the correlation between vitamin D and COVID-19. One study published in Nature showed that low vitamin D status in those with COVID-19 leads to increased severity of symptoms and a higher risk of death. This connection makes sense, as vitamin D plays an important role in immune function and can reduce the risk of acute respiratory tract infections.

Why is vitamin D deficiency so common?

According to Dr. John Fulginiti, the rampant levels of vitamin D deficiency stem from a few factors.

“We get the majority of the vitamin D we need from the sun. However, many people live in places where sunlight isn’t available for half the year or more. Even those who do live in sunny locations spend the majority of their time indoors or use UV-blocking sunscreen when they do go out,” he said.

Dr. Fulginiti also mentioned that as people get older, their production of vitamin D slows down. Research published in Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America states that the average 70-year-old creates 25 percent less vitamin D than a younger person.

Why do people need vitamin D supplementation?

While one might think that they can get adequate vitamin D from food, this is unfortunately not the case. Vitamin D is found in certain foods, such as fatty fish like mackerel, herring, and cod liver oil, however, a person would have to consume massive quantities to get a sufficient amount. Plus, many people choose not to eat foods that contain vitamin D, which are largely animal-based foods.

With the majority of time spent indoors, the need to wear protective sunscreen when in the sun, and inadequate amounts of vitamin D in food, it becomes easy to see why vitamin D deficiency is so common and why taking a vitamin D supplement is crucial for good health.

“I always test my patients for vitamin D and, consistent with statistics, about 70 percent or more show a deficiency,” said Dr. Fulginiti. “While the NIH recommends 200 to 600 IUs of vitamin D a day, that’s only the amount to prevent rickets, a disease caused by vitamin D deficiency. For optimal health, much higher doses are typically needed.”

Seek the guidance of an integrative doctor

As with anything, taking too much vitamin D can be toxic, although a person would have to take extremely high levels (around 60,000 IUs a day for several months) to cause harm.

Nevertheless, it’s recommended to seek the guidance of a physician rather than taking a shot in the dark. A doctor well-versed in holistic health and wellness can determine a patient’s vitamin D level and recommend the appropriate level of supplementation for optimal health.

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