It would appear from current research and studies that Vitamin D known as “the sunshine vitamin” is central to helping you stay strong and healthy.
Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more widespread and is linked to many health concerns: depression, osteoporosis, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, cancer, immune function, parathyroid problems and weight loss.
We know that vitamin d is essential to the health of our bones and teeth but it is becoming apparent that it is much more than that. Your body can’t produce vitamin d on its own but your body does make it through sun exposure and by ingesting it through fatty fish and fortified foods.
The systems behind vitamin d’s actions in the body are still not fully understood, however, it is understood that our bodies need a certain amount and that many of us are not getting enough.
Vitamin D Facts: What are the Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Prevention of chronic diseases such as many forms of cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension
Protection and lubrication of your bones, teeth and hair
Regulation of cellular growth and healthy cell activity
Overall reduction of the inflammatory response – the cause of many chronic diseases
Reduction in the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women
Vitamin D Facts: Deficiency Symptoms
Low energy and fatigue
Symptoms of depression and mood swings
Women with renal problems or intestinal problems may be vitamin d deficient because they can neither absorb nor adequately convert the nutrient.
You can ask your healthcare professional to test your for vitamin d deficiency before deciding whether to take a daily supplement.
There is controversy over whether our primary source of vitamin d should be the sun, diet or supplements. The correct combination for you will be dependent upon a number of matters including age, current nutritional status and with regards to sun exposure; where you live in the world.
Vitamin D Facts: Menopause and Osteoporosis
As you get older your body will lose the capacity to activate vitamin d. This is the process that lowers our calcium absorption rates thus generating a higher risk of osteoporosis particularly in postmenopausal women.
A significant co-factor to vitamin d is calcium. Calcium may lose its effectiveness if vitamin d is deficient or estrogen levels are low. U.S. studies have shown that a diet rich in both calcium and vitamin d can help to control some symptoms of PMS, such as irritability, anxiety and tearfulness.
Vitamin d plays a vital role for menopausal women, in particular, those over 50. Women in their 30s and 40s should also pay attention to vitamin d.
Studies have shown an association between vitamin d and the prevention of colon, breast and prostate cancer. With regard to skin cancers, we have all become so much better at using sun block and whilst this does help reduce skin cancer risk it also blocks out the sun.
Vitamin D has been shown to have a positive effect on low mood and cognitive (thinking and learning) performance. Mood swings are one of the most common symptoms of menopause so vitamin d supplementation is definitely worthy of your attention. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a situational mood disorder brought on by decreasing daylight during the winter months. High doses of vitamin d during these months have proven to be a very effective natural remedy for SAD. Again, it would be worthwhile having a vitamin d test to check your levels before deciding on a higher dosage.
Sufficient vitamin d levels have also been associated with your body’s ability to use insulin. Studies have shown that not only does it make insulin use more effective but it appears to prevent and/or minimize type 1 and 2 diabetes.
When estrogen begins to decline in menopausal women, you begin to have the same risk of heart disease as men. Vitamin d plays a role in the prevention of heart disease, however, research outcomes remain mixed.
Vitamin d deficiency may have an effect on your heart and blood vessels. High blood pressure is a symptom of your cardiovascular system being at risk, so anything that lowers that risk is good for your heart. Studies have shown that vitamin d supplementation can lower blood pressure readings for people with hypertension.
It is known that women who are overweight have low levels of vitamin d; however, it is not yet known whether the low levels of vitamin d contributes to obesity or whether obesity lowers the levels – but there is a link. As most women experience weight gain during the menopause transition it would be worthwhile paying attention to your intake of vitamin d and c as research links these supplements with preventing weight gain.
What Can You Do To Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency?
- Allow yourself limited unprotected sun exposure.
- Make sure it is taken in the early morning or late afternoon or both.
- 15 minutes for light skin (this is enough to create a good enough supply of vitamin d). If you turn red before your 15 minutes are up you should cover up and go inside. Do not burn your skin. 40 minutes for darker skin (you have more melanin (pigmentation) so will require a longer exposure.
- Do not rely on tanning beds as a primary source of vitamin d as they are adjusted for UVA rays not the UVB rays that you need in order to stimulate vitamin d.
- If you are in the sun during peak time 11am – 2pm make sure you wear sun block.
Eat a diet rich in whole foods:
Natural Vitamin D Foods
Shitake and button mushrooms
Cod liver oil
Eggs (free range)
Fortified Vitamin D Foods
Ready to eat cereal, margarine, yogurt, milk, orange juice.
If you are a vegetarian or don’t eat fish, you can achieve the same benefits by taking a Vitamin D supplement.
Take a high quality multivitamin every day, preferably one that includes a fish oil to fill any nutritional gaps.
Take a vitamin D supplement (do not exceed the recommended dose). Under the care of your healthcare professional you may be able to take a higher dosage if it is found that you need it and particularly if you don’t have sun exposure every day. See the article on menopause supplements for more information.
Don’t assume that because you live at a far northern or southern latitude, work indoors or are housebound that you have a vitamin d deficiency – to answer that question you will need to be tested.
Diagnosis is easy and treatment with supplementation is both safe and affordable.
If you do have a vitamin D test remember to have a follow up test so that you can monitor your response to supplementation.
Vitamin D. Retrieved on 16 September 2015 from http://www.nutri-facts.org/eng/vitamins/vitamin-d-calciferol/at-a-glance/
DeNoon, D. J. The Truth About Vitamin D: Why You Need Vitamin D. Retrieved on 16 September 2015 from http://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/the-truth-about-vitamin-d-why-you-need-vitamin-d
Vitamin and Minerals – Vitamin D. Retrieved on 16 September 2015 from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Vitamin-D.aspx