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Importance of Vitamin D: Preventing and Understanding Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for increasing absorption of calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and other biological effects. In layman’s terms: vitamin D is very important.

A lack of vitamin D is thought to reduce fat breakdown and trigger fat storage, leading to an average weight gain of two to four pounds each year in autumn and winter. Unfortunately, a few extra pounds isn’t the only issue associated with vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency, which affects roughly 40% of the U.S. population, has been linked to the following health concerns:

  • Autoimmune diseases — Vitamin D deficiency can lead to asthma, allergic rhinitis, wheezing, multiple sclerosis, and as an anti-inflammatory for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
  • Pregnancy complications — Including preeclampsia (PE), gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), and birth to much smaller infants.
  • Viral infections — Leading to a higher risk of infections like the HIV, the flu, and even the common cold.
  • Cognitive decline — Deficiency has been found to lead to higher risks of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and even depression.
  • Colon cancer — Lower levels of vitamin D have been linked to colon cancer risks.
  • Shorter lifespan — For older individuals, vitamin D is essential for a longer, healthier life.

Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to increase your vitamin D intake. Though there are only a handful of foods that contain vitamin D, there are food and drink products that even vegans can enjoy that will combat vitamin D deficiency, as well as some other great ways:

  1. Head to the dentist — In 2017, approximately 127.6 million U.S. adults visited the dentist, which is great, but that means another 130 million or so did not. Your children need to regularly visit the dentist, as well. The AAPD recommends that kids and teens see a pediatric dentist every six months to for regular checkups including an exam, cleaning, fluoride treatment, and occasional x-rays to prevent cavities and other problems. Your mouth and teeth require vitamin D and simply visiting your dentist will help you get a better idea of possible next steps. Since vitamin D allows you to absorb calcium, it’s very important for your oral health. Without vitamin D, your moth would suffer from calcium deficiency, which causes tooth decay, gum disease, and underdeveloped teeth.
  2. Eat some more mushrooms — According to PETA, mushrooms can provide as much vitamin D as a supplement. Shiitake, portobello, morel, button, and maitake mushrooms are all great and have high levels in vitamin D. Plus, letting mushrooms sit out in the sun for as little as 15 to 20 seconds is a great way to boost their vitamin D content.
  3. Speaking of sun, soak it up! — Vitamin D is the only nutrient your body produces when exposed to sunlight. Sadly, up to 50% of the world’s population may not get enough sun. It only takes between five and 30 minutes of sunshine twice a week for your body to create enough vitamin D, so get outside and enjoy the sun! Beware of too much sun, however, as being sunburned comes with a whole slew of problems, as well.

Since vitamin D is incredibly common and often ignored, it’s time to start talking more about this important nutrient. To live a happy and healthier life, get out in the sun, enjoy a few mushrooms, talk to your dentist, and start taking vitamin D seriously!