A Little Bit About Vitamin D

Vitamin D is not really a vitamin but a major steroidal hormone (note - steroids are known for their anti-inflammatory effects), but whether you want to call it a vitamin or a hormone, it is crucial that we get enough of it. Along with its own stand-alone importance for our overall health, its presence is required for optimal calcium uptake as well. Vitamin D may be one of the most important hormones for our overall health.

The Health Benefits of Vitamin D

If there is one vitamin that we must ensure that we acquire regularly, it is vitamin D. And yet it is probably something that most of us are not too concerned about. Below are some very important reasons why we should make sure we don’t overlook this vital nutrient.

Reduced inflammation
There are quite a few health claims regarding vitamin D, but one of the most interesting is its inhibitory effect on inflammation, because this reduction in inflammation is what seems to be at the root of the other major health benefits.

Cellular health
Hundreds of genes with vitamin D receptor response elements directly or indirectly influence cell cycling (the life cycle of the cell), cell proliferation (the process that results in an increase of the number of cells), cell differentiation (the process in which a cell changes from one cell type to another), and cell apoptosis (a form of programmed cell death that occurs in multicellular organisms).

Bone density
The most recognized and predominant function of vitamin D in its hormonal form (calcitriol or 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D) is the elevation of plasma calcium and phosphate levels, which are required for optimal bone health.

Cardiovascular health
Normal levels of calcium in the bloodstream are also required for the proper functioning of the neuromuscular junction as well as vasodilatation, nerve transmission, and hormonal secretion.

Immune health
Since increased inflammation levels are strongly associated with decreased immune efficiency, we can see why sufficient vitamin D levels are also linked to improved immune health.

There is a growing library of studies that link vitamin D with a reduction in both the incidence and outcome of many types of cancer. Since inflammation is a key step in the process that a cell undergoes when it becomes cancerous, the ability of vitamin D to exhibit anti-inflammatory effects on cancer cells by down-regulating the pro-inflammatory pathways may contribute to cancer inhibition.

Not only is calcium essential for bone health, but calcium also regulates muscle contractions, including the beating of the heart muscle. Calcium regulates blood pressure and is necessary for blood clotting. Having too little calcium has been linked with heart failure, low blood pressure (hypotension) and life threatening rhythm disorders of the heart.

Sources of Vitamin D
The most readily available source of vitamin D is sunlight. An incredibly important product of our evolution is our skin's ability to create its own supply of vitamin D via the application of sunlight and a vitamin D precursor. Humans with adequate amounts of sun exposure require no dietary supplementation.

Other sources of vitamin D include oily fish such as salmon, mushrooms, eggs, and dairy products (via supplementation).

It is important to note that while we are able to acquire adequate levels of vitamin D through diet and supplementation, our skin cells will only absorb vitamin D that the skin produces. If our only source of vitamin D is through diet, we are most likely leaving our skin cells deficient in such a valuable nutrient.

We must get an adequate daily supply of vitamin D whether it comes from direct sunlight, dietary sources, or even a pill. Our overall long-term as well as short-term health depends on it. Acquiring this vital nutrient really is a natural benefit of living a healthy, active, and fit lifestyle, we just need to beware taking it for granted.