Introducing Vitamin D
Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, is essential for strong bones and a healthy immune system. Interestingly, it is the only vitamin our body produces when our skin is exposed to the sun’s UVB rays.
However, you can only find it in a few foods, making it challenging to consume enough. Due to this, many people turn to supplementation. Fortunately, countless top-quality vitamin D supplements can give your body the desired dose of the vitamin and boost your overall well-being.
In this article, we’ll review everything there is to know about the vitamin, its benefits, and its side effects. In addition, we’ll teach you how to choose the best supplement to fit your needs. Finally, you will get a list of the top 10 vitamin D supplements to facilitate your choice.
- Vitamin D is an essential vitamin our body produces when exposed to sunshine
- Regular consumption leads to countless health benefits for everyone
- People who live in cold places, older people, and people with dark skin tones usually must consume supplements
- Excess use can lead to toxicity, which has terrible side effects
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus, two essential minerals for building and maintaining healthy bones.
It is essential because it involves many digestive, immune, nervous, and circulatory functions. More precisely, regular vitamin D consumption can help you prevent many diseases, such as diabetes, depression, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. In addition, it can reduce inflammation and infections.
We commonly recognize it as “the sunshine vitamin” because our skin produces vitamin D naturally when exposed to the sun. Unfortunately, many people don’t have sufficient levels of this vitamin because they live in places with limited sunlight.
What’s the Difference Between Vitamins D2 and D3?
Vitamin D supplements come in two forms:
- D2: Plants and fungi naturally produce this D2 or Ergocalciferol. You can commonly find it in mushrooms grown in UV light, fortified foods, and dietary supplements. Vitamin D2 supplements are an excellent option for vegans because they’re plant-based. However, they are cheaper to produce, which is why many consider them lower quality than D3.
- D3: Animals and humans produce D3 or Cholecalciferol. You can mainly find it in animal-sourced foods such as oily fish, fish oil, liver, butter, and egg yolks. Moreover, Vitamin D3 is more effective at improving your vitamin status and is the preferred supplement.
Both forms of vitamin D are excellent, but since D3 is the preferred and the most popular choice among supplement consumers, the main subject throughout our article will be D3.
Who Needs To Take Vitamin D?
Although supplementing with D3 is excellent for everyone who wants to improve their well-being, some people are more at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency.
Supplements can be especially beneficial for:
- Those with insufficient sunlight exposure: People who work at night, live in cold places, or cover their skin for religious reasons don’t get enough sun exposure. Consequently, their bodies cannot produce enough of the vitamin without supplementation.
- People with dark skin: They have more melanin, which reduces the amount and the pace at which the skin produces vitamin D.
- Obese people: Individuals with a body mass index of 30 commonly have low vitamin D levels. Those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery also need more D3.
- People with malabsorption: Individuals with bowel diseases that affect their body’s ability to absorb vitamin D must consume supplements.
- Babies drinking breast milk: Studies have shown that exclusively breastfed babies need additional vitamin D for their bones because breastmilk doesn’t contain enough.
- Older people: The skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D declines with age. So, older people, especially those who spend a lot of time indoors, must consume supplements to avoid developing a deficiency.
Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency
People often face a deficiency, especially those over 65 and with darker skin tones. Unfortunately, this common issue can affect your bones and muscles.
While most people with deficiency are asymptomatic, your body might demonstrate certain signs to signalize it lacks the vitamin:
- Not sleeping well
- Bone pain and achiness
- Feelings of sadness
- Muscle weakness
- Hair loss
- Pale skin
- Getting sick more easily
You can easily check your vitamin D levels through a blood test. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor and ask for blood work.
What Are the Benefits of Vitamin D?
Let’s see what regular consumption of supplements can do for you and your health.
Helps You Fight Many Diseases
Vitamin D will not only boost your immune system but also help you protect it from many illnesses.
Studies have shown that this vitamin can reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis and decrease the chances of getting heart diseases such as heart failure, stroke, and hypertension. Furthermore, it can decrease the risk of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Finally, vitamin D can also contribute to acute respiratory distress symptoms and make severe flu and even COVID-19 infections less likely.
Improves Your Bone Health and Muscle Strenght
Did you know that low vitamin D levels in older people increase the risk of fractures? This fact highlights the importance of this vitamin for the bones. One of its most important functions is to regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which is necessary for healthy bone mineralization.
Long-term deficiency can lead to osteoporosis.
In addition, it can help you increase muscle strength by preserving your muscle fibers.
Helps You Fight Depression
Both the sun and vitamin D can help you brighten your mood. On the other hand, it is scientifically proven that deficiency can lead to depression and anxiety.
Regularly consuming supplements can help you regulate your mood, relieve negative emotions and prevent anxiety.
Improves Brain Function
Vitamin D receptors are located in the brain. The vitamin activates and deactivates the synthesis of neurotransmitters and nerve growth and repair. Studies show that the vitamin can protect the neurons and reduce inflammation in the brain, thus improving the brain’s overall function.
Facilitates Weight Loss
If you eat more vitamin D-rich foods, take supplements, and get more sun, you can lose weight easier.
Therefore, sufficient doses keep your body fat levels down, decreasing the risk of becoming obese and developing complications related to obesity.
A supplement is not a magical pill to help you lose weight. Instead, you must combine supplements with healthy and nutritious foods and exercise regularly.
Controls Your Blood Sugar Levels
Vitamin D increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, a hormone that keeps blood sugar levels stable. Studies show that supplements can help people with type 2 diabetes reduce insulin resistance and help them control their blood sugar levels.
How To Choose The Best Vitamin D Supplement?
Many vitamin supplements are on the market, but not all are top-quality. You must follow certain criteria to choose the best supplement for you and your body.
Here are some guidelines to follow when purchasing the most effective supplement.
First, look for a certificate from a third party. Third parties are independent labs that test the products for quality and contaminants. Some of the most reliable third-party certifications include NSF, USP, and ConsumerLab.
Many companies choose not to get their products tested because getting a certificate can be expensive.
Usually, third-party tested products have a significantly higher price. Still, don’t let the price fool you. Sometimes, a cheap vitamin D has a better formula than the most expensive one. Furthermore, if a product doesn’t have a certificate, that doesn’t indicate that the product is bad.
Do your research before purchasing, check the brand’s reputation, or even call the manufacturer to get more information.
First, choose from D2 and D3, as explained before. Next, consider the supplement form. You can find the best vitamin D supplements in soft gels, tablets, gummies, and liquids.
The liquid is the most bioavailable form because the body absorbs it the fastest. Also, this form is perfect for people who have trouble swallowing pills.
Ingredients and Potential Interaction
Carefully read the ingredients list on the supplements to ensure exactly what and how much is included.
Most supplements contain other vitamins and nutrients. For instance, some include calcium and magnesium. So, if you’re already taking calcium or magnesium supplements, ensure you don’t exceed your daily limits.
Also, vitamin D can react with certain medications, such as anticonvulsants, atorvastatin, cholesterol-lowering pills, Lanoxin, high blood pressure pills, Thiazide diuretics, steroids, and stimulant laxatives.
If you consume other medications or supplements, consult your doctor to prevent potential interactions.
People who are not deficient should consume 400-2,000IU per day. However, people who are diagnosed with a deficiency should consume higher doses.
Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D:
- Newborn-1 year: 400IU
- 1-13 years: 600IU
- 14-18 years: 600IU
- 19-50 years: 600IU
- 51-70 years: 600IU
- More than 70 years: 600IU
- Pregnant and lactating women: 600IU
The current RDAs are considered more controversial, and some professional organizations recommend higher doses of the vitamin to support optimal vitamin D levels. For example, the Endocrine Society recommends taking 1,500-2,000 IU.
Potential Side Effects of Vitamin D
Vitamin D promotes overall health, but it has potential side effects. Here are some of the side effects you can experience from consuming too much of the vitamin:
- Increased calcium levels: vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, but if your intake is excessive, the calcium in your blood can reach levels that can cause dangerous symptoms. Moreover, high calcium levels are related to hypercalcemia, which might lead to digestive distress, fatigue, dizziness, loss of appetite, excessive urination, kidney stones, high blood pressure, and dehydration.
- Gastrointestinal problems: vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, poor appetite, and constipation
- Allergic reaction: some people can experience allergic reactions. The symptoms include hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, tongue, and throat.
The early signs of vitamin D overdose include weakness, metallic taste in your mouth, weight loss, muscle or bone pain, nausea, constipation, and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor to prevent developing a more serious condition.
There isn’t another vitamin in the world that you can consume as easily as D2 or D3. All you have to do is expose your skin to the sun and soak those vitamin D-rich sunbeams. Yet, unfortunately, some people who live in cold places with only a few sunshine days don’t have the luxury to do that. Thanks to supplements, we can consume the right dose of the vitamin anywhere, anytime.
Remember that it is essential for your body, so you need to put a little effort into consuming it daily!