Nutrient deficiencies are one of the biggest roadblocks to achieving hormone balance and whole-body health. When you don’t give your body key vitamins and minerals, you really can’t expect it to work the way it should.
One key nutrient deficiency that impacts everything from immunity to hormones, skin health to mood (and everywhere in between) is vitamin D.
So here’s the lowdown on why vitamin D is SO important, what role it plays in your health, how you can tell if you need more of it, and the best ways to simply and naturally boost your vitamin D levels.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is actually more of a pre-hormone than a vitamin. Every single cell in your body has receptors for vitamin D, and each system relies on it to function at its best.
Your body produces vitamin D naturally when you are exposed to sunlight — thus its nickname “the sunshine vitamin.” However, since most of us spend a majority of our days indoors (and when we do venture out, we cover up with clothing or lather on the sunscreen), up to 50% of us do not get enough vitamin D.
You can get very small amounts of vitamin D through diet (think fatty fish and fortified foods), but it is impossible to get all you need through food alone (I’ll get into this more below).
Addressing Vitamin D Deficiency
Since vitamin D is so essential for every system in your body, when you don’t have enough of it, you can wind up with a whole host of symptoms. Some of the biggest signs of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Getting sick often
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling tired all the time (even if you do sleep pretty well)
- Having a deep ache in your bones, especially in your back
- Dealing with depression, anxiety, or mood swings regularly
- Sore muscles (especially if it takes you a long time to recover)
- Losing hair
Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, I feel like some of these things describe me, but I do spend time outside every day so I can’t be deficient.” Or maybe you already even take a vitamin D supplement regularly…
You may be surprised that even YOU could still be deficient in vitamin D. There are lots of reasons your body may have just become inefficient at processing vitamin D, or the type of vitamin D you are taking may be too low quality to deliver results (did you know your body also needs vitamin K to put vitamin D to use?).
Two of the biggest stumbling blocks that I find preventing women from getting enough vitamin D are stress or some inherent absorption problems caused by a sluggish liver, inflammation, Crohn’s, celiac disease, or one of many other conditions that affect your body’s ability to produce and store adequate levels of vitamin D.
Stress literally strips your body of key nutrients, and vitamin D is one that you burn through SO much faster when you’re stressed out! With the world we’re living in right now, we are all feeling extra pressure. Stress is toxic for your body in many different ways, and increasing your vitamin D level is a simple way to protect your body from its damage.
If you have a sluggish liver or increased inflammation in your gut, kidneys, and other vital systems, you will also not be able to absorb enough vitamin D. Addressing your liver health (click here for some suggestions) and reducing your inflammation (by staying hydrated, detoxing, removing inflammatory foods, etc.) are important first steps toward health for everyone — but even more so if you are facing a vitamin D deficiency.
Top 10 Reasons to Increase Vitamin D Intake
Whether you are facing vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency, or you have adequate levels, you can benefit from keeping tabs on your vitamin D intake for many reasons. Here are my top 10 reasons why vitamin D is so important — and how upping your levels could radically transform how you feel:
1. Immune Health
Vitamin D is an essential part of your body’s immune response. A study published in 2009 by the National Institute of Health revealed that low vitamin D levels are associated with frequent colds and influenza. (1) Taking vitamin D regularly (and even more when there are immediate threats like we are facing right now) can give your immune system the boost it needs to keep you healthy.
2. Reversing Autoimmunity (Including Lowering Hashimoto’s Antibodies)
Studies indicate that increasing vitamin D intake can reverse autoimmune conditions. In one study, 83% of participants with Hashimoto’s found that taking vitamin D lowered their antibody numbers significantly. (2) Want to learn more about Hashimoto’s (including what your doctor probably hasn’t told you)? Check out this post.
3. Respiratory Health
In 2017, an analysis of clinical trials showed that taking vitamin D reduces the odds of developing a respiratory infection by approximately 42% in people with very low levels. (3) This is HUGE information — especially given this new virus that we’re facing and its devastating respiratory effects.
4. Cutting Inflammation
Inflammation is an underlying root cause to most hormone imbalances and chronic conditions we face. Partnered with healthy diet choices and regular detoxification, vitamin D may help lower the inflammatory markers in your body to allow you to feel your best. (4)
5. Improving Sleep Quality
Studies show that having low vitamin D puts you at a much higher risk of sleep disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, or just not getting enough deep, restful sleep. (5) Sleep is such an important factor in your overall health, and upping your vitamin D is a simple way to get that rest your body needs!
6. Reducing Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance is the #1 hormone imbalance in women over 35, and many of us deal with it without even knowing it. Severe PMS, infertility, fibrocystic breasts, irregular periods, and more uncomfortable symptoms all indicate estrogen dominance (click here to see the full list). Vitamin D supports healthy estrogen detoxification and production to help restore balance to your hormones.
If you want to learn more about what estrogen dominance is and how you can address it naturally, check out this post.
7. Bone, Muscle and Circulatory Health
Vitamin D is an essential pre-hormone that allows your body to absorb and use calcium. Increasing your vitamin D levels prevents age-related bone degeneration, muscle weakening, and circulatory issues.
8. Balanced Blood Sugar
Low vitamin D levels are connected with insulin resistance, which is a major contributor to blood sugar problems, especially during perimenopause. Your body needs adequate levels of vitamin D to produce and respond to insulin circulating in your bloodstream.
9. Preventing Breast Cancer
Research is very promising that increasing vitamin D levels can help prevent the growth and spread of breast cancer cells and may even signal cancer cell death. (6) But don’t wait for a breast cancer diagnosis to start taking vitamin D — studies show it may also help prevent breast cancer from forming in the first place! (7)
10. Enhances Mood
One of the first things women tell me they notice when they start vitamin D supplements is a better mood and more energy. Research backs this up — increasing vitamin D levels have a profound effect on depression and mood stability! (8)
How To Get Enough Vitamin D
Very few foods are rich enough in vitamin D to make a difference, especially if you’re deficient. Egg yolks and fatty fish are the foods highest in this essential vitamin, but it takes a LOT to get you even close to the level that your body really needs. The two BEST ways to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D are through sun exposure and supplements. Let me explain…
Sunlight is the best natural source of vitamin D. When your skin is exposed to direct sunlight, a chemical reaction creates vitamin D within your body. This means your skin has to be exposed to the light, without sunscreen or clothing to block it.
In order to get the minimum daily amount of vitamin D from the sun, you need to have 40% of your skin exposed to the sun for at least 20 minutes. (This amount increases if you live further from the equator, and darker skin tones require more exposure time, as well.)
Since most of us work indoors or live in an area where we can’t be outside with exposed skin through most of the year, sun exposure is not sufficient to supply your body with all the vitamin D it needs.
Supplements are the easiest way to get your vitamin D levels where they should be. Vitamin D supplements should be a staple in EVERY medicine cabinet (even if you get “enough” from sunlight).
Think about it…your body burns through vitamin D faster when you’re stressed out, and if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you won’t get what you need from sunshine alone. Having quality vitamin D supplements as a backup (or first choice, really) is an important piece of keeping your body and hormones working their best!
What to Look for in a Vitamin D Supplement
There are 2 different kinds of vitamin D: D2 and D3. D2 is artificial and not easily absorbed by your body. D3 is what you want to look for in a supplement because it most closely matches what your body produces naturally.
In addition to making sure your supplement is pure, bioavailable vitamin D3, you also ideally want it combined with vitamins K1 and K2. These work synergistically with vitamin D so it is most easily and effectively put to use in your body.
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- 1. National Institutes of Health. Low Vitamin D Levels Associated with Colds and Flu. NIH website. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/low-vitamin-d-levels-associated-colds-flu. Published March 9, 2009.
- 2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26637501/
- 3. Martineau AR, Jolliffe DA, Hooper RL, et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ. 2017;356:i6583.
- 4. https://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/there-was-inverse-correlation-between-25oh-vitamin-d-and-c-reactive-protein-an
- 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6213953/
- 7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29298285/
- 8. https://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/low-serum-25ohd-was-associated-higher-depressive-symptom-scores