Vitamin D used to be seen as a less important nutrient than it truly is. This is rather odd considering the multitude of functions Vitamin D is so intrinsically connected to. While the role of this vitamin has often been limited to the metabolization of calcium and bone health, new research indicates that Vitamin D is vital to many other bodily functions.
Vitamin D- The Under-appreciated Vitamin
Presumably, one of the reasons Vitamin D has been slighted, if you will, is because the sun, with its infrared and ultraviolet rays, is one of its main sources. When juxtaposed with the cancerous dangers inherent in soaking up too many rays, it becomes rather clear why, in part at least, Vitamin D has been considered to be ‘less than.’
The Role of Vitamin D
While once thought of in a limited fashion, the benefits of having normal Vitamin D levels can now be seen in the field of immunopathology as Vitamin D acts as a cell growth inhibitor. Vitamin D is a crucial player in the endocrine system, as it is vital for its role in insulin production and output. It is also extremely important within the cardiovascular system for its influence on renin, a hormone directly involved with the management of blood pressure and a host of other functions. Some of the other jobs Vitamin D is tasked with include the reduction of swelling and inflammation, as well as neuromuscular functions.
The Connection between Vitamin D and Dermatological Health
There is much talk surrounding the benefits of Vitamin D on skin health. Research seems to indicate that the benefits of this vitamin, no matter its source, are more than merely correlational. Still, as the studies performed by the Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute demonstrate, more research needs to take place before declaring that there is a causational relationship between skin health and Vitamin D.
That said, topical ointments containing Vitamin D have shown promising and dramatic success in the treatment of various forms of psoriasis. This nutrient has also been noted to expedite the healing of surgical wounds. Less success has been seen in these areas in the elderly population, however, as they tend to have less 7-DHC—a precursor of the cholesterol needed to synthesize Vitamin D in the skin.
Skin health and Vitamin D seem to have an almost love/hate relationship, too. Most of the Vitamin D we need to live healthy, vibrant lives is from the sun. However, too much sun exposure increases our risk for skin cancer. In response to that, we use sunscreen in the hopes of getting some sun without the potentially cancerous side effects. The glitch with this thinking, however? Our skin’s ability to synthesize Vitamin D is blocked by sunscreen, leaving us with a very mixed bag of benefits.
Sources of Vitamin D
If the sun is such a risky source of this vitamin, where else are we supposed to we get it? The good news is that there are foods that contain the nutrient and are easily accessible to most. Additionally, there are also supplements and food items that are fortified with Vitamin D to complement what we will undoubtedly get from the sun. Realistically, we are all going to feel the sun on our skin, even if for brief, unprotected periods of time. While how much sun is too much is beyond the scope of this article, there are sources that go into greater detail on this topic.
Some of the foods that contain Vitamin D include mushrooms, turkey, fresh fish, eggs, pork, fortified breakfast cereals, yogurt and tofu. Vitamin D supplements are available as Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3, but must be monitored as too much of either can prove toxic. Whatever means you employ to get your Vitamin D, it is crucial that you get the recommended amount of international units (IU’s), based on your personal metabolic needs, as discussed with a physician or healthcare professional.
The Dangers of Too Much or Too Little Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiencies can wreak havoc on sufferers and are the result of any number of factors. Excessive alcohol intake, very limited sun exposure, metabolic conditions affecting fat absorption, dark pigmentation, and advanced age are risk factors for chronic and dangerous Vitamin D deficiencies. On the flip side, too much Vitamin D, most often the result of taking too many supplements, can cause hypercalcemia, a condition in which there is an excessive buildup of calcium in the blood stream.
The risks of being either deficient in or having an excess of Vitamin D in your system, collectively include osteoporosis, depression, pancreatic cancer, chronic pain, unwanted, nontherapeutic weight loss, and circulatory problems. Truth be told, we are in control of the vast majority of the causes and results of getting too much or too little Vitamin D, which is both enlightening and empowering.
Caring for the Skin You are In
We are far more than a mere compilation of parts, and as such, it is necessary that we approach our health, and that epidemiologists approach the public’s welfare, with this in mind. We short change ourselves when our conduct leads us to ignore our health, safety, and well being. Commitment and steadfast convictions to personal wellness are the best practices approach to maintaining our health, from within and without. Our society often encourages us to, metaphorically, maintain a “thick skin,” but sometimes forgets that our skin needs the same tender loving care as the rest of us.
Dr. Shahen Kurestian, DC heads the Body Wellness Center in Glendale, California, and is available for free consultations. You can meet with him and his team and explore the best ways to get the right amounts of Vitamin D, as well as a host of other issues.