Nearly 50% of the US population has a Vitamin D deficiency, but vitamin D is a major player in the business of inner body maintenance. With Vitamin D, your body is able to absorb calcium in the intestines, which helps keep your bones healthy and strong. However, Vitamin D is vital to your body in several other ways, with some studies even showing a potential link between the sunshine vitamin and reducing your risk of certain cancers. Read on to learn how Vitamin D (and a lack thereof) can affect your health, which forms of cancer Vitamin D may help protect you against, and more ways you can reach your daily Vitamin D goal.
Symptoms and Effects of a Vitamin D Deficiency
As stated above, almost 50% of the US population has a Vitamin D deficiency. While this total may seem incredibly high, your Vitamin D levels can be affected by several components:
The more common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:
Over time, you may begin to see other symptoms such as weight gain, hair loss, and anxiety.
Unfortunately many symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are initially written off as just feeling under the weather or a little off.
If untreated, a Vitamin D deficiency can lead to major bone disorders such as Osteomalacia (softening of the bones) or Osteoporosis (loss of bone mass). This can lead to limb deformities as well as bone weakness and fractures.
To ensure your Vitamin D levels are where they should be, a simple blood test can confirm if an issue is present. If testing shows your levels are on the low side, your doctor may place you on a prescription strength Vitamin D regimen. Further blood tests can be used to determine when your Vitamin D levels are back within a normal range.
Vitamin D and Cancer
While studies centered around finding a connection between Vitamin D levels and cancer are in the early stages, many of the current findings have been promising. Of course there is no way to completely prevent your risk of devloping cancer, but some studies suggest that vitamin D may help lower your risk.
One study has shown a possible connection between higher Vitamin D levels and a lower risk of certain cancers, specifically breast, colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate.
While some of the results have been positive, researchers have advised nothing is concrete due to the amount of varying factors. Future testing will need to be conducted to determine the correct Vitamin D level range. Other factors researchers will need to take into consideration are the amount of sunlight each individual is exposed to and how often the subject eats foods rich in Vitamin D.
Another study suggests Vitamin D may also help slow the progression of certain cancers. This allows more time for the cancer to be caught and treated at a lower stage. As with the previously mentioned study, many additional factors must be taken into consideration before true results can be released, but this is definitely something to keep an eye on in the future.
Lastly, another study has been shown to link low Vitamin D to an increased risk of prostate cancer. While a lack of Vitamin D has been linked to osteoporosis in women, studies have found prostate cancer has been linked to a high level of calcium in men. This has brought many scientists to the conclusion that low levels of Vitamin D in men may be a factor in the development of prostate cancer. Therefore, no matter your gender, having your Vitamin D levels checked on a regular basis is highly beneficial to your overall health.
How to Work in More Vitamin D
When taken in appropriate doses, Vitamin D supplements can be beneficial for reaching your optimal Vitamin D levels. However, we recommend always consulting with your doctor prior to starting a Vitamin D supplement or making major changes in your diet, especially if you are currently taking other prescription medication.
Vitamin D is stored in body fat then slowly released into the bloodstream over time. Having too much Vitamin D in your system can cause hypercalcemia, or high blood calcium levels. Side effects of hypercalcemia include vomiting, confusion, dizziness, extreme thirst, and excessive urination.
Doctors also recommend working to increase your Vitamin D levels the old fashioned way by spending more time outside in the sunlight (while wearing sunscreen, of course).
Another way to increase your Vitamin D intake is by adding more Vitamin D rich foods to your diet. Unlike other vitamins such as Vitamin A or C, Vitamin D can not be found in many foods. You can still find a good amount of Vitamin D in many foods like:
Fish, such as Salmon, Herring, Catfish, Mackerel, or Sardines
*Check the label before purchase to ensure the product is “Fortified with Vitamin D”
To Sum Up…
Ensuring you get enough Vitamin D in your diet is essential to your overall well-being and bone health. Now that researchers are actively working to find a connection between vitamin D levels and cancer, we will hopefully see more studies with promising results within the near future. What’s your favorite Vitamin D rich food? Tell us in the comments section below!