Our body needs vitamin D as it absorbs calcium from our intestines. Calcium is needed by our body to mineralize the skeleton which gets demineralized over the course of time and hence is a critical element that helps in hardening of the bones and keeps us strong and healthy.
On contrary to this, deficiency of vitamin D can have serious consequences on our health. It could lead to increased rates of bone loss, osteomalacia (‘soft bones’) and rickets (a deforming bone disorder).
How do we get vitamin D?
The simple answer to this question is from the sun, food or supplements.
Mainly there are two kinds of vitamin D— vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. We can get these from certain food articles which are naturally rich in vitamin D like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and beef liver and egg yolks. But these can’t be our sole source of vitamin D as we do not consume them large quantities. This is the reason why some of the milk, cereal and juice manufacturers have voluntarily enriched their product with vitamin D to help reduce the incidences of rickets.
When we are exposed to the sun, our skin automatically manufactures vitamin D. Our skin has receptor cells which when exposed to the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays of the sun convert the cholesterol in the skin to produce vitamin D through a series of reactions.
Another way to get vitamin D is through supplements. Usually, these are recommended for the people who are lactose intolerant, have fat absorption issues, and for people who have the medical condition that prevent them from going outdoors.
How does the body process vitamin D?
After we intake vitamin D either from sunlight or from food supplements, it gets stored in fat cells of our body, where it remains inactive until required by the body. Our liver and kidneys turn this inactive vitamin D into the active form (called calcitriol) through a process called hydroxylation. It doesn’t matter whether the source was sunlight or supplements as our body follows the same process.
The more vitamin D you take the better?
The short answer to this is no. Vitamin D is stored in fat and if we intake large dosage, this would mean that the excess vitamin D would get into your bloodstream and would absorb more calcium there. This would result in the creation of a toxic situation.
Is the sun best source to get your vitamin D from?
This is one of the biggest challenges that dermatologists around the globe face. There are several claims that a certain amount of sun exposure every day ensures that our body has enough vitamin D to remain healthy. But this is not true. This method is usually advocated by the people who are not familiar with the biology of skin cancer. The UVB light of the sun is responsible for causing skin cancer and overexposing ourselves doesn’t make sense to me. Doctors under no circumstances advise the patients to use a tanning bed and sit for hours to get enough vitamin D. This is the biggest misconception about vitamin D. It’s better to get vitamin D from nutritional supplements and vitamin D-fortified foods.
The final verdict on vitamin D
No bones about it, we need to protect our skin from devastating diseases like cancer and at the same time also ensure that we get enough sun exposure to get vitamin D. If this protection limits your vitamin D intake, make sure you supplement it with foods and supplements that are rich in vitamin D.
This way both your bones as well as your skin would thank you.