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Everything you ever need to know about the elusive Vitamin D!

26 August 2021

When I just say the words ‘Vitamin D’, your mind immediately conjures up images of sunlight, strong bones, fish oil supplements…but not a lot of us know what Vitamin D is, why is it required, and what does it do in our bodies especially, how does it really support the growth of our children; trust me, you aren’t alone! For the longest, I was in the same boat.

At its very essence, Vitamin D – the Sunshine Vitamin, categorized as a fat-soluble vitamin, is something that our bodies produce naturally when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight, unlike other vitamins and nutrients that we cannot make and must consume with food. So this amazing vitamin can be either consumed via food or adequate levels can be maintained through enough exposure to sunlight.

Having said that, we cannot afford to choose just one over the other, because a lot has changed in the last century – our lifestyles, high-rise cities, nutrient levels in our food, and even the quality of sunlight we get with rising air pollution and ozone depletion.

This all may seem slightly complicated at the moment, but getting to know a few facts can ensure that you can provide adequate levels of vitamin D for kids, and your entire family.

Firstly, understand why we need Vitamin D!

Several organs and tissues in our body have receptors for Vitamin D, which indicates its multifaceted roles beyond bone health. As you read this, several scientists are doing extensive research to get further clarity on the benefits of this rather elusive nutrient.

  • The most popular of all – Bone Health! Most of us remember our class 5 science where we were made to match the following Vitamins to the diseases their deficiency cause and for Vitamin D it was only always rickets, so obviously, it stuck with us throughout our lives that adequate levels of this vitamin are essential for healthy bones. But by itself Vitamin D cannot do much for our bones; what it really does is, help absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus, the levels of which if not maintained cause softening of our bones and weakening of muscles. In children, it causes rickets while in adults it manifests as osteomalacia.
  • Supports the Immune System and reduces the risk of Autoimmune Diseases – Our immunity is a factor of multiple things and comprises a complex system of white blood cells, spleen, lymphatic system, thymus, bone marrow. To name a few. We are all born with a certain level of immunity called Innate immunity but after that, we are mostly on our own and need to develop what’s called Adaptive immunity. This complex system is not nourished by just one or two nutrients but requires a holistic approach, of which, Vitamin D is a crucial element. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted this aspect of Vitamin D for an improved immune system for a lot of us. As Vitamin D boosts our bodies’ defence to fight infectious diseases it also decreases the risk of developing autoimmune diseases such as type-1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis etc. by keeping the immune system in check and functioning properly.
  • Role in influencing genes responsible for Cancer development – several pieces of research carried out in various parts of the world over the last few decades have drawn parallels between the rising rate of cancers in populations that are further higher up north or south in latitude than those residing closer to the equator. Lab and animal studies have also found it to inhibit or slow down the growth of tumours in the body.
  • Regulates Mood, boosts Brain Functionto support Mental Health Studies have found a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. Health professionals believe that vitamin D is an important part of the puzzle of a healthy brain function and its insufficient levels play a major role in causing mental illnesses. With the rising number of children being diagnosed with anxiety or depression, between the ages 6-17 years, it is imperative we focus on the Vitamin D levels in our kids, especially with the increasingly large amount of time they have to spend indoors these days.

Now, what quantities are we really looking at here per day?

The ICMR-NIN, India recommends 400 IU (10 mcg) of Vitamin D for people with low exposure to sunlight (RDA, ICMR-2010).

Having better clarity on the benefits of Vitamin D and what quantities are ideal to consume every day, let’s quickly dive into simple ways we can ensure sufficient Vitamin D for our children –

  • Develop a family morning activity out in the sun – walking the dog, going for a quick run, a game of ball, yoga practice. Anything at all.
  • Get your Vitamin D with breakfast – egg yolks are a great source paired with a glass of milk fortified with high-quality nutrition drink powders.
  • Vegans needn’t worry, mushrooms are a brilliant source of vitamin D too, and exposing them to strong direct sunlight for about an hour or so boosts their Vitamin D levels multifold.
  • Include fatty fish, like salmon and sardine, in your meals

Overall, maintain a holistic approach and enjoy a balanced diet because no nutrient can function in isolation, while a perfect medley of whole foods rich in all nutrients is key to a happy and healthy life!

Karnica Singh Nandal
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach & Yoga Instructor
Institute for Integrative Nutrition, NY
The Yoga Institute, 500hr TTC, Mumbai
Your cliché Engineer with an MBA degree, a corporate professional, turned wellness enthusiast – I
empower people to take responsibility for their health and achievement of their personal wellness
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