Vitamin D is essential for much more that just building bones and teeth. In addition to enabling normal mineralization and health of the skeleton, Vitamin D helps the body do a number of things including:
- Assists in cell growth
- Aids neuromuscular function
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces the risk of breast cancer in women
- Boosts your immune system
Additionally, Vitamin D helps to prevent the following medical issues:
- Multiple Sclerosis and other autoimmune conditions
- Rickets in children
- Osteomalacia in adults
Considering the numerous health issues it is linked to, getting too little vitamin D will cause your body to will operate far below its potential.
In the world of pain and chiropractic, one of those in particular is of interest to us: inflammation reduction. When you injure yourself, your body has a natural healing process that begins with the acute healing phase. During the acute phase, your body ships specialized cells into the area to clean up the debris and damage and set the stage for new healthy growth. As the vascular permeability increases to allow the needed chemicals in, up to 10x the blood volume comes to that area and swelling occurs. Through the healing process, the swelling should reduce back to its pre-injury size. You can assist your body in decreasing the swelling with rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE), soft tissue massage toward the body’s core, and by consuming foods that have anti-inflammatory effects. Vegetables consistently have anti-inflammatory properties as well as some spices and foods high in Vitamin D!
How much to consume? Researchers have found many Americas to have low levels of this essential vitamin, and a deficiency in vitamin D is not something you want to deal with. As of November 2010, the recommended baseline vitamin D intake for those over 70 is 800 International Units per day to stay healthy. Those under 70 years old should take 400 IU per day with an upper limit of 4,000 IU per day, kids between 4 and 8 years should take in up to 3,000 IU per day, and children 1 to 3 years should not have more than 2,500 IU per day.
So how do you get enough? The Institute of Medicine set a recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D from a combination of diet, supplements, and sun exposure. The best source of natural vitamin D is sunlight (Fine by me!!). Just 10 to 15 minutes of exposure without sunscreen each day usually gives you enough. Know, though, that because of the melanin in dark skinned people, it is more difficult to produce vitamin D up to 90 percent. Easy enough, right!? It is also naturally found in butter, eggs, salmon, cod, mackerel, fish liver oils and added to fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, and cereal.
For more information about nutrition, visit our nutrition page.