Also referred to as Calciferol for its ability to increase calcium deposits in bones, Vitamin D is best known to maintain blood calcium and phosphorus levels in order to promote and maintain formation of strong bones. When calcium or phosphorus levels are low, Vitamin D raises blood calcium levels by absorbing calcium from the digestive tract, from bones and by retention within the kidneys.
Vitamin D also plays a huge part in the growth and development of the brain, heart, skin, reproductive organs and pancreas. When it comes to the maintenance and regulation of the immune system, Vitamin D possesses anti-inflammatory effects that prevent conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and psoriasis. Protection from osteoporosis, cancer, and hyperthyroidism are also some of the functions of Vitamin D in the body.
Rickets or osteomalacia (adult rickets) is a condition that arises from Vitamin D deficiency. In rickets, abnormalities of the bones or skeletal malformations such as bowed legs, protruding belly, and knock-knees are noticeable. Other indications of Vitamin D deficiency are softening of the bones, muscle weakness, frequency of fractures, obesity, and increased risk for cancers. Most people who are Vitamin D deficient are strict vegetarians with relatively low vitamin D intakes, those with genetic susceptibility, have limited exposure to sunlight, and people who have conditions related to the parathyroid gland, liver and kidneys.
In most cases, people rely on nutrition and supplements to get the adequate amount of vitamins into the body. However, all the body needs to synthesize Vitamin D is to get enough sun each day. The sunlight is the richest source of Vitamin D as it transforms cholesterol compounds in the skin to Vitamin D in the blood through natural and adequate exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun. For those who have limited sun exposure, it is essential that they incorporate excellent sources of Vitamin D in their diet. Foods such as salmon, shrimp, sardines, fish, mackerel, eggs, and cod liver oil are some of the few natural sources of Vitamin D.
It is important to note that Vitamin D is the most toxic of all vitamins. Ingestion of Vitamin D in excess may produce kidney stones, thinning of tooth enamel, and may harm the bones, brain, nerves, heart and arteries. Thus far, there have been no observable cases of toxicity that resulted from sunlight exposure.
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