Vitamin D: You find it in food, they put it in milk, and you get it from the sun. It helps with everything from a happy disposition to fighting infection, including potentially playing a role in fighting COVID-19. Some researchers, like Dr. Frank Lipman, founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, have even suggested a potential epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency.
So what is Vitamin D? What does it do? What happens when we don’t get enough, and how do we get it?
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble substance. That means any excess gets stored in your fat cells rather than flushed out directly by your kidneys. Our systems turn it into the hormone calcitriol, the activated form of the vitamin that our bodies use to do miraculous things.
What Does It Do?
Vitamin D interacts with more than 2,000 different genes and plays an important role in making enzymes and proteins important in maintaining health and preventing disease. Some say it even helps keep a sunny disposition. Other benefits include:
· Promotes calcium absorption.
· Supports bone growth and structure.
· Reduces inflammation.
· Boosts the immune system.
· Supports muscle function.
· Potentially staves off heart disease.
· Possibly helps prevent cancer.
· Supports brain development. 
What happens if we don’t get enough?
Most people will never know that they have a Vitamin D deficiency unless it becomes severe. But some of the general symptoms include:
· General muscle pain and weakness
· Muscle cramps
· Joint pain
· Chronic pain
· Weight gain
· High blood pressure
· Restless sleep
· Poor concentration
· Bladder problems
· Constipation or diarrhea
How Do You Get It?
Some foods have it, and others, like milk, have it added. Food sources include fish liver oils like cod liver oil; fatty wild fish like mackerel, salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines and herring; fortified milk, orange juice, and cereal; dried shitake mushrooms; and egg yolks. But it would take five servings of salmon or 20 cups of fortified milk per day to get the Vitamin D you need. As a result, most people get 10% of the required intake at most from food sources.
The only sources guaranteed to provide the amounts we need come from supplements or the sun.
Sun on exposed skin can spur the creation of 20,000 units of Vitamin D in 20 minutes, Lipman says. But you must balance the hazards of overexposure with the benefits. Suntan lotions (even weak ones) and glass (like home and car windows), block these effects. But, in the right amounts, the sun does the body good.
First and foremost, you must take the right kind of Vitamin D, Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol. How much you need depends on a variety of factors, like age, gender, and weight. The National Institutes of Health recommends:
· 0-12 months: 400 IU
· 1-70+ years: 600 IU
They say these guidelines will cover 97-98% of healthy people.
Lipman says the Food and Nutrition Board of the US Institute of Medicine found these levels optimal for preventing soft bones and rickets, but he thinks we need more. He lays out his suggestions in his article.
What about toxicity?
Your body will never make too much Vitamin D in response to sun exposure, Lipman says, but supplements can present a different scenario. He suggests having your blood level checked every three months if you take 5,000 IU or more per day.
When it comes to Vitamin D, most of us could probably use more. Check the shelves of your local grocery store or Amazon.com and talk to your medical provider. Vitamin D might be just what the doctor orders.