The Health Benefits of Vitamin D3

December 15, 2021
4 mins

Orange juice is much more than a refreshing breakfast beverage. It’s jam-packed with vitamin D.

Vitamin D is one of the cornerstones of human health, and it plays a major role in several key bodily functions – including immune defense and bone strength.

Vitamin D can be difficult for some people to get enough of, even with ample sun exposure and some occasional OJ. 

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Why is Vitamin D Important? 

Vitamin D (also known as calciferol) is one of the 13 essential vitamins that your body needs in order to function properly. There are several types of vitamin D, but the two most important compounds are D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). 

The overall function of vitamin D is in helping your body to more efficiently absorb calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These essential minerals primarily help to build and maintain the strength of your bones, teeth, muscles, and nerves, but contribute to other important bodily processes as well. 

Without enough vitamin D intake, your body is only able to absorb between 10 and 15% of the calcium found in your diet. When your vitamin D levels are in optimal range, your body can absorb between 30 to 40%. That’s a huge difference that can significantly impact your health!

Vitamin D can be found in most animal products and some plants. However, what makes vitamin D different from other essential vitamins is that it can also v be produced naturally. When your skin comes into direct contact with ultraviolet B rays from sunlight, it triggers a process in your body that produces vitamin D. 

For most people, it takes between five to 30 minutes of sunlight every other day to keep their vitamin D levels within optimal range. Outside factors such as where you live, the season, and the amount of melatonin in your skin can require you to get additional exposure to sunlight to produce enough vitamin D.  

Is Vitamin D the Same as D3?

When people mention vitamin D, they're almost always talking about vitamin D3.

Cholecalciferol (the scientific name of vitamin D3) is what your body produces when it comes into contact with sunlight.

It’s also the specific type of vitamin D that you ingest when you eat certain animal products, including most seafood.

Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) is another important type of vitamin D. Vitamin D2 is found in oranges, as well as other citrus fruits and plants.

Vitamin D3 is generally considered to be more beneficial for the body than vitamin D2 since it can stay in your body for longer and function more efficiently. If your doctor recommends that you start taking vitamin D supplements, they're talking about D3 specifically. 

Once ingested, both vitamins are absorbed through the digestion process in your small intestine before being processed by your liver and kidneys. Isolated and purified vitamin D will then be put to work wherever your body needs it most. 

What Does Vitamin D Do for the Body? 

Vitamin D helps your body break down and absorb essential minerals more efficiently. Technically, vitamin D doesn’t directly impact your body; it’s more like a tool. 

Vitamin D has a direct correlation with bone density and may help lower the risk of various bone diseases. Higher levels of vitamin D often result in more bone tissues being mineralized. A higher bone density not only means stronger bones, but a lowered risk of developing bone conditions such as osteomalacia or osteoporosis as you get older. 

Vitamin D also plays a role in absorbing minerals that help with your muscles, mood, heart, and immune system. Reduced muscle mass, depression, heart failure, and respiratory infections are all commonly found in people with a vitamin D deficiency. 

How Much Vitamin D Should Men Take Each Day?

The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for adult men is 600 International Units (IU) per day. However, some experts suggest that a higher intake, such as 800-1000 IU per day, may be more beneficial for optimal health, particularly for individuals with limited sun exposure or those at increased risk of deficiency.

What Happens if You Don’t Get Enough Vitamin D? 

Several health conditions can impair your body’s ability to absorb or produce vitamin D. 

  • Cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, pancreatitis, and celiac disease have all been shown to negatively affect your intestines’ ability to absorb the vitamin D found in food. 

  • Kidney and liver diseases may prevent certain enzymes from being produced that are used by your body to break down vitamin D so that it can be absorbed. 

  • Obesity can inhibit your body’s ability to absorb vitamin D. Since vitamin D is fat soluble, excessive body fat can isolate it and prevent it from being properly absorbed. 

  • Individuals with darker skin, higher levels of melatonin, or anyone living in areas with low levels of sunlight might not be able to get enough ultraviolet rays for their body to produce enough vitamin D naturally. 

If any of these conditions or factors apply to you then you may want to start taking supplements or seek treatment.

A vitamin D deficiency can have a serious impact on your body. The most common result of a vitamin D deficiency is weakened and brittle bones.

Vitamin D also has a close relationship with the parathyroid glands in your body. These glands communicate with your stomach, kidneys, and skeleton in order to regulate the amount of calcium in your blood. If you don’t have enough calcium in your blood, these glands will take it from your bones to restore the balance.

Having an insufficient amount of vitamin D can affect more than just your bones. Not only has it been linked to multiple sclerosis, heart disease, mental health conditions, and an increased risk of allergies, but a lack of vitamin D can even cause erectile dysfunction. There is a blood test that can be performed by most doctors that can determine your vitamin D levels.

If you're experiencing the following symptoms and aren’t sure why, you may want to schedule an appointment: 

  • Achy or sore muscles

  • Bone pain

  • Fatigue

  • Hair loss

  • Weight gain

  • Depression

  • Poor immune system

  • Hypertension

  • Arthritis

  • Slow wound healing

  • Eczema

  • Anxiety

  • Inflammation

Taking too much vitamin D can also cause side effects, like:

  • Weakness

  • Nausea and loss of appetite

  • Thirst

  • Constipation

What Foods Contain Vitamin D3? 

While most people are able to get enough vitamin D from being out in the sunlight, it’s not always an option. If you live in a not-so-sunny city, have an especially harsh winter, or can’t spend longer periods of time outside for personal reasons, you may be missing out on the natural vitamins the sun provides. 

If you’re not getting enough sun and you want to up your vitamin D intake, you can make a few changes to your diet with these easy meal ideas:

  • Baked salmon with rice and your favorite veggie – A 3.5-ounce salmon fillet contains up to 125% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin D. Look for wild salmon vs. farm-raised for a more nutritional value!

  • Lime-grilled shrimp skewers: Add bell peppers, mushrooms, or onions in between each skewered piece of shrimp. Shrimp are low in fat and contain 25% of the RDI of vitamin D. But as delicious as shrimp are, try not to overindulge: shrimp are high in cholesterol!

  • Quinoa bowl with your favorite protein and a fried egg: Egg yolks contain healthy fats, minerals and vitamins – including vitamin D! Eggs from chickens raised outside can contain up to four times the RDI. 

  • Garlic and mushroom pasta: This hearty and comforting dish is a great source of vitamin D. Mushrooms are the only plant-based source of vitamin D, and wild mushrooms contain the highest RDI of it.

  • Cheese board: Grab a few of your favorite cheeses (and try to reach for options that have been fortified with D3) and get to snacking! Cheese is an excellent source of vitamin D.

If you’re struggling to get an adequate amount of vitamin D through your meals, supplementation is also an effective option. 

Just one tablespoon of cod liver oil has 1360 IUs of vitamin D, so you’ll have more than double the recommended daily amount in one sip! You can also purchase vitamin D supplements over-the-counter at your local pharmacy.

Can you have too much vitamin D?

It’s important that you don’t overdo it with vitamin D. More than 4,000 IUs in a single day can result in vitamin D toxicity. The effects of vitamin D toxicity can be serious and may include hypercalcemia, irregular heartbeat, kidney failure, and even death. 

It's difficult to overdose on vitamin D by eating the foods listed above, but eating a salmon mushroom omelette every day could be overdoing it. Be sure to always follow the dosage on your vitamin D supplementations as well. 

Where Can I Learn More About Vitamin D3?

Vitamin D3 is the preferable form of vitamin D, and it’s important to consume enough vitamin D everyday for your overall health. 

Vitamin D is so crucial to your health that your body can produce it naturally. Your bones, muscles, and nerves all depend on vitamin D to extract the minerals and nutrients they need to function properly. 

If you're experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with your provider to find out if you have a deficiency. A vitamin D deficiency can contribute to several health conditions and even hamper your immune system.

To learn more about vitamin D3 and other essential vitamins, make an appointment with a licensed healthcare provider through LifeMD, Rex MD's parent company. There, you'll be connected to a doctor or nurse practitioner who can offer guidance on vitamin supplementation, and more! Get started today.

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