5 min read
by Michelle Alexander | 02/03/2022
If you’ve ever gotten bloodwork done, your doc may have told you you’re low in vitamin D, also known as calciferol. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be found in some foods naturally and is available as a supplement. And although you’ve always been told to take your vitamins, it may be more pertinent to do so than you think.
Basically, your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Lack of vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis (especially in women), cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, cognitive impairment, and even has been linked to bacterial vaginosis (BV). Keep in mind that “deficient” is different for everyone, and that target levels vary from person to person.
Let’s break down what this sunshine pill is all about.
Believe it or not, this isn’t a new discovery. This deficiency dates back to the industrial revolution. Children in urban environments started to grow at slower rates and develop skeletal deformities, also known as rickets. In the early 1900s, scientists found the link between sunlight and improvement in rickets and by 1930, food and drinks started being fortified with vitamin D. However, children started experiencing toxicity due to inadequate monitoring of the fortification, causing many countries to discontinue the practice. Decreased levels of vitamin D led to fractures and eventually the link between vitamin D and bone density was established.
If you’ve ever had BV, you know that it is an infection full of mystery. And if you have recurring BV, you also know that you can only take so many antibiotics before you realize something’s gotta give. Is it your diet? Is it your vitamin levels? Is it your partner? The relationship between vitamin D and BV in pregnant women has been confirmed, although it is still not 100% confirmed when it comes to non-pregnant people.
Some studies have shown that vitamin D supports the immune system, including regulation of the vagina’s balance, hence warding off any infections or imbalances that may create the perfect environment for BV to thrive. Another clinical trial included 208 women “of reproductive age” and found that 2000IU/day of an edible vitamin D supplement was effective in eliminating asymptomatic BV. Eureka! Heads up to my PCOS folks: several studies have also shown that women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are deficient in vitamin D.
This Valentine’s Day, you can harden other things other than your heart (wink, wink). Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with heart health risks, which can impair sexual function. By protecting endothelial cells from oxidative stress, vitamin D may even improve erections. You heard that right — some folks may be swapping that li’l blue pill for the sunshine vitamin!
It’s estimated that people get roughly 80% of their vitamin D from the sun, absorbed through the skin, and 20% from diet. Although vitamin D is found only in a few natural foods, lots of foods are fortified, such as certain milks, cereal, and even fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Also, similar to plants, we can re-up on vitamin D from UV rays emitted from sunlight! However, if you’re a city slicker with buildings that hover over you or a person experiencing dreary winters, it may be easier to just take a small pill everyday that will give you all the sunny D you need.
Vitamin D is generally considered a safe supplement when taken in appropriate doses. If you want to start incorporating any supplement into your diet, it’s always a good idea to ask your doc first!
Although rare, taking too much vitamin D may lead to toxicity which could cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, and other unsavory symptoms. Also, vitamin D can interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking, such as aluminum and medications used to treat cholesterol, psoriasis, and blood pressure problems, so it’s always a good idea to talk to a health care professional first.
What’s your experience with vitamin D or other supplements? Have they had any effect on your mental, physical, or sexual health? Please leave us a comment below – we love hearing from you!
Michelle Alexander (she/her) is a freelance writer based out of colorful San Francisco. She enjoys sunny days, oat milk lattes, and hanging out in Mission Dolores Park with her fluffy canine companion, Winston.
by Michelle Alexander