We can’t deny that we’ve all gotten a little paranoid about the sun in recent years with fear of sunburns and skin cancer. But we have to remind ourselves that the sun is still our friend in many ways, and we still need to make sure we are getting enough outside time. Why? Remember that the sun produces one of the most essential vitamins in our skin — vitamin D. Without enough, you can begin to experience tiredness, aches and pains, and a general sense of not feeling well.
But what exactly does this vitamin do for us? This essential vitamin can affect as many as 2,000 genes in your body and has many important functions:
Vitamin D is essential in the development of bones and teeth
You probably already knew that calcium is necessary for growing strong bones and teeth, but did you know that vitamin D is important in helping our bodies absorb the calcium we need for bone and teeth development? A deficiency can lead to bone deformities in childhood and osteoporosis in adults. This important vitamin also acts as an anti-inflammatory to strengthen your immune system and fight off bacterial infections that impact your gums and ultimately your teeth.
Vitamin D supports the immune system to fight disease
Because vitamin D acts as an anti-inflammatory that stimulates your immune system, you’re less likely to develop infections throughout your body. In fact, research has found that it is critical in activating our immune defenses. T cells, the cells which fight off infection, need enough of this potent vitamin to work. Without enough, your T cells will not be able to activate completely and do their job. This means that this vitamin can have significant impacts: one 2006 study showed how vitamin D reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to cardiovascular disease
Although research hasn’t confirmed if higher vitamin D levels reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, there is growing evidence that suggests that not having enough can increase your risk factor for heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), strokes, and cardiovascular disease-related conditions, like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Vitamin D provides mood support and reduces depression
An estimated 350 million people have depression and one billion people are deficient in vitamin D worldwide. Recent studies are proving the two are correlated with evidence that vitamin D is essential to brain health and functioning. Not only is vitamin D important in supporting prenatal brain development, it also protects the brain as you age. Studies have shown how proper amounts can elevate your mood, improve memory, and increase cognitive abilities. On the other hand, a lack of this essential vitamin has been linked to many mental disorders including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and dementia.