When it comes to vitamins and minerals, there are many benefits from getting just the right amounts of certain nutrients into your body. Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, as the body produces it internally as a chemical reaction to sun exposure. But, there are many reasons to limit sun exposure and there are many other ways to find sources of vitamin D. Known for the regulation of insulin and the promotion of strong bones, vitamin D can also lower your risk for bowel cancer and your risk of influenza. Read on to learn more about the health benefits of vitamin D and how you can incorporate more into your diet.

Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D has quite a few benefits, as adequate levels promote healthy bones and teeth, an uncompromised immune system, cardiovascular function, and more. There are some specific benefits of vitamin D patients should know about in order to maintain healthiness:

  • Strong bones. Vitamin D works closely with calcium levels in the body, and it helps absorb calcium into the intestines. In fact, vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorous levels throughout the body and blood. A vitamin D deficiency in children leads to rickets, which is a bone disease.
  • Reduced risk of certain diseases. Studies show that vitamin D supplementation reduces influenza (flu) risk in children by 40 percent. Having enough vitamin D also can lower the risks of contracting both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as insufficient levels affect insulin regulation.
  • Healthy pregnancy, healthy babies. Vitamin D also promotes a healthy pregnancy and healthy infants after birth and delivery. Pregnant women with sufficient amounts of the vitamin were less likely to develop preeclampsia, while infants maintained a healthy blood pressure with vitamin D supplementation.
  • Cancer prevention. Proper amounts of vitamin D are also correlated with cancer prevention and minimizing cancer progression. Specifically, it has recently been discovered vitamin D has links to the prevention of bowel cancer.

Vitamin D and Bowel Cancer

A recent study** showed that lack of vitamin D was not only linked to the higher incidences of colorectal cancer, but higher levels of the vitamin were also linked to bowel cancer prevention. This meta-analysis used data from three continents, investigating 5,700 cases of colorectal cancer in addition to over 7,000 controls. Those who had vitamin D beyond recommended levels reduced their colorectal cancer risk by approximately 22 percent.

How to Maintain Vitamin D Levels

Patients can get the recommended amount of vitamin D by simply spending time in the sun. It’s suggested that patients (of all ages) spend five to 10 minutes two to three times per week in the sun. However, in winter this parameter falls quite short for many. Vitamin D can be taken as a supplement, but it is also present in many foods. The recommended daily intake for all patients is as follows:

  • Infants 12 months and under: 400 IU or 10 mcg
  • Children from 1 to 18 years: 600 IU or 15 mcg
  • Adults to age 70: 600 IU or 15 mcg (includes pregnant and lactating women)
  • Seniors over 70: 800 IU or 10 mcg

IU stands for international units, while mcg stands for micrograms. Supplements may be measured differently, so it’s good to note that 400 IU = 1 mcg if you’re unsure about dosage.

When it comes to food, your best sources of vitamin D are found in fatty fish and fish oil, which is often taken as a supplement on its own with many benefits. You can also find vitamin D in egg, maitake mushrooms, canned tuna, and fortified skim milk. When it comes to food and vitamin D intake, here is a look at just a handful of foods:

  • Cooked swordfish (4 oz.) offers 941 IU
  • 1 tbsp of cod liver oil offers 1,360 IU
  • 8 oz. of fortified skim milk offers 120 IU
  • Cooked salmon (4 oz.) offers 596 IU

There are many other foods, especially seafood, which offer more than adequate daily allowances of vitamin D. It’s especially important to supplement in winter, when you may not get enough sun exposure. For more tips and ideas on how to prevent colorectal cancer, or to find ways to create a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise, make an appointment with Cary Gastroenterology today. Offering a high level of patient care for many types of gastrointestinal issues, we’re here to help you live a healthy, happy life.