Proper nutrition is one of the most popular topics of the moment and there is a huge emphasis on healthy eating patterns. Despite your best efforts to eat healthily, you may still be deficient in one very important micronutrient: vitamin D. The body best absorbs vitamin D through the sun's rays and with more and more Americans spending most of their time indoors, the rates of vitamin D deficiency are skyrocketing.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin meaning that it can be stored in the liver or fat tissue for long periods of time.

Because of this, it does not necessarily need to be consumed every day. While it is important to make sure that you are consuming enough nutrient rich foods, fat soluble vitamins can be highly toxic in large quantities as they remain in the body for long periods of time. As a result, it is not usually recommended to take supplements without asking your doctor first.

Vitamin D is found in some foods but the primary source of this nutrient is sunlight. In response to sun exposure, the human body begins to produce vitamin D. It can also be found in fortified dairy products and some types of fish. Receiving adequate amounts of vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption which is why so many dairy products have been fortified to contain this important nutrient.

Vitamin D is also important for muscular health, cell growth, and maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

Vitamin D deficiencies

Certain factors put people at higher risks of developing vitamin D deficiencies. Deficiencies occur when foods containing vitamin D are not consumed in high enough quantities, someone is not getting enough sun exposure, or the body struggles to properly metabolize this nutrient.

People who spend too much time indoors, breastfed infants, and the elderly are all at risk for deficiency. Deficiency is linked to increased incidence of cancer, hypertension, and certain autoimmune disorders.

Vitamin D deficiency can often go undetected for many years as people do not always show symptoms. People with vitamin D deficiency may develop sudden muscle weakness, changes in food, low endurance, and exhaustion.

Vitamin D toxicity

Just as deficiency wreaks havoc on your health, getting too much vitamin D can also pose health risks. Vitamin D is stored in the liver so when high amounts are consumed, the liver quickly collects these molecules to be used later. However, it is possible for too much to accumulate putting stress on the liver and causing toxicity. Some signs of Vitamin D Toxicity include nausea, increased calcium levels in the blood, slowed growth, and delayed mental development. It is especially important to make sure that children are not getting too much vitamin D as their bodies are extremely susceptible to toxicity.

What to do if you think you have a vitamin D deficiency

As mentioned previously, it is important to check with your health care provider if you think you might have a vitamin deficiency before starting any sort of supplement.

This is extremely important if you want to avoid the risk of toxicity. As the recommended amount of vitamin D varies with age and activity level, your physician will be the best resource for you as you try to meet your health goals. Some of the most common recommendations for vitamin D deficiency include over the counter supplements, increased sun exposure, and dietary modifications. As little as 15 minutes of sunlight a day should provide sufficient amounts of vitamin D.