Vitamin D is an essential nutrient you need to be healthy. It helps your body absorb calcium, which supports healthy teeth and bones, and it helps boost your immune system. But did you know that vitamin D is also really good for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome? At AAPRI and the Center for Functional Medicine, we see how a healthy gut supports a strong immune system and helps keep asthma and allergies in check. Now let’s take a closer look at how vitamin D supports your gut.
Technically, it’s not a vitamin
Vitamins are defined as nutrients that the body cannot create, so technically vitamin D is not a vitamin because the body produces it as a response to sun exposure. Instead, it’s a prohormone, which is a precursor of a hormone.
Vitamin D plays multiple roles in the body, which include supporting your immune, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. It helps regulate insulin levels, which is important for preventing diabetes. And it supports brain and liver function, as well as promotes healthy bones and teeth. It also contributes to the diversity of your gut microbiome.
But, what is the gut microbiome?
Your body is naturally home to trillions of microbes—bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microscopic living things. These micro-organisms collectively make up what is known as your microbiome. While the idea of trillions of micro-organisms living in your body may not sound very appealing, the majority of them are not only beneficial to your health, they’re essential.
Having a diverse gut microbiome, meaning one with a diverse range of these micro-organisms, is a key indicator of a healthy gastrointestinal tract. According to findings of a National Institutes of Health study of 1,879 adults, a lack of diversity in the gut microbiota was associated with all types of allergies, especially seasonal and/or nut allergies. “Maintaining a healthy balanced and diverse gut microbiome is the first step toward effective and lasting allergy relief,” says Dr. Z.
The importance of absorption
Not only does vitamin D impact gut health, but the gut also impacts how well vitamin D is absorbed in your body. Poor vitamin D absorption can result in reduced health benefits and even deficiency, which can lead to chronic illness or infection, fatigue, bone and back pain, depressed mood, impaired wound healing, hair loss, and muscle pain. If prolonged, vitamin D deficiency can result in more serious cardiovascular, autoimmune, and neurological problems, as well as certain types of cancer.
The best sources of vitamin D
Getting sufficient exposure to sunlight is the best way to help your body produce enough vitamin D. Sun exposure on bare skin for 5 to 10 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week is enough for most people to produce sufficient vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from food sources such as:
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
- Egg yolks
- Beef liver
- Fortified milk, cereal, and juice
Vitamin D Supplements
If you aren’t able to get enough vitamin D from the sun or food sources, you can take a vitamin D supplement. The NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements recommends the following intake of vitamin D depending on your age:
- Infants 0-12 months: 400 IU (10 mcg)
- Children 1-18 years: 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults 19-70 years: 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults 71 years and older: 800 IU (20 mcg)
- Pregnant or lactating women: 600 IU (15 mcg)
Supporting your gut
“What you eat determines what nutrients you absorb, and that’s what creates your own unique microbiome, which affects many aspects of your health—including allergies,” says Dr. Z. That’s why we take a holistic approach to your health, treating the whole patient to provide integrated solutions for better health. Schedule a consultation at one of our 3 convenient Rhode Island locations today!