We natural-minded mamas have known for generations that the Sunshine Vitamin is one of the best in the world! Of course, we're talking about Vitamin D, and it's estimated that about a billion people across the globe have Vitamin D deficiency. What can you do to ensure you and your family have adequate levels of Vitamin D, and keep your bodies happy and healthy? Read on!

Vitamin D is also known as calciferol. It's a fat-soluble vitamin that is found naturally in some foods like egg yolks or fish, and is produced through a synthesis process in our bodies that's triggered when our skin is directly exposed to ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays from the sun.

Contrary to what many might believe, you won't likely absorb sun to trigger that process through windows (even the sunniest ones) because virtually all windows and windshields in cars these days protect from UVA and UVB rays. Vitamin D is also available as a supplement, but experts agree that if you take vitamin D supplements, you should also be sure you're taking Vitamin K2, as they work together in your body as a team.

Why Is Vitamin D Good For Me?

Vitamin D is essential for optimal health and wellness. IT's Imperative for building strong bones, improved immune system functions and protections against diseases like osteoporosis and cancer. Nearly every cell in your body has a receptor for Vitamin D, and nearly every cell in your body benefits from having appropriate levels of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb phosphorus and calcium. This is what our healthy bones are founded on, and our neural pathways rely on Vitamin D to bring messages throughout our bodies to get our muscles moving.

It also helps regulate our immune system and fight off bacteria and viruses. Our immune system relies heavily on appropriate levels of vitamin D, and deficiency can leave us vulnerable to illness and autoimmune issues. There are tons of studies that link Vitamin D deficiency to higher risks for Type I and Type II and other diseases as well.

Vitamin D is important for maintaining and regulating healthy blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular diseases

As we said, though, Vitamin D and Vitamin K2 work together as a team. Vitamin D is vital for your bone-building, but it doesn't really control where calcium ends up. Vitamin K activates the protein that promotes the accumulation of calcium in bones and teeth (osteocalcin). Vitamin K also activates matrix GLA protein, and this makes sure that no calcium builds up in soft tissue like your kidneys or even blood vessels. Functional health doctors love suggesting higher doses of Vitamin D, but not without Vitamin K to prevent calcium buildup where it doesn't need to be.

What Is Vitamin D Deficiency And Why Should I Worry?

One of the biggest issues with 'proper' vitamin D levels is that doctors differ on what's appropriate. Conventional clinicians would like to see D levels anywhere between 30 and 60, while functional health and holistic practitioners prefer levels of 60-80 ng/ML (according to the Institute For Functional Medicine) for optimal health. The reality is that there's a HUGE vitamin D deficiency issue in the world and many of us, children included, are deficient.

In children, severe vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets or delays in growth. Rickets is a disease where your bones are soft. Additionally, children (and adults) who are vitamin D deficient can face greater likelihood of dealing with chronic diseases like cancer or cardiovascular disease.

How Can I Get Vitamin D?

Both of Vitamin D's forms (D2 * D3) are naturally occurring through UVB rays and in supplements. When it comes to D-rich foods, D2 (ergocalciferol) is found in things like certain mushrooms, dairy products and orange juice (fortified). D3 is found in oily fish like tuna, salmon or mackerel, as well as fish liver oil, egg yolks and cheese.

Many foods in the United States are fortified with Vitamin D, including breakfast cereals, yogurts and milk-alternative drinks. Many doctors will prescribe vitamin D supplements for babies who are breastfed, but the truth is that your baby's vitamin D status will depend a lot on YOUR vitamin D levels, so ensuring they're as good as they can be will be optimal for baby.

A study done by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that anywhere from 50-90% of vitamin D in a body is absorbed through the skin via sunlight and the rest comes from diet/dietary supplements.

Which means, mama, that you NEED to get into the sun! The study found that 20 minutes of daily sunshine with over 40% of your skin exposed is required to prevent vitamin D deficiency.

There are some important things to note, though. The time of day you're getting sun matters, as the most vitamin D is produced when you're in the sun in the middle of the day. Fairer skin needs less time in the sun without sunscreen; 10-15 minutes a day may be the limit while darker skins with more melanin may need longer. And the more skin you expose , the more vitamin D your body will make, so exposing your back or your belly will definitely trigger your body to make more D than if you were just exposing your hands and feet daily.

An interesting thing to note about the maximum absorption of vitamin D comes from a study done on the vitamin D levels of populations in Hawaii and Africa. When researchers compared the levels of vitamin D in those populations, they found that despite people in Hawaii having as much as 11 hours of sunlight exposure a day, they had low levels as compared to those in Afria. They looked into why and concluded surfers in Hawaii were in the water so much that they were effectively washing away all of their skin's oil. Our skin contains oil that is sort of a foundation for our body's vitamin D synthesis, so showering before (or after) exposure can wash these oils away and lower the amount of vitamin D you're making. The takeaway? Don't shower before or right after sun exposure for the best production.

Getting your vitamin D levels checked is a pretty easy and routine test, and worth it to know that you're helping your body and immune system be its healthiest. And when in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to turn up a little sun!