What you Need to Know about Vitamin D and Longevity

Did you know that vitamin D is not only an essential vitamin, but also a hormone? This is why vitamin D is so incredibly important when it comes to the state of our health. And yet, statistics say that more than half the population across the globe is deficient in this essential nutrient. If you’re reading this and you live in North America, you have a very good chance of being vitamin D deficient. We simply don’t get enough natural sunlight year-round here. 

While typically known as an immune booster, as well as an essential vitamin for bone health, vitamin D plays an integral role in a number of functions pertaining to both the body and mind. Its role in maintaining health and longevity is paramount to a long and enjoyable life. In this article, we’ll take a good, hard look at all you need to know about vitamin D, and why it plays such an important role in longevity.

Vitamin D is key to healthy brain function

This meta-analysis, published in 2019 in the journal BMC Neurology, found a real link between an increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s if you’re deficient in vitamin D. Yet another review, this one published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that people who already have Alzheimer’s disease, have low levels of vitamin D in their system. So what’s with this potential link between vitamin D deficiency and these diseases of cognition?

As more and more studies come to the fore, we’re finding out that optimal vitamin D levels in the body are necessary for optimal functioning of the brain. Some experts say brain fog happens with low vitamin D levels. Others say memory decline is associated with vitamin D deficiency. There’s something to the neurodegenerative disease link and vitamin D deficiency for sure, which makes this vitamin (and hormone) an essential one to have in your supplement routine to ensure your mind ages with grace. For we all know that healthy longevity requires a clear and sound mind. 

human anatomy model

You need enough vitamin D in your body for optimal immune function

Your immune system depends upon vitamin D for its health. This is because vitamin D helps your white blood cells do the work they’re supposed to do. This study, published in the journal PLOS one, explains further as to how and why this is the case. When your white blood cells are expressing themselves beautifully, as vitamin D helps them do, they’re able to help the body prevent infections, and ward off chronic inflammation. 

Vitamin D naturally decreases inflammation

Most of the degenerative disease processes that take hold as we get older have to do with chronic inflammation. While acute inflammation is a necessary function of the body’s innate healing power, chronic inflammation leads to serious health conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and even depression. If you’re wondering how exactly vitamin D inhibits chronic inflammation, check out this study, published on the website Science Daily. 

Vitamin D keeps bones strong as you age

Wondering how you can maintain the integrity of your bones as you get older? Look no further than vitamin D. Of course, we need calcium, too. In fact, calcium is what makes up the main structure of our bones. This is where vitamin D comes in. Calcium and vitamin D need each other to do their best work for our bones. Vitamin D is absolutely necessary for the absorption of calcium. 

We all want to prevent osteoporosis as we age. That’s one of the biggest detriments to aging gracefully, especially for women. In order to do so, we need to make sure our vitamin D and calcium levels are both going strong, and working in unison to maintain the integrity of our bone structure and function throughout our lives. 

While vitamin D helps boost calcium absorption, vitamin K does the same for vitamin D. As such, you may want to add a vitamin K supplement to your routine. Vitamin K also tells calcium where to travel throughout the bloodstream to get to all the places it’s meant to go—your bones, for example, as opposed to your arteries. 

Magnesium is another key player in the vitamin D longevity factor

Your body needs the proper amounts of various vitamins and minerals in order for those nutrients to do their best work. When it comes to vitamin D absorption, the mineral magnesium plays an important role. This study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, suggests that we all need to get the recommended daily amount of magnesium in order to reap the entire spectrum of benefits that vitamin D gives our bodies and minds. 

Which begs the question, how do we properly get the right amount of magnesium in our diet to support vitamin D’s many wonderful effects? Here are the absolute best magnesium rich foods to eat daily:

  • Nuts (cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts) 
  • Dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens)
  • Bananas
  • Seeds (pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, 
  • Fatty fish (salmon, halibut, mackerel)
  • Legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas, soybeans, peas)
  • Whole grains (quinoa, buckwheat, oats, barley)
  • Avocados

green alligator pear

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in gut health

A study published in Science Daily explains how vital vitamin D is to the health of our guts. It’s necessary for supporting the growth of good bacteria, which keeps us healthy on so many levels. A healthy gut is even akin to healthy metabolism. This means we need adequate amounts of vitamin D in order to lose weight, or maintain our already healthy weight. 

The lining of our gut needs to remain intact if we’re to fight off viruses and other foreign pathogens. Studies like this one have shown vitamin D’s essential role in keeping the gut mucosal lining healthy, which means it’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, and a super potent immune boosting key to longevity.

You need adequate amounts of vitamin D for your thyroid

This study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences reveals the role that vitamin D plays in thyroid disease. Because vitamin D is a crucial player in keeping our thyroid hormones balanced, this essential nutrient helps prevent diseases associated with a thyroid gland that’s out of balance. Some of the more serious thyroid conditions that can be prevented by taking adequate amounts of vitamin D are: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease.

Not only do healthy thyroid hormones protect us from thyroid diseases, they also work to maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails, as well as maintaining healthy sleep cycles, boosting immune function, keeping moods balanced, and even sustaining a healthy weight. 

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a number of disease processes

When you get older, your body doesn’t make as much vitamin D as it used to. This is why we typically need to supplement with a high-quality vitamin D supplement as we age. We’re also more susceptible to various disease processes the older we get, which makes it even more important to avoid them by doing our best to get enough of this essential nutrient. Some of the more serious conditions associated with vitamin D deficiency are:

  • Problems  with fertility
  • Conditions of the thyroid gland
  • Various autoimmune diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic issues
  • Skeletal deformities
  • Cardiovascular disease

Vitamin D, telomeres and longevity

Do you know about telomeres? They’re like little protective helmets for your DNA and your cells. Long telomeres equal greater cell protection. When your telomeres are short, you’re at greater risk for various conditions like liver disease, pulmonary fibrosis, gastrointestinal disease, and even bone marrow failure. 

So, what’s the link between your telomeres and vitamin D? Well, vitamin D increases telomerase activation. Telomerase builds telomeres. And studies show that people who have the highest levels of vitamin D, have the longest telomeres, while those with the shortest telomeres have the lowest levels of vitamin D in their system. So, to increase your telomeres, you’ll definitely want to take a high-quality vitamin D supplement. Increasing your vitamin D levels, and increasing your telomere length is a surefire way to promote a long and healthy life today. 

How to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D

Wondering how to get your vitamin D? You get it via sunlight, through food, and of course, through a vitamin D supplement. But, how much do you need? The general consensus is somewhere between 200 and 600 IU’s per day. In the winter, this is a hard number to come by through sun and food alone, which is why a supplement is a really wise idea during the fall and winter seasons. Once spring and summer roll around, as long as you spend plenty of time outside, you probably don’t need a supplement. When you do look for the right supplement for your all-natural medicine cabinet, be sure to get vitamin D3, as opposed to vitamin D2.

Eat a banana with your vitamin D supplement

Did you know that bananas are the best food to eat when taking a vitamin D supplement? They are. And you know why? It’s that magnesium factor we talked about. Bananas contain a good amount of magnesium that makes vitamin D absorption that much more viable. I suggest eating one banana with your vitamin D supplement each morning. If bananas aren’t your cuppa tea, make whole grain banana muffins, and eat one each day with your vitamin D. Little tricks such as these go a long way in the overall functionality of supplementation. 

yellow bananas

How much sun is best?

If sun exposure is the most natural and effective way for your body to make vitamin D, how much sun should your skin be getting? Well, like anything and everything in life, moderation is definitely key. That Goldlock’s position, not too much, not too little, but just right—pretty much applies to everything. This study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, explains how moderation is key, but that this moderation varies for everyone, depending upon their ethnicity, and also life situation. Take a look at the study to delve deeper into the topic. 

You don’t really need to protect your skin with sunblock every time you go outside. A little raw exposure during the times out of the year when the sun is out is perfectly fine, and even good for you. However, if you’re going to be out in the sun for hours and hours at a time, it’s definitely a good idea to lather up. But, be careful what you lather up with. Some sunscreens contain loads of unhealthy chemicals and additives. A mineral-based sunscreen is best, one that’s non-toxic, and rich with zinc and titanium. These are two white minerals that naturally provide protection. Invest in a high-quality non-toxic sunscreen and apply as needed. 

Vitamin D-rich foods and drink

And if you’re curious as to what foods provide the most vitamin D, I say eat plenty of fatty fish. Think salmon, cod liver oil, sardines, mackerel, and fatty white fish. Grass-fed beef is another excellent source of vitamin D. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D—like milk and eggs. Still others foods with high vitamin D levels may surprise you. Vegetables like mushrooms contain loads of vitamin D. Button mushrooms and shiitakes can even be given a sunbathing session, so to speak, to boost their vitamin D levels further. 

To find out if you’ve got adequate vitamin D levels, you’ll need some lab work done. This is no biggy, and your doctor can easily test vitamin D levels by doing a simple 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. The optimal levels you’ll want to find yourself in are between 45 and 60 ng/mL. Certain individuals may have slightly higher levels of vitamin D, which is fine. But, that’s the healthy range most of us are shooting for. 

Make these habits a part of your routine today, to ensure you live a long and healthy life tomorrow, and for the rest of your days!