To begin... what is the difference between a hormone and a vitamin? Well hormones are released by glands in your body to regulate functions like metabolism, emotion, sleep and more. Vitamins, usually found from food, are like ""helpers" to most systems like immune health, forming blood clots, creating energy and more.
So how or why is vitamin D a hormone?
Well, first of all, it's produced from the kidneys and communicates with the parathyroid gland. This gland consists of 4 nodules near your thyroid thats primary purpose is to regulate the calcium (and phosphorus) in your blood and/or bones. Vitamin D is stored in your liver and uses specific enzymes to be converted to its active form, calcitriol. When released, active vitamin D can also help your gut work effectively, boost your immune health, and prevent hypocalcemic tetany (leads to cramps and muscle spasms).
How can make sure we have enough?
Getting enough vitamin D is vital for overall health and since we need more than we can eat, the sun is necessary. During the winter months, or depending on your geographical location, supplementing is also to be considered. Talking to your healthcare professional regarding how much to take is recommended as guessing can be incorrect and ineffective for your bodies needs. Blood tests can be utilized to gage the amount in your body and help create a specific nutritional plan and dosage/supplement amount for your healthcare needs. Monitoring your kidney, liver, and bone health during this time is also recommended.
Food sources include: egg yolks, fatty fish, beef liver, mushrooms, cheese, fortifiied milks and cereals.
Risk factors for not having enough vitamin D include older cohorts, breast feeding women, individuals with lack of sun exposure, other medication use, poor liver or kidney health, some surgeries (ie: gastric bypass), skin pigmentation (allows certain amounts of sun absorption), current health conditions (ie: osteoporosis), and more.
What if we have too much?
Common symptoms to too much vitamin D include confusion, fatigue, constipation, headaches, irritability, and more. These symptoms are typically rare but do require medical attention.
In conclusion, there is much to be learned about how vitamin D works in our bodies but we do value its importance for our bone health, gut health, and immune system regulations. As we grow and age, having the right amount of vitamin D is crucial for preventing diseases like rickets, osteopenia, parathyroid concerns, hormone imbalances, and more.