These days, there's so much news about vitamin D, it seems like the vitamin/hormone can do just about anything. While the nutrient does have its limits, it's pretty amazing how important it is for your body. It protects you against the flu, cancer, osteoporosis, and several other conditions. But new research recently revealed another aspect of vitamin D that is great news for battling the ravages of stress.
As you may know, stress is a normal part of life. But our lives are so stressful these days, many of us live in a state of constant stress. When we experience stress, our body produces the "stress hormone" cortisol. In small doses, this hormone helps us deal with difficult times and is quite healthy. But when stress is chronic, our cortisol levels stay high – and that's not good. Too much cortisol can raise your blood pressure by restricting arteries, narrowing blood vessels, and stimulating the kidneys to retain water. This increases our risk for stroke and heart attacks.
But vitamin D can block the action of enzyme 11-ßHSD1, which is needed to make cortisol. In other words, vitamin D helps us avoid the damage that too much stress can cause. While this is great news, it has other implications that are just as important.
When vitamin D lowers your circulating levels of cortisol, it also improves your exercise performance and lowers your cardiovascular risk factors. Improved exercise performance has many great benefits. When I owned an in-home senior care business, one of the biggest issues we faced was trying to keep our clients from falling. We found that the more our clients were able to do physically, the less likely they were to fall. So increasing exercise performance without over-doing it has dramatic implications for your well-being. It could help you avoid falls and stay in overall better health. But does vitamin D really help?
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A new study says yes! In this study, researchers from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh followed 13 healthy adults. They divided them into two groups. The first group took a vitamin D supplement. The second group took a placebo for just two weeks.
The results were dramatic. Within those two weeks, the vitamin D group had lower blood pressure compared to the placebo group. They also had lower levels of cortisol in their urine. What's more, the vitamin D group could cycle 6.5km in 20 minutes, compared to just 5km at the start of the experiment. And despite cycling 30% further in the same amount of time, the vitamin D group showed lower signs of physical exertion. In other words, going farther was easier.
It's hard to believe one inexpensive supplement could have such a dramatic impact on their health in just two weeks. But it did. That's very impressive.
So if you've found that exercise is much harder than it used to be, make sure you're taking vitamin D every day. Even if it doesn't make you love exercise, the benefits are so numerous, you don't want to miss out. For most people, taking 5,000 IU per day will raise your vitamin D to the optimum level.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.