Vitamin D. The sunshine vitamin.
When we think of “vitamins,” we understand they’re important for our health.
But vitamin D is special. It is an essential fat-soluble vitamin. Essential vitamins are those that the body cannot produce on its own so we have to take it in from outside sources. Its not the most prevalent vitamin in foods and if we do not have adequate, quality fats in our diet to aide in the absorption of Vit. D, it is easy to become deficient. Many people have a hard time obtaining and maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D, therefore, it is a very common deficiency. There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.
Why is Vitamin D Important, and How Much do we Need?
Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth, and helps to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal effective disorder.
Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia, a softening of the bones. Inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death.
Risk Factors for Vitamin D Deficiency:
- Having dark skin
- Being elderly
- Being overweight or obese
- Not eating much fish or dairy
- Living far from the equator where there is little sun year-round
- Always using sunscreen when going out
- Staying indoors
Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency:
- Getting sick or infected often
- Excessive Fatigue and Tiredness
- Bone and Back Pain
- Impaired Wound Healing
- Bone Loss
- Hair Loss
- Muscle Pain
The “official” minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health. Minimum requirements are set for survival only, not necessarily dictating the amounts for our bodies to thrive.
To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.
How Can I get Enough Vitamin D from the Sun?
Your skin makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to the sun; that is exactly why it’s referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.” How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week. This should be very attainable however in today’s fast paced society people rush from building to building with next to no actual time spent outdoors. In the dead of winter, we are covering our faces with scarves and big hoods to protect us from the elements. In the summer, we slather on the SPF which also block our abilities to absorb Vitamin D. So, eve when we are spending more time outdoors, we are still not meeting our bodies needs. I Personally don’t use convention sunscreens; the chemical concoctions create too many questions for me to feel comfortable using them on my skin. I suggest using more natural forms of sun protection to avoid sunburns. Ones that allow some absorption of vitamin D but avoid extras chemicals that may disrupt hormones, tax the liver and have been linked to cancers. But that a topic for another post. So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?
How Can I Get Enough Vitamin D from Food?
Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. Mushrooms make vitamin D when they’re exposed to the sun.
Tip: Place your mushrooms on a windowsill, cap side down to allow them to absorb more vitamin D before consuming them.
Some foods are “fortified” (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving. I always suggest using a level of caution when relying on these fortified to get your vitamin needs. Each of the foods listed, although may have some vitamins added in, may also contain sugar, chemical additives, refined flours and are still processed foods. Just because a manufacture has created a way to add vitamins in, it does not necessarily mean it is a healthful food. Sugar and refined flours will still cause inflammation and can contribute to further nutrient deficiencies as your body has high demands on it when it is asked to metabolize these food products.
Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means you need good quality fats in your diet to ensure its absorption. Falling victim to the low-fat craze may leave you deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin A, D, E and K. Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; therefore vitamin D supplements are quite popular.
How Can I get Enough Vitamin D From Supplements?
It’s easy enough to just “pop a pill” or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A). Either of these can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.
Its easy to assume that many of us who battle through long dreary winters are deficient in Vitamin D. But before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won’t interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels and ask a healthcare professional for advice.
Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care.
The maximum amount recommended, for the general population, is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium to an unsafe level. This can affect your heart and kidneys. So, proceed with caution.
If you’re concerned about being low on the sunshine vitamin, your best to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care.
Planning balanced meals can be overwhelming. Get the right amount of macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients, micro-what?? Not to worry, I got your back. CLICK HERE to book a Free call where we can discuss your needs and work together to make a meal plan that suits your lifestyle and your taste buds.