By Betty Murray
Soaking up the summertime sun is one of the best ways to get your daily dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body absorb calcium and is primarily known for it’s role in promoting healthy, strong bones, but it is also good for your skin and mental health.
A huge percentage of our vitamin D comes from exposure to the sun. In fact, according to Michael F. Hollick, M.D., Ph.D., professor at Boston University Medical Center, we get about 80 to 90 percent of our vitamin D from the sun.
If you aren’t getting enough vitamin D, it can cause problems with your health. A vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to depression, diabetes, some cancers, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, asthma, heart disease, obesity and even dementia.
7 signs of a vitamin D deficiency
Are you getting enough vitamin D? The best way to be sure is to have your doctor run blood tests to measure the amount of vitamin D in your blood.
The best way to be sure you’re getting enough vitamin D is to have a blood test to measure the amount of vitamin D in your blood. A long-term vitamin D deficiency may result one (or several) serious health problems. If you experience any of these symptoms or ailments, it may because you aren’t getting enough vitamin D.
- You have diabetes. Studies have found that people who have type-1 diabetes tend to have lower levels of vitamin D.
- You have periodontal gum disease. Vitamin D produces antimicrobial compounds that help reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth. It also reduces certain enzymes that are associated with periodontal disease.
- You are overweight or obese. Because vitamin D is fat soluble, the more body fat you have, the more diluted vitamin D will get in your body.
- You have achy bones and stiff joints. Because vitamin D promotes bone health, if your bones ache or your joints are stiff, it may simply be because you aren’t getting enough vitamin D.
- You are depressed. Vitamin D improves production of serotonin, which can boost mood. If you live in a cloudy climate or don’t spend much time outside, you may get the blues due to a lack of vitamin D.
- You have dark skin. Although people with dark skin can still get sunburned, skin pigment is a natural sunscreen. The darker your skin, the less vitamin D your body produces when it is exposed to the sun.
- You have a gut disorder such as Crohn’s, celiac or inflammatory bowel disease. These can affect your body’s absorption of nutrients like vitamin D.
Other health issues that may have a cause or effect relationship with vitamin D deficiency include heart disease, muscle weakness, psoriasis and chronic kidney disease.
How to get more vitamin D
The daily recommended dose of vitamin D varies by age, but children and adults ages one to 70 should get about 600 IUs daily. The maximum daily dose of vitamin D is 10,000 IU and an overdose of vitamin D can result in toxicity.
There are very few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, but some of the best food sources include:
• Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna
• Beef liver, cheese and egg yolks
• Vitamin D- fortified breakfast cereals, soy beverages, orange juice and yogurt.
For most people, spending just 10 to 15 minutes in the noontime sun each day is enough to produce at 10,000 IU of Vitamin D. Sun exposure through a window will not produce the vitamin D you need. To get the most from the sun, you need to actually spend time in the sun, but use caution as over exposure to the sun can also result in skin cancer. It is the sun’s UV-B rays that produce vitamin D in the body, but sunscreen blocks UV-B rays, which are only present in midday sunshine during the summer.
How do you get vitamin D from the sun without getting skin cancer?
The Vitamin D council suggests wearing a hat to protect your head and face from sun damage, while exposing other parts of your body to the noontime sun. Overexposure can lead to sun damage, sunburn and skin cancer. Do not spend more than 15 minutes in the sun without wearing sunscreen. At the first hint of sunburn, go inside.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.