It’s summer time so this is a great time to discuss vitamin D, sometimes known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Our bodies obtain vitamin D from food and also our bodies produce it from sun exposure. Our skin absorbs the ultraviolet rays from the sun and a natural process occurs that allows for vitamin D production. It’s so amazing that our bodies can do that!! Vitamin D Deficiency is more common among African Americans and those of darker skin tone. This is primarily due to the fact that the darker pigmentation reduces Vitamin D production in our skin. Other factors that contribute to Vitamin D Deficiency include:
- Geographic Location: those living in northern states have less sun exposure
- Obesity: People with excess body fat have lower vitamin D levels.
- Age: Our ability to make Vitamin D decreases as we age
- Lifestyle: People with sedentary lifestyle have insufficient exposure to sunlight
- Medications: certain medications can increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- Foods rich in Vitamin D are minimal: thus why foods such as dairy are fortified with Vitamin D.
So why do you need Vitamin D?
Symptoms from Vitamin D Deficiency include low back pain, muscle aches and bone pain. Also, Vitamin D Deficiency is important for bone health. A deficiency in vitamin D increases the risk of hip and back fractures after a fall. Lastly, there is growing research linking Vitamin D Deficiency to multiple diseases such as: Colon Cancer, Breast Cancer, Obesity, Heart Disease, Depression and Insomnia.
How can you get Vitamin D?
Sun is the main way to get vitamin D. Foods fortified with vitamin D include cow’s milk, soy milk and orange juice. Vitamin D is naturally found in foods such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver and eggs. Unfortunately, the amount of vitamin D in these foods is small. When it comes to sun exposure most people need five to 30 minutes of exposure to the sun twice per week. In people with darker skin tone the amount of time may be higher. Keep in mind too much ultraviolet light exposure increases your risk of skin cancer. Thus sunscreen should be used.
How much Vitamin D do you need?
Have your vitamin D level checked by your physician before you supplement with vitamin D. The daily requirement of vitamin D may vary from person to person and also certain medical conditions may prohibit your intake of vitamin D. Discuss with your doctor what your appropriate vitamin D dosage should be.
Vitamin D is a feel good vitamin so find out if you are “D”-ficient.
by Marjorie Binette, MD