If you’re like me, I find it a challenge to figure out what amount of vitamins I need, and whether or not I get enough of them in my diet. Vitamin D is one that I have been most confused by, especially because some believe it is best to obtain it from the sun, and yet we are also warned of the damages of the sun.
Well, most medical professionals agree that between 30-80% of Americans are actually vitamin D deficient. Clearly there are many of us who are confused! Unfortunately, individuals with low vitamin D levels have a higher risk for developing many health issues, including autoimmune diseases and cancer. Vitamin D assists our bodies in the absorption of calcium, which helps us develop stronger bones, and helps to prevent or slow osteoporosis. Research has also shown that vitamin D also strengthens the immune system, and may also decrease our risk of hypertension and psoriasis.
If you’re interested in learning if you are Vitamin D deficient, the National Institute of Health feels the best measure of one’s vitamin D status is blood levels of a form known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D. You can ask your doctor to check your levels through lab work.
Dr. Andrew Weil (www.drweil.com) recommends that we get 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily. The National Institute of Health recommends that children from birth to age five should get 200 IU daily. If you are going to take a vitamin D supplement, vitamin D3 is the best to take. However, getting appropriate levels of sunshine is far better, provided you do it safely.
Below is a chart that describes how much sunshine you need daily, if you’d like to get your vitamin D this way, depending on skin type. The chart identifies adequate amounts of vitamin D, based on your local UV index. Please keep in mind, however, that sunscreen blocks our bodies’ ability to synthesize vitamin D. An SPF of 8 inhibits our ability to make vitamin D by 92.5%, an SPF of 15 inhibits it by 99%. Therefore, skip the sunscreen when following the guidelines offered in the chart below. (Stats source: http://www.tcolincampbell.org/courses-resources/article/dispelling-vitamin-d-myths/?tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=76&cHash=8b49fbe90a70ed9ccc5355403ffc7091)
Here’s a link to the Environmental Protection Agency that you can use to determine your local UV index based on your zip code: http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html
It’s important to remember that excessive sun exposure does lead to skin cancer, and sunburns can also be quite painful, so if you are going to be outdoors for any longer than what the chart and UV index identifies as being safe, please use sunscreen and protective hats and clothing. Dr. Weil recommends an SPF of 30 or higher, and one that protects against UV A (causes sun damage and wrinkling) and UV B (causes sunburns and skin cancer). It’s important to apply the sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outside, and reapply it every two hours.
Excessive sun exposure does lead to skin cancer, however safe, appropriate levels of sunshine can actually lead to good health. As with many things, we have to find a healthy balance between the two.
Please, don’t forget- good health is contagious, please pass it on!