It’s gorgeous out, and I’m sitting on the deck soaking up some sunshine before I’m stuck in the office for a few hours. Yes Mom, I will eventually put sunscreen on, but after the winter/spring we’ve had I need to get out and soak up that ever so important vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is at epidemic levels in this country because so many people are now avoiding exposure to sunshine due to the risk of skin damage and skin cancer from UV rays. People living in Canada where the sun is not strong enough from mid-September to mid-May to stimulate vitamin D production in the skin are at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. New research says 95% of those living North of the Equator are likely to be deficient in Vitamin D.
New research also shows that the medical profession has vastly underestimated the amount of vitamin D required to maintain good health. While Health Canada currently recommends a dosage of only 400IU daily, many adults need a minimum of 1,000IU or more each day (up to 4,000IU, talk to a health care practitioner) in winter or whenever exposure to sunlight is limited. You can get your doctor or ND to check your blood levels but make sure you get the right test. You must have your doctor test for 25(OH)D, not 1,25(OH)D. They look similar, but 1,25(OH)D is a measure of kidney function, and is not the test you want for measuring vitamin D levels. Ideally, your blood level should be around 60-80 ng/ml, as this allows the body to have some vitamin D in reserve, and it duplicates the higher levels found in young, healthy individuals who spend a decent amount of time in a sun-rich environment.
Benefits of Vitamin D:
- Maintains bone, joint and muscle health
- Supports the brain and nervous system
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Supports the health of mother and child during pregnancy and lactation
- Strengthens the immune system, reducing the incidence and severity of bacterial infections
- Improves lung function, especially in former smokers
- Reduces the risk of cancer
- Inhibits skin cell growth associated with psoriasis and other skin conditions
- Helps maintain adequate insulin levels for people with type II diabetes
- Improves mood, helps with seasonal depression
Several diseases and health problems are symptoms of a poor supply of Vitamin D. The most familiar symptoms of inadequate Vitamin D are soft bone disorders. Called rickets in children, osteomalacia in adults, and osteoporosis in seniors, soft bone disorders indicate an inadequate supply of calcium to strengthen bones, which is usually a direct result of inadequate Vitamin D sources. This can lead to crippling deformations, easier bone fractures, and diminished bone density.
Other deficiency symptoms may include:
High blood pressure Muscle weakness/pain Tuberculosis Chronic fatigue
Depression, including seasonal affective disorder Increased auto-immune diseases
Type I diabetes Various forms of cancer Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Periodontal disease Skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema
Weakened immune system and/or more frequent colds/flu
Chronic bone, muscle, or joint pain Decrease in bone density (osteopenia/osteoporosis)
So now what?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin found in very few foods, so we need to be supplementing year round. Beef, sardines, herring, and salmon are some foods that contain Vitamin D. Milk, bread, and breakfast cereals are often fortified with the nutrient. Supplementing – talk to a health care professional for correct doses. Look for D3 (most absorb-able form in the body) and aim for 1,000 IU daily.