From years of watching TV commercials and reading magazine ads we’ve all learned that milk builds strong bones and this is because it is one of the few food sources for natural Vitamin D.
But how much do we really know about the benefits of Vitamin D?
Research has shown that this underrated vitamin helps to prevent osteoporosis, depression, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and even affects diabetes and obesity…not to mention it all starts with your skin!
The Role Your Skin Plays With Vitamin D
Here’s what you may not know about the essential Vitamin D. It’s made naturally in your body by your skin. Vitamin D is produced by your skin in response exposure to ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight and it only comes from your being outside.
This does not mean that the sunlight streaming in your home, office or car windows is giving you this much needed vitamin because it has to be derived from natural sunlight and not through glass.
Our Skin’s Chemistry
Vitamin D is manufactured in the body in a series of steps. First, your exposure to sunlight’s ultraviolet rays acts on a precursor compound in your skin.
When your skin is exposed to sunlight, a sterol (a subgroup of steroids) present in dermal tissue is converted to vitamin D, which is then metabolized by your liver and kidneys to form a hormone.
This conversion into a steroid hormone by your body was discovered back in 1967 in the laboratory of UC Riverside biochemist Anthony Norman, an international expert on vitamin D.
Low Vitamin D – What A Deficiency Means
If we are not eating the right foods, supplementing our diet, getting the recommended dosage of natural sunlight then there is every likelihood that we may be at risk for a deficiency in Vitamin D.
Because there are so few foods that contain Vitamin D, it’s nearly impossible to get adequate amounts through your daily diet. The new recommended minimum daily allowance (RDA), as set in 2010 by the Institute of Medicine, is based on age and is shown in international units (IU):
- 1-70 years of age, 600 IU daily
- 71 years and older, 800 IU daily
- pregnant and lactating women, 600 IU daily
- breastfed infants, 400 IU daily
The most common cause of this vitamin deficiency is lack of natural sunlight. It is recommended that spending up to 15 minutes 2 to 3 times a week in the sun is very beneficial.
This is often times difficult for those of us cooped up in an office all day, for those living in northern climates and for those of darker skin color.
Darker skin prevents the absorption of the sun so longer sun exposure is needed. Not surprising, sun absorption is also affected by those who wear sunscreen. Wearing even a low SPF sunscreen can block up to 95% of the sun’s rays.
Symptoms and Solutions for a Deficiency
Do you have it? Symptoms of mild Vitamin D deficiency usually include appetite loss, insomnia, diarrhea, impaired vision and weight loss. More severe symptoms can include muscle pain, impaired immune system, chronic fatigue, depression and bone fractures.
Low levels can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, severe asthma, high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, multiple sclerosis, certain types of cancer (breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men) and cognitive impairment in senior citizens.
Steps you can take (as noted below) to ensure you are getting at least the minimum daily requirement for Vitamin D may require minor lifestyle changes. However, any preventative measures you take are certainly worth optimal health.
- A single tablespoon of cod liver oil provides in excess of 350% of the recommended daily requirement. It is also rich in Vitamin A. Can’t stand the taste? Then try supplement capsules. Other fish like mussels, herring, catfish, salmon and mackerel are also excellent options
- Check the labels on fortified products like milk, soy, cereals and other dairy products which are good sources for a vitamin boost
- Get outside in the sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes, 20 to 30 minutes for dark skin and try to do it 2 to 3 times a week
- Take multi-vitamins that contain Vitamin D. This is essential for the absorption of calcium. We all know how important calcium is for bones, teeth, hair and nails
How Much Is Recommended For Good Health?
If you feel you have a Vitamin D deficiency, realize that it cannot be reversed overnight. It could take months of supplementation and natural sunlight to rebuild your body’s systems impacted by the deficiency. Do know that you cannot get too much Vitamin D from natural sun exposure. Your body self-regulates and will use only as much as it needs from the sun.
For supplementation and to achieve the full benefits of Vitamin D, however, the maximum recommended safe daily dosage, according to the Mayo Clinic, is 10,000 IU.