Vitamin D, better known as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin is one of the essential nutrients that your body needs to keep you healthy, strong and young. The reason it’s essential is that (1) your body needs it and (2) you can’t make it on it own – ergo you need to consume externally it in all its forms.
Vitamin D actually comes in 2 forms D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). The D2 form is less effective and mostly found in fortified foods, plants, and supplements. The D3 form is what’s more commonly found in fatty foods like salmon, tuna, cod liver oil, yogurt, shiitake mushrooms, and other fortified foods and juices. It’s also what the body produces when exposed to UVB light from the sun.
Scientific studies have found that higher levels of Vitamin D in your body are so beneficial (and deficiencies so detrimental) to your health that they’ve even classified vitamin D it as being more similar to a hormone-like an estrogen, cortisol, and testosterone than a regular vitamin.
There are so many health benefits of Vitamin D, that it would be way beyond the scope of this post to discuss them all. What you should know is that Vitamin D plays a major role in the health of your body’s immune-, musculoskeletal- and cardiovascular systems, not to mention keeping you free from depression. And because it possesses anti-inflammatory properties as well, it’ll keep you looking younger, longer as well.
How Much Vitamin D should you take?
Well, you can pick up some salmon, yogurt, eggs or cod-liver oil at the market, but this may only account for up to 20% of the Vitamin D that you actually need. The other 80% is made by your body when it’s exposed to the sun. Without exposure to sunlight, you can’t make Vitamin D.
According to the recommendations of the Endocrine Society and the Institute of Medicine, daily intake for adults over 50 years can vary between 500-2,000 IU/day because of the varying amount of sunlight that you get. In one day it’s possible to make 10,000-25,000 IU just from the sun. Just to note you don’t need to worry about OD-ing yourself. Vitamin D is not toxic.
The Dilemma of Vitamin D, Sunscreen Vs Sunlight?
Now that Spring is here and you’re being warned by all forms of the media and medics about the need to wear high SPF (min 30), protective sunscreen, it’s also important to remember that sunlight has significant health benefits for you as well. The trick is to maintain a healthy balance between normal sun exposure and sun overexposure.
I don’t want to belittle the importance of protecting your skin from the sun and other environmental pollutants with an effective sunscreen. Free radical damage has associated health risks and can cause your skin to age prematurely. And you don’t want this. You can read more here about how free radicals from sun overexposure can damage your skin. On the other hand, there are seasons and times of the day when the sunlight isn’t so strong and just getting outside and taking in some rays can do wonders for your body and mind. For other questions regarding healthy sun exposure, please consult with your local dermatologist.
3 Tips for keeping high Vitamin D levels naturally in the sun
1. Avoid being in the sun during the hottest hours of the day (11am-2pm) – especially in the summer
2. Be outside more – doing more outdoor activity during the not so hot, off-season months of the year – even in the winter months
3. Limit the time you expose your skin directly to the sun too much shorter – 15-20 minutes regular intervals – rather than spending long hours in the sun at one time.
All these can help ensure you increase and maintain the recommended amounts of Vitamin D for optimal health while at the same time taking protective measures against the potential harmful risks of sun overexposure.
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Until next time,
Randy Simor MD