You may already know that the best way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure. But how are we supposed to get enough in these winter months, when we’re holed up inside? For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we need a little bit of help during the winter months….
Most Americans are deficient (if not highly deficient) in Vitamin D, yet more and more studies are revealing its vital importance. Its most critical role is to help the body absorb calcium and use it to form strong bones. It also helps prevent osteoporosis, depression, cancer, diabetes, and weight gain. The amazing thing is although Vitamin D is one of the most powerful healing chemicals in your body, your body makes it absolutely free. No prescription required.
So. To that end, here are a few facts that you might not be aware of regarding Vitamin D:
- It’s produced by your skin in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight.
- The healing rays of natural sunlight that generate vitamin D in your skin cannot penetrate glass. So you don’t generate Vitamin D when sitting in your car or home.
- It’s nearly impossible to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D from your diet alone. (A person would have to drink 10 tall glasses of Vitamin D-fortified milk each day just to get minimum levels of Vitamin D into their diet.) Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to generate it in your own body. Our bodies produce it on their own when exposed to sunlight, but the skin must be free of sunscreen, sunblocks, and clothing, which all interfere with the process.
- The farther you live from the equator, the longer the exposure you need to the sun in order to generate enough Vitamin D. Canada, the UK, and most US states are far from the equator.
- Sufficient levels of Vitamin D are crucial for calcium absorption in your intestines. Without sufficient levels of it, your body cannot absorb calcium, rendering calcium supplements useless.
- Chronic Vitamin D deficiency cannot be reversed overnight; it takes months of supplementation and sunlight exposure to rebuild the body’s bones and nervous system.
- Even weak sunscreens (SPF 8) block your body’s ability to generate vitamin D by 95%. Sunscreen products can actually cause disease by creating a critical vitamin deficiency in the body.
- It’s impossible to generate too much Vitamin D in your body from sunlight exposure; your body will self- regulate and only generate what it needs.
- Vitamin D is activated in your body by your kidneys and liver before it can be used.
- Having kidney disease or liver damage can greatly impair your body’s ability to activate circulating vitamin D.
So how do you get Vitamin D?
While fortified foods such as milk and cereals are available, most provide Vitamin D2, a form that is much less well utilized by the body than D3. Good dietary sources include fortified foods, eggs, salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Since sunlight causes our bodies to make Vitamin D, daily exposure is helpful.
Another good source is supplements: While it’s always best to focus on getting your vitamins through food, a Vitamin D supplement is most likely necessary, especially in winter months.
There are several forms, including two that are important to humans: D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is synthesized by plants, and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is synthesized by humans when skin is exposed to ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays from sunlight. The active form of the vitamin is calcitriol, synthesized from either D2 or D3 in the kidneys. Vitamin D helps to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. If you’re going the supplement route, make sure you choose Vitamin D3! Most doctors recommend 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day.
Anyone with Vitamin D deficiencies should discuss intake levels with his or her physician.
Thanks to the following sources of information on this post: “The Healing Power of Sunlight”; “Vitamin D: An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Michael Holick, II” by Mike Adams; and “Integrative Nutrition” by Dr. Andrew Weil.