Hello Sunshine

Image: Bruce Weber

Image: Bruce Weber

Vitamin D is one of the most important for its countless aspects of everyday health.  Called the 'sunshine vitamin', we mostly get it via the sun.  However an average of 75% of adults are deficient.

Initially thought of, mainly to prevent rickets in children, it has since been researched to contribute to the prevention of many chronic diseases. 

It assists in the absorption of calcium, promotes bone mineralization, and can provide protection against autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, diabetes, and mental health conditions.  Evidence also suggests that it can play an important role against defending certain cancers and cardiovascular disease.

Symptoms of lack of Vitamin D are bone weakness and muscle pain.  However sometimes they are more subtle, and undiagnosed can cause severe health risks.

The best way to attain natural Vitamin D is through sun exposure, and it is recommended to get 15-20 minutes of sun on your skin during the months March - October (northern hemisphere).   It really depends on your skin type as to how much you need.  If you have pale skin you might only need 5-10 mins.  Be careful not to burn, and it is better not to be out when the sun is at its strongest between 10am and 2pm.

In winter the angle of the sun is too low to get adequate sun exposure and a supplement is recommended. 

However don't become too lax just because you may live in a country like Australia where you think you get adequate sun.   All that slip, slop, slapping over the years has actually caused some children to develop rickets, and many adults suffer from inadequate levels.  I was diagnosed with severe Vitamin D deficiency when I was living in Sydney - city of sunshine.  It was necessary to take a supplement to get it to the right levels. 

Something I still do now living in Denmark almost right through the year, as even though I get out in the sunshine during the summer months, working indoors most of the time I don't believe I get adequate levels.  

It is very difficult to get Vitamin D through food sources, although you can find it in fortified milk, eggs, salmon and tuna, but the amounts are normally not significant enough.

Getting your Vitamin D levels checked on a regular basis is important to maintain good health.  Dr Andrew Weil recommends supplementation of 2000 IU per day.  Higher levels can also be recommended if you are severely deficient.   Always take Vitamin D with a fat containing meal to increase absorption. 

But hey who needs an excuse to get out in that sunshine!  Make the most of it...