The Sunshine Vitamin All the benefits of Vitamin D
Contributor Dr. Kendra Becker
It is important to remember all the benefits and exquisite pleasures of summer. There is no longer a need for winter coats, and layers of warmth, sleeping with our windows open, long glorious summer nights, fresh native, healthy looking produce, and of course sunshine.
Even though Connecticut summers are full of sunshine, scientists still continue to report an overwhelming Vitamin D deficiency among the nation’s population. Vitamin D is beneficial for many vital body processes and deficiency can certainly leave the body out of balance.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble pro-hormone, that is most well known for regulation of calcium absorption; however it is also very important to metabolism at the cellular level, it is an important aspect of insulin production, immunity, and inflammation reduction. Low levels of Vitamin D have been shown in patients with cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain conditions, and auto-immune diseases.
Most Americans get 90% or more of their Vitamin D from the sun. The rest comes from diet. Sadly, recent increases in skin cancer rates worldwide and increasing nutrient poor foods among our diets; have allowed for long forgotten disease like rickets to make a comeback. Thus, dietary sources of Vitamin D are very important.
Individuals most likely to be Vitamin D deficient include those who are obese, elderly, individuals with diseases of the colon or malabsorption problems (eg. Celiac or IBS). Conditions associated with low Vitamin D levels include: MS, SLE, Crohn’s disease, RA, Psoriasis, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Seasonal Depression, cancers, and of course bone diseases like osteoporosis.
For most people 15-30 minutes of sun a day, in most areas of the country, which also includes cloudy days and winter days gives the body adequate Vitamin D. Of course, we must consider safe sun exposure when considering Vitamin D for health. It is important to note, that sunscreens decrease Vitamin D synthesis by nearly 99%. As we age we lose the ability to utilize Vitamin D. Darker complexions require 5 to 10 times as much sun exposure than lighter complexions to produce the same amounts of Vitamin D.
Certainly getting Vitamin D from food is also an option. Vitamin D is found in large amounts in foods fortified with it, fatty, deep sea fishes, orange juice, and tanning sessions at your local parlor. Research shows that Vitamin D3 is the best absorbed in the human body.
A word of caution, excessive levels of Vitamin D can cause serious consequences. Although there is no report of excess Vitamin D from the sun, over exposure and skin damage can lead to other serious health problems. In my office, I always check Vitamin D levels with a simple blood test before prescribing it to patients.
Whether you use Vitamin D as prevention or a cure, feeling better and being healthier, feels as good as sunshine on a sunny day.
Dr. Kendra Becker practices at Family Wellness Centre of CT. She integrates holistic and conventional medicine to best serve her patients
Family Wellness Centre of CT
181 Cross Rd
Waterford, CT 06385 www.fwcct.com