Plays ‘Everybody loves the sunshine’ by Roy Ayers in the back of our minds basically every time we think about the sunshine. Because it’s true. Everybody does love the sunshine. There is something magical that happens when the sun comes out and the world warms up. It’s almost like our minds and hearts warm up too. Illnesses like colds and flu disappear, people are happier, brighter, they seem to move better and have more motivation to get out and about. Now this could be because the wonderful weather is pretty darn awesome to be out in, and summer is filled with some amazing activities that don’t leave you camped up to the fireplace after you are finished with them. But, it could also be because of the incredible connection that sunshine has with your body’s storage of Vitamin D. Actually, sunshine itself is the number ONE source of Vitamin D. Your body literally craves the sun in order to get this vital Vitamin.
So, if the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Vitamin D is sunshine, well you would be spot on because Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin.
The sun and your health.
Many health experts consider the benefits of Vitamin D to be one of the most important health discoveries in the last century, and research on its benefits are continuing to emerge. In fact, just this month the British Medical Journal published a new review that showed Vitamin D’s protective effect against acute respiratory tract infections. And if you have a child then you know more and more pediatricians are beginning to recommend the daily intake of Vitamin D for your minis to boost their teeny immune systems and help protect against winter colds and viruses.
Vitamin D is found in two main forms:
- Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol), synthesized by plants. You can find it in mushrooms and in foods that have been fortified, such as juices, milk (dairy or non-dairy), or cereals. This form of Vitamin D is much less potent and is more difficult to metabolize.
- Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol), the most complete form of Vitamin D, is made from cholesterol when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from sunlight; and then it is carried in the blood steam and converted to the biologically active form in the liver and kidneys. You can also find it in fish such as salmon/ mackerel and eggs.
According to Harvard University an estimated 1 Billion people have inadequate levels of Vitamin D and need to take a Vitamin D3 supplement. Keep in mind that it’s a fat-soluble vitamin and it should be taken with a meal that includes some fat for the best absorption possible (can you guess why skimmed milk and yogurt may be making the problem worse?).
Vitamin D’s many and important roles.
Not only does Vitamin D help boost your immune system, but it plays a very crucial role in the body’s complex processes. Being deficient in this little warm and fuzzy vitamin can cause some serious health issues systemically. Here are some of the bodily functions that Vitamin D plays a crucial role in:
- Bone Health…and this is one of its most well know roles.
- Aids in the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous.
- Increases bone density and muscle strength in turn reducing the risk of fractures.
- Helps to prevent osteoporosis.
- As we said above, it strengthens the immune system and lowers the incidence of colds or flu.
- Lowers the incidence of cancer (especially colorectal) and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Aids in the prevention against Type 1 diabetes, autoimmune diseases and multiple sclerosis.
- Reduces inflammation and the risk of cavities.
- Eases muscle aches and fibromyalgia
- Improves serotonin levels, which boosts your mood especially if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and PMS.
- Helps control appetite and even improves fat-loss efforts!
- Benefits cardiovascular health, including controlling blood pressure and preventing artery damage.
*Fun Fact: Your heart has receptors for Vitamin D.
As you can see, Vitamin D is absolutely necessary for good health and as more and more research is being carried out, the list of benefits will continue to grow.
But isn’t sun exposure bad?
Yes, prolonged sun-exposure is known to increase the risk of skin cancer and aging, however all you need is 15 minutes of direct sunlight on unprotected skin to get in your daily dose of Vitamin D.
There are some things to keep in mind when utilizing the sun as a source of Vitamin D.
Here are our top 4 things to consider:
- If you live in cool climates, it might be vital to take your Vitamin D3 supplement in the winter months since the sun isn’t the great North’s best friend during these times.
- If you don’t frequent the great outdoors. Walking, running, gardening, reading, cycling, beaching, hiking, commuting etc. there are plenty of safe ways to be exposed to the sun without putting yourself at risk for skin cancer. Try to step out for a couple minutes in the day, not only will it give you a break from inside, but it might make you feel better on an emotional level too.
- Medications. There are certain medications out there that might be depleting or even hindering your ability to synthesize this Vitamin, such as some steroid, seizure, anti-tuberculosis and some weight loss drugs. If you are taking anything that might be disrupting your Vitamin D absorption, discuss this with your doctor to come up with a plan.
- There is also an increasing concern that the overuse of sunscreen can contribute to vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of some kinds of cancer. A lot of sunscreens on the market contain ingredients that actually increase the risk of sunburn and cancer – kind of the opposite of what you expect. Do you know if your sunscreen contains toxic ingredients? You can click here to find out.
Apart from the sun you can include foods in your diet that contain vitamin D, like fish such as wild salmon, mackerel, cod liver oil, eggs and mushrooms will also help.
How do I know if I am getting enough?
The most common symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency are: tiredness or fatigue, muscle/joint/bone pain, weakness and depression.
You can speak to your health practitioner to have a blood test called 25(OH)D.
It’s the best test to measure the amount of Vitamin D and determine if you are getting enough or not. This test is especially important if you have a family history of cancer or autoimmune disease. It’s also important to monitor your levels if you are supplementing.
As we live in Canada, we definitely supplement in the winter months. The best and most well absorbed form is liquid. Click here for a clean brand we personally take and would recommend.
NOTE: Vitamin D & Vitamin K tend to work in tandem with each other, each responsible for accumulation, and absorption of calcium in your bones and teeth. Some people have concerns that high doses of Vitamin D may promote heart disease in those who don’t have adequate levels of Vitamin K, but no evidence proves that moderate amounts of Vitamin D are harmful without proper intake of Vitamin K. More evidence is coming to the surface, and we might have a better picture in the future. For the time being, taking Vitamin D, as recommended by a medical professional, and with proper dosage has been proven to be useful for immune function during the winter months. However, you can still find, and buy Vitamin D3 + K2 supplements, one of our favourite brands being this one.