Do not go in the sun without a hat, protective clothing, sunscreen, we all know the spiel. The sun is bad! But what most don’t know is that our cautiousness has led to a massive drop in Vitamin D levels which is absolutely essential for proper function.
Research is continuously revealing the importance of Vitamin D and not only has it been shown to improve the immune system and reduce inflammation. Vitamin D Has been found to be helpful in the treatment or prevention of autism, autoimmune Disease, hormonal imbalances, depression, chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease, flu, osteoporosis, cancer and the list goes on.
If you have your Vitamin D tested, the lab result form will say optimal is above 30 ng/mL but according to Dr Muir at Rennaissance Clinic in Bree Street, your Vitamin D levels should be above 50 ng/mL, with 70 being ideal.
Interesting Fact: Do you know that, despite its name, Vitamin D is actually a hormone and not a Vitamin.
So, how do you get the Vitamin D you need?
- Sun exposure
Let’s chat about these:
But what about skin Cancer?
Exposing your skin to the sun, so that your skin starts to burn can be dangerous as this will increase your risk of developing skin cancers. But to date research has shown that moderate but frequent sun exposure is healthy.
After exposing your skin for half the time it takes for you to begin to burn, cover up, go into the shade and apply sunscreen. Using sunscreen should not be your only form of protection, as it hasn’t consistently been shown to prevent all types of skin cancers. When choosing a sunscreen, make sure to choose one that blocks both UVA light and UVB light.
Is a specific time of day better than another?
Basically, you’re wanting the UVB part of the sun’s rays to hit your skin, this is what makes the good stuff (Vitamin D), however, when the suns rays enter the atmosphere at too much of an angel the UVB rays get blocked, this happens during the early and later parts of the day. Therefore, it’s recommended that you aim for midday, the closer to midday the better.
A little practical tip: If your shadow is longer than you are tall, you’re not making much Vitamin D, the longer the shadow the less Vitamin D.
Some places are warmer than others, does this make a difference?
Absolutely. Location, seasons and various other factors all play a part.
Location: So basically, the further away from the equator, the more of an angle the rays will hit the atmosphere at therefore less UVB available to produce Vitamin D particularly in the winter months.
In summer the angle improves due to the earth’s rotation and more UVB reaches the places far from the equator.
FYI: In Cape Town, you can’t produce much vitamin D between mid-May and August. Sucky pants!
How long should I expose my bare skin?
Melanin affects how dark or light your skin is. More Melanin = darker skin and less Melanin = lighter skin.
The amount of Melanin in your skin affects your Vitamin D production. The more Melanin the harder it is to produce Vitamin D and visa versa. Therefore fair-skinned people are able to produce Vitamin D a lot quicker than those with a darker skin and thus require less sun exposure.
Your body is able to produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of Vitamin D in just under the time it takes for your skin to start burning. 15 minutes for a fair skinned person should be sufficient, but a little longer for a darker skinned person.
Top tip: Aim to get half the sun exposure it takes for your skin to begin to burn.
Do the rays need to hit my entire body?
Nope, but it is preferable to expose as much skin as possible. It’s suggested that you expose no less than a quarter of your body, ideally your back, tummy and legs.
Antiaging tip: Always keep your face, neck and décolleté protected.
Can I get my fix on a sunbed?
Yes, but all same rules apply. DO NOT aim to tan or burn, go in for only half the time it takes your skin to burn and use low-pressure beds that have a good amount of UVB light, rather than high-intensity UVA light.
What about babies?
Babies have very sensitive skin which burns very easily and extra care should be taken when exposing them to direct sunlight. Most Doctors would rather recommend you supplement than expose a babies skin to sunlight at all.
Got it? Good! on to the next one.
If you’re not so keen on the sun, don’t have the time or live in an area where it’s impossible for the rays to come through you can consider taking a supplement. Supplements are an effective way to get the vitamin D your body needs.
Make sure to take Vitamin D3. Research shows that vitamin D3 is the better type of vitamin D compared to vitamin D2.
Other than that, it doesn’t matter what form of vitamin D you take, whether it’s in a capsule or tablet etc. For most people, vitamin D is easily absorbed in the body and you also don’t need to worry about the time of day you take it or whether you take it with meals or not.
How much Vitamin D do I need?
The amount needed is between 600 IU to 5000 IU and varies from organisation to organisation. But according to The Vitamin D Council, you should get at least 5000 IU per day.
Why are the recommendations so different? because some researchers believe that there isn’t enough evidence to support taking higher amounts of vitamin D yet on the other hand, others believe that research is proving and will prove, that taking lower amounts just isn’t sufficient.
Is it possible to take too much Vitamin D?
Indeed it is. Vitamin D is a Fat Soluble vitamin and therefore harder for the body to get rid of if you take too much. The Vitamin D Council, therefore, recommend that you don’t take more than 10,000 UI per day.
Vitamin D toxicity, usually only happens if you take 40,000 IU a day for a couple of months or longer.
Interesting Fact: Some diseases such as Prostate Cancer and Multiple Sclerosis have shown some benefits in taking in larger amounts of vitamin D, more than 10,000 IU per day. If you have one of these diseases for which research has shown benefits, make sure to consult and work with your doctor before embarking on this.
Can I get Vitamin D from both sources?
Yes for sure. It’s good to make sure to supplement on days where you know you won’t be able to fit in some sun exposure or if you have been noted to have a deficiency.
I myself, take a Vitamin D3 supplement every day.
You can also get some Vitamin D in some foods, however, these contain very small amounts and you will not be able to get the recommended daily allowance from foods.
Can everyone take a Vitamin D Supplement?
Most people can take vitamin D supplements with no problem. However, caution is advised in a few situations. These include:
- If you’re taking certain medications: For an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation) or meds commonly used to treat high blood pressure, DO NOT take high doses of vitamin D. You should also have your digoxin (medication used to treat various heart conditions) level monitored more closely if you’re taking vitamin D.
- If you have one of these medical conditions: primary hyperparathyroidism, Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a granulomatous disease, kidney stones, some types of kidney disease, liver disease or hormonal disease, you should get advice from a specialist.
- Do not take vitamin D if you have a high blood calcium level, unless under the care of your physician.
- You may need more than the usual dose of vitamin D if you’re taking certain medicines which interfere with vitamin D. These include: carbamazepine, phenytoin, primidone, barbiturates and some medicines used for the treatment of HIV infection.
Hope this post has helped gen you up on Vitamin D! And remember if in doubt consult your Physician. Oh, and this article is written up with recommendations for adults. Dosages for children are lower and based on weight and you should consult your Paediatrician for advice on this.