– Honey, did you put your sunscreen on?
How often do you hear it from someone who loves you? I bet quite a lot!
Vitamin D and the Modern world
Do you know that nearly half the world’s population suffers from Vitamin D deficiency? So what’s wrong with this picture? Over the years we have experienced a rapid growth of Vitamin D deficiency as well as created quite a few myths about it. Let’s look at some factors:
1.We got much busier and started spending more time inside with our computers, TV’s, gadgets, and such. Unless you have rooftop windows, and they are open… you are not getting your vitamin D indoors.
2.Belly fat: obesity or greater amount of visceral fat can lower vitamin D concentrations because it will be absorbed by fat tissues.
3. Dietary vitamin D: to supplement your body by eating vitamin-D rich foods, you would need to eat a lot of those foods. I mean, A LOT.
4.Supplemental vitamin D: It won’t get you anywhere on its own because of low dosages and supplements’ inefficiency.
5.Sunscreen protection. If you cover yourself up, how are you going to get more of this vitamin?
First of all, some of these factors are easy to explain with a cancer scare, promotion of supplements, and the-ever-changing speed of life (read: sedentary lifestyle and popularity of Netflix). But do we know enough about all of these factors?
Skin cancer rates skyrocketed since the 1970s, and not because it is the most underfunded issue by federal agencies ( as it is often stated by the media). What people really need to know is… the excessive sun will cause cancer, getting burned in tanning beds will, and the fact if you don’t get enough of vitamin D can lead you to potential cancer, too. Not the absence of sunscreen. As for other issues, we will talk about them in a bit.
What happens if you do not get enough?
Vitamin D deficiency:
- Increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s
- One of the main causes of depression
- Muscle and joint paint
- Higher risk of severe heart disease
- Other diseases can be sped up because of the deficiency ( Multiple sclerosis, prostate cancer, schizophrenia, etc.)
What happens if you get enough?
Vitamin D benefits:
- Immune system boost
- Better absorption of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A and K
- Healthy bones and teeth
- Better mood
- Supports your cardiovascular and neurological systems
- Weight loss boost (increased fat metabolism)
- Supports fertility
How vitamin D works:
Vitamin D is a hormone ( did you know that?!). When you expose your skin to the sun, your skin cells release it into the bloodstream. After a couple of processes in your liver and kidneys, vitamin D is activated in all cells of your body. This can be compared to a super quick SPA for your entire body – no wonder it elevates your mood!
Sad to report though, if you live in the very Northern regions (beyond 60th parallel), it gets harder to synthesize vitamin D through the sun. That’s why Norwegians and other Northern nationalities eat so much fish – genetically they had to do that to survive. But if you are about to start loading up on fatty fish, hang on, chap. It might be not the best solution yet.
How much do you need?
To get enough of vitamin D a day, you need about 4,000 IU (international units) a day. Even on a good day, with lots of fish, egg yolks, yogurt, avocados (mmm!) and nuts, you can probably hit 400-600 IU. That is definitely not enough! There are still ongoing arguments on how much is enough. Meanwhile, you can get vitamin D tested by your doctor or through some trustworthy labs online.
Ideally, you should aim for 40-50 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). This can be achieved by exposing large areas of your skin ( legs, arms, back, and core) to direct sunlight for a short period of time (5 – 20 minutes) in the hours of peak sun activity (10 AM- 4 PM), 3-4 times a week. Please read it correctly: SHORT periods of time. You WILL need sunscreen after that if you plan on staying in direct sun. If you have this brief exposure, eat a diet full of healthy fats, do not burn, you will be fine and happy (and not moody). Of course, it all varies with the tone of your skin, place where you live, time of the year, and other factors. Mark Sisson, for example, recommends, even more, time in the sun than this!
Let’s look at some vitamin D myths, and figure out what’s the best way to go about getting it in your system.
Here are 5 common myths about vitamin D:
1.Sunlight exposure will cause cancer.
It will if you consistently burn yourself by sitting in the sun for too long. Otherwise, you are safe.
2. Dietary vitamin D will be enough.
Nope, it won’t. How much fish are you willing to eat? Salmon contains about 400 IU per 3.5 oz.
3.Supplemental vitamin D can help if I don’t get sun exposure.
Vitamin D that has been produced in your body after being exposed to the sun will last twice as long in comparison to dietary or supplemental sources. If you do not have access to the warm sun (hello, people from Antarctica), if you are pregnant, or you are locked indoors, you may need to supplement. Using them as the main source of your vitamin D intake might not be as efficient.
4.Sunscreen is the best thing to protect me from burning.
This mostly concerns non-melanoma skin cancers. By applying sunscreen and not allowing yourself anytime in direct sun, you are actually increasing your chance of melanoma! Sunscreen with SPF factors of above 10 decreases the vitamin D synthesis by up to 98 percent! Plus most of the sunscreens that are sold in the stores now have toxic ingredients. If you need to, cover yourself up or hide in the shade. Use some coconut or avocado oil as a natural alternative.
5.Vitamin D deficiency is the same for everyone.
If you have darker skin, eyes, hair – you will need more. If you live close to the North pole, you will need more. You will also need more in the winter, but hold off getting naked and running in the backyard’s snow. You can get enough over the summer, and your vitamin D levels will be balanced off through the entire winter.
Let’s sum it up. Ideally, you would…
Get in the direct sun for 5-20 minutes a few times a week
Eat healthy fats, vitamin D-rich foods (fish, egg yolks, avocados, shrimp, etc.)
Supplement when needed.
Test your vitamin D levels once in a while. Prevention is worth more than trying to correct the problem later.
Now. Expose yourself ! (Huh, that did not sound as innocent as it did in my head).
Do you get in the sun? How often? Do you still use sunscreen?
P.S. Want to learn more? Dr.Holick has dedicated his life’s research to the topic. Check out his blog!
Author: Anya Perry
Anya Perry battled boring diets, low energy, and declining health for over 10 years before she found what works. Now, she helps women achieve their dream state of health, fitness, and vitality… without the struggles, battles of miserable diets and yo-yo results. She can’t live without coffee and challenges.