If you’re curious or confused about Vitamin D and how to get the recommended dosage? Keep reading. This post may clear up some uncertainty for you!
As a Lupus Survivor, learning about this health issue was eye-opening and extremely important for my well-being. After a particularly bad lupus flare after being in the sun for 6 hours (with sun protection, mind you), I decided I needed to do a little more research about UV exposure and Vitamin D was a huge topic that kept on popping up. My fellow auto-immunies may find this article particularly helpful.
Until recently, everyone touted Vitamin C as the wonder ingredient and miracle nutrient. And yes, it’s true, Vitamin C is essential in any anti-aging and healthy skin and body regimen, but new research shows that Vitamin D is one of the best things you can put in your body.
Why Vitamin D is Good For You
Vitamin D is like calcium’s co-pilot. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, fortifying the bones. It’s essential for bone health. Vitamin D is also essential in the “modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation,” according to the National Institutes of Health. Considering that many cells in the body—up to 2,000 genes, reports Women’s Health— respond to or are regulated by Vitamin D, it is basically a nutrient that every part of your body needs.
Vitamin D Deficiency
The lack of Vitamin D in the body has been linked to a myriad of health problems, including, but not limited to, “depression, heart disease, pregnancy problems, birth defects, skin and other cancers, and multiple sclerosis” according to Women’s Health.
Some doctors blame excessive sunscreen and sun protection use as the culprit for Vitamin D deficiency. But I argue that that view demonizes one of the most healthy lifestyle choices a person can make without examining or even mentioning other important causation factors or the health risks of obtaining vitamin D through sun exposure.
Firstly, Vitamin D is severely lacking in the traditional American Diet. Cold water fish (cod, tuna, sockeye salmon, sardines), fortified dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese) and mushrooms all have vitamin D. But the average American doesn’t incorporate these into his or her diet to get enough of the recommended dose. Additionally, some vegetarians and vegans, in particular, will often find themselves Vitamin D deficient because they don’t consume foods containing the nutrient. However, over-eating any of the Vitamin D rich foods may lead to some health risks, and most foods don’t contain enough IUs to get the recommended amount.
Skin color plays a part in Vitamin D deficiency as well. Melanin blocks UV rays from penetrating the skin, decreasing Vitamin D conversion. The darker your skin, the more melanin you have. So, lighter-skinned people will absorb more UV and Vitamin D, whereas darker-skinned folks, less. People of color often age slower than their Caucasian counterparts, but they can often be Vitamin D deficient as well.
Lastly, sunscreen usage and sun protection plays a role in Vitamin D blockage, but has inherent health risks.
Vitamin D from UV Exposure = Unfriendly Fire
UVB rays interact with the skin and convert it into Vitamin D3. BUT! (And it’s a big one!) In order to get the right amount, you’d need to be completely un-protected and exposed to the sun between peak UV hours (10AM – 3PM in broad daylight) for 15 minutes, or you’d need to tan in a tanning bed. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sunscreens over SPF 8 do appear to block some amount of UVB. HOWEVER, NIH cautions that most people in general don’t use sunscreen properly or reapply as instructed. “Therefore, skin likely synthesizes some Vitamin D even when it is protected by sunscreen as typically applied.” (NIH.gov)
Numerous health organizations, American Academy of Dermatology, the Skin Cancer Foundation AND the National Institute of Health all agree that trying to obtain Vitamin D from sun exposure poses serious health risks: namely, skin cancers. NIH goes as far as to state: “there are no studies to determine whether UVB-induced synthesis of Vitamin D (Vitamin D from UV rays) can occur without increased risk of skin cancer.” Additionally, if you live north of Atlanta, Georgia, during the fall and winter you can’t get enough UVB to produce the recommended amount of Vitamin D, anyway. Even if you’re able to synthesize Vitamin D from UV rays, most people go over and above the recommended 15 minutes, after which, UV rays begin to damage the skin at the cellular level, leading to collagen and elastin breakdown, resulting in wrinkles, crepey skin, spots and sagging. And remember, UVB is what produces Vitamin D, but the whole time you’re outside, you’re absorbing UVA rays, too, which don’t do ANYTHING for you, health-wise, and certainly not aging-wise.
UV rays can trigger flares of certain auto-immune diseases as well, such as lupus and arthritis. Personally speaking, whenever I spend more than an hour or two outside, I often get serious lupus flares, even though I cover up, wear UPF gear (rash guard, hat) and apply/reapply SPF 50+ broad spectrum sunscreen.
The health and skin health risks of getting Vitamin D from sun exposure seriously outweigh any benefit. Why try to do your body good only to risk cancer and severe aging?
The safest way to get Vitamin D
The safest way to get your Vitamin D is to ingest it the old fashioned way: take your vitamins. Supplements come in easy to swallow gel caplets. Laura Armas, M.D., assistant professor of endocrinology and a researcher in the Osteoporosis Research Center at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, tells Women’s Health that Vitamin D supplements are the “easiest, cheapest and safest way to make sure you’re covered.”
Take a Vitamin D3 (important to note that it is D3) capsule of at least 600IUs to get the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for the average person aged 1-70. After age 70, aim for 800 IUs. You can get supplements at any drugstore, health food store, super market or Costco for minimal cost.
There have been some concerns that it is possible to OD on Vitamin D, resulting in blood toxicity. Because D is fat-soluble and not water-soluble (like Vitamin C), your body won’t pee out the excess. However, recent studies have shown that the body can tolerate even large doses of D over long periods before reaching toxicity. According to the Mayo Clinic, you’d have to take 50,000 IUs daily for several months to reach toxicity.
Doctors may prescribe more Vitamin D3 than the RDA to treat certain auto-immune diseases or health disorderS. My Rheumatologist prescribed 3,000 IUs of Vitamin D3 daily and told me to limit my outdoor activities to a couple hours or less and always wear sun protection, in order to reduce chances of severe lupus flares.
In conclusion, Vitamin D is essential to maintaining good health and strong bones. The sun doesn’t play as nice as you think. If you want to keep the wrinkles at bay, stay healthy, reduce your chances of skin cancer AND save money, just do like your mom told you all those years ago: take your vitamins and put a hat on before going outside.
Rock on, Lover!
Me ke aloha ~ With love + aloha,
Originally featured Escaping The Sun In Style.
American Academy of Dermatology. “Vitamin D.”
Bailey, Cynthia, MD. “The Best Year Round Sun Protection.”
Bowman, Alisa. Women’s Health Magazine. “Why You Need More Vitamin D.”
The Mayo Clinic. “What is vitamin D toxicity, and should I worry about it since I take supplements?”
National Institutes of Health (US Government). “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D.”
The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Make Vitamin D, Not UV, a Priority.”
The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Vitamin D.”
Image credit (All Images): 123RF Stock Photo. www.123rf.com
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