Got Health? Not Without Sunshine
The Truth About Vitamin D: How Sunshine Can Change Your Health By Nicole Catanese/ Refinery29-Healthy Living (Yahoo News)
Deficient is not a word we like to hear used to describe us. Unfortunately,
that's what most of us are - in vitamin D, that is. It's estimated that three
out of four Americans are D-deficient. Yet, how to get the needed vitamin - and
exactly how much of it - is up for debate. That's why we scoped out the true
lowdown on D.
"Although our body doesn't make vitamin D on its own, it does create the
precursor to it, referred to as vitamin D2," says Jeffrey Morrison, M.D.,
founder of The Morrison Center in New York City. "Then, when we get ultraviolet
exposure, that precursor is converted to the active form of vitamin D, which is
Morrison says that low vitamin D levels can cause some autoimmune-related
diseases such as fibromyalgia as well as seborrheic dermatitis. And, studies
show that pregnant women who had low D put their children at risk for asthma
and type-1 diabetes. Plus, low D has been linked to an increase in seasonal
affective disorder (SAD).
The only way to truly know if you are D-ficient is to get a blood test. The
healthy range of D, number-wise, is broad because your body's specific needs
depend on a number of factors. However, if your results fall anywhere above 32,
you're fine in terms from a baseline health perspective. Still, Morrison notes
that he prefers to see the number hit 50 to 100, as that's the optimal range
for disease prevention.
So, that brings us to the big controversy around D - namely, the sun. Because
for the body to create active vitamin D3, the skin needs to come in contact
with sunscreen-free UV light, and the sun's rays, are of course, a known
carcinogen that has been linked to skin cancer. While some experts say that all
you need (on an average day) is about 10 minutes in the sun, others say if you
were to add those 10 minutes up over your lifetime, it could be enough UV light
to lead to skin cancer.
Theoretically, you're probably getting enough incidental sun exposure, and that
it could be enough to get enough D. But, the statistics suggest otherwise,
because most of us are still low. Enter: fortified foods...right?
Unfortunately, outside of cod liver oil, there aren't that many foods that
naturally contain vitamin D3. Some foods, such as orange juice and most
cereals, have had D added to them. Just be sure it isn't laced with the cheaper
and subpar precursor D2, which is harder for your body to convert.
Another no-brainer way to get D, which many experts say is the safest, is taking
a supplement. "It can be very difficult to get ample D from sun exposure
alone," says Morrison, who notes the standard recommendation on D is about 400
international units (IU). However, he normally recommends around 1000 IU daily
for those who aren't at risk or have any health conditions related to low D -
then it could go up to even 5000 IU. And, because vitamin D is a fat-soluble
vitamin, it's better absorbed by the body when taken along with a fat-based
food, such as yogurt or a salad with olive oil dressing.
Bottom line: Go to your doctor to get a blood test to know where your levels
stand. Then, ask her to recommend a daily supplement amount to be sure you get
all the D you need. Finally, don't be afraid to let the sun shine in - just a