What is one vitamin that is very important to our health that we have no idea we may be deficient from? If you guessed right, it’s the lovely Vitamin D.
In this blog, I will be talking about what the best sources of Vitamin D are, the common signs and symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency, why it’s so important and what is the most absorbable form of Vitamin D, and how can you ensure that you are getting the adequate dose if you choose not to go the supplemental route.
First off, what is Vitamin D and why is it important for our body? Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins our body needs that has a powerful healthy effect on several systems in our body. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in foods, dietary supplements, and the sun. It is a necessary nutrient that aids calcium absorption to give us what our body needs for maintaining strong and healthy bones while supporting the immune system.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
·Getting sick often
·Fatigue and tiredness
·Bone and back pain
Vitamin D deficiency is very common, and many may not know they have it. If you feel like you may have a deficiency, please speak with your doctor so you can get your levels checked. I didn’t even know I deficient until recently when I had my physical, but my doctor said it is expected due to the pandemic and not having enough sunlight. Which brings us to the next question.
What is the best source of Vitamin D?
Because it may be a bit difficult to get the recommended dose of Vitamin D, a lot of people turn to sunlight. Sun exposure is the best source when it comes to absorbing vitamin D. Since it is hard to avoid during the sunny days here in Texas, I will be going more into depth on how to make sure you are exposing yourself safely.
Vitamin D is made from cholesterol in your skin which is why it is important to get sunlight to maintain your Vitamin D levels. That is why it is called the “Sunshine Vitamin”. Of course, too much sunlight does come with its risks if not done properly. The best time to get sunlight is midday around noon because the sun is at its highest point and the UVB rays are more intense. This means you’ll absorb more Vitamin D with less time in the sun. Wearing shorts, a hat, sunglasses, and bright colored tank top will expose your skin more so depending on how sensitive your skin is, try getting 10-30 minutes of sun exposure 3x a week without sunscreen. If you begin to feel that you are starting to burn before the time is up, apply sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Those that have tanner skin, may need more time out in the sun.
// ALWAYS hydrate before, during, and after to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion.
The reason why you should avoid wearing sunscreen for the first 10-30 minutes (again, apply it if you feel you are about to start burning before the 30min point) is because the sole purpose behind wearing sunscreen is to protect your skin from UV and UVB rays. UVB rays are what your body needs to make vitamin D.
Too much sun exposure especially without the proper sunscreen can cause:
·Sunspots and skin changes
Please be cautious of the sunscreen you choose to apply onto your skin.
Just because the sunscreen has a higher SPF doesn’t mean it is entirely doing its job.
There are 2 types of sunscreens: physical also known as mineral and chemical.
Chemical sunscreens get absorbed into the skin and act like a sponge to absorb the heat. After 30 minutes, it is no longer protecting your skin. These sunscreens contain active ingredients such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, or octinoxate which makes it easier to rub onto your skin. To protect your skin from harmful UV rays, you would have to apply it 30 minutes prior to your sun exposure which is annoying, but again, it contains chemicals that absorb UV rays.
Physical/ mineral sunscreens sits on the top of the skin as a barrier and shields your skin to protect it. It is a “reflector” sunscreen because their active ingredient is only either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide whose job is to physically block and reflect the UV rays before those rays touches your skin. It begins immediately protecting your skin as soon as it is applied to your skin. There is no need to apply half an hour beforehand like with chemical sunscreens.
If you’re not sure if your sunscreen is a chemical or a physical, look at the ingredients to see if any of the chemical ingredients mentioned above are listed.
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2 other sources of absorbing Vitamin D are fortified foods and supplements.
Vitamin D Rich and Fortified Foods
Because Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it does not dissolve in water. Now, what does that mean? It simply means that because it is not dissolvable, it is absorbed into your bloodstream when it is consumed with high fatty foods and is stored. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins. There are two types of D vitamins that occur naturally.. Vitamin D-2 and Vitamin D-3. Vitamin D-3 is found in animal fats and Vitamin D-2 is found in plants such as mushrooms. It is recommended that people of all ages get 400-800 IU or 10-20mcg daily.
The healthiest foods that are the highest in vitamin D:
·Salmon (or any fatty fish)
·Cod Liver Oil
·Canned Tuna, Sardines
·Soy Milk and Plant-Based Milk
Of course, there are a lot of other foods that contain Vitamin D. The key is to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts to reach the daily intake. Look at the nutritional facts to see how much Vitamin D each food contains and the serving for it.
Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin Supplements are another route to know that you’re getting the recommended daily/weekly dosage. It is fast, gets absorbed into the body, leaving you stress free without worrying whether you got enough sun or ate enough fortified foods. Be sure to check with your primary care physician before taking any supplements.
In summary, expose yourself for 10-30 minutes depending on how sensitive your skin is. If you have tanner skin, you may need more time out in the sun and be sure to apply a physical/mineral sunscreen when you feel your skin is starting to burn to avoid sunburn. STAY HYDRATED! It is recommended that people of all ages get 400-800 IU or 10-20mcg daily. Try and eat foods that are high in Vitamin D to make sure you get the recommended daily dosage. Those that are older may need more than the recommended dose. Speak with your PCP before starting any supplement or schedule an appointment if you would like to get your levels checked.
I hope everyone has a wonderful day and soak up that Vitamin D!