As we are in the deepest depths of the winter in the Northern hemisphere, now might be a good time to resurrect my favorite hobby horse – the importance of vitamin D in our lives.
Unless you have spent the whole of a sunny summer outside and stripped down – for example as a gardener, a builder or a lifeguard – you are more than likely to be vitamin D deficient and in urgent need of some supplemental boosting to get you through the winter ahead. While blood serum levels of D3 can be tested to ensure what dosage you may need for your body’s optimum health, you cannot go far wrong with taking a daily dose of 2000 - 5000 international units (IUs) of a vitamin D3 supplement from a reputable supplier.
You need vitamin D all year round
There are so many conditions that can be improved or even completely eliminated by ensuring high vitamin D levels. The very best way is through safe exposure of sunshine during the warmer months followed by vitamin D3 supplementation if necessary (particularly in the colder months). Expose as much skin as possible for 20 minutes or so (until the skin starts to turn slightly pink) during those two hours on either side of midday. Occasional sunlight exposure to your face and hands is insufficient for vitamin D nutrition for most people. To optimize your levels, you need to expose large portions of your skin to the sun, and you may need to do it for more than a few minutes.
Your skin tone can affect your vitamin D levels
Research published by Grassroots Health from their D*Action study shows the average adult needs to take 8,000 IUs of vitamin D per day in order to elevate their levels above 40 ng/ml, which they believe is the absolute minimum for disease prevention. The average white American has a level near 25 ng/ml, while the average African American has a level near 16 ng/ml emphasizing the fact that the darker your skin, the more vitamin D you need. Indeed, if you have dark skin, you may need up to 10 times more sun exposure to maintain an optimal vitamin D level than someone with pale skin.
Redheads will generally have to supplement rather than expose their skin to the sun as sadly, they appear to be genetically predisposed to developing melanoma, regardless of whether or not they spend time in the sun.
Can you take too much vitamin D3 supplementation?
It is very difficult to overdose with vitamin D3 unless you take mega-dose supplements for more than a couple of weeks. During the summer months, vitamin D production from sunshine has an automatic cut off on production when your serum levels have reached sufficient levels.
While vitamin D3 is synthesized by the action of the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) spectrum with 7-dehydrocholesterol molecules in our skin, most vitamin D3 supplements are created by exposing the 7-dehydrocholesterol molecules of lanolin from sheep’s wool to UVB rays.
Why is vitamin D so vital?
We refer to vitamin D as a vitamin but it is also a pro-hormone, which acts as support to existing hormones or as a precursor for more hormonal production. It is often nick named the “feel good hormone” because of its exceptional benefits to your health and your well being. It is becoming well known that lower to deficient levels of this feel good hormone can put you at great risk to a whole host of conditions:
- Among the benefits of vitamin D is its ability to improve mood and vanquish depression – something that is very important during the dark, winter months. Higher levels of vitamin D come with the potential to prevent and treat depression, seasonal affective disorder or SAD, anxiety and even schizophrenia.
- Vitamin D, which is produced in your body in response to sunlight exposure, induces cathelicidin, an antimicrobial peptide, which attacks oral bacteria linked to dental caries.
- The incidence of breast cancer can be reduced by as much as 75% through maintaining adequate blood levels of vitamin D.
- There are an endless list of vitamin D health benefits if your levels are sufficiently high enough – including working like a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
- We all need a strong immune system to ward off diseases and vitamin D helps build and boost that immune system. In fact, the question of vaccines comes into play here (for example the flu vaccine). Your immune system needs vitamin D, not vaccines, to function properly. The vitamin influences nearly 3000 of your 25 000 genes, playing a critical role in your immune response – in contrast to the synthetic and even harmful immune responses that vaccines elicit.
- Now researchers have unlocked how vitamin D may benefit people with multiple sclerosis or MS. Studies have found that Vitamin D may block damage-causing immune cells from migrating to the central nervous system, offering a potential explanation for why the so-called 'sunshine vitamin' may prevent or ease symptoms of multiple sclerosis, according to new research in mice. You can find out more about this research here.
Every age group needs to ensure sufficient levels of vitamin D
What ever your age, vitamin D is proven to be an incredibly powerful immune modulator, boosting your immune system and helping to protect you from illness.
Why do children need vitamin D?
Children need vitamin D
to fight the colds, flu and other viruses or bacteria that they are going to come into contact with. If children have had a wonderful sunny summer outdoors with sensible sunlight exposure and no sunburn, but without being covered in sun block all day long, they could well have built up sufficient vitamin D levels to see them through the winter months. But you will never know if they are not tested.
Fear of sunlight
Many people are still concerned about sunlight and skin cancer. The irony is that far from causing skin cancer and in particular melanomas, safe
sunlight exposure and high vitamin D levels actually prevent these conditions. In the past few decades, the cosmetic industry has been actively promoting the use of sun blocks by building up a fear of sunshine
which is partly why many now suffer from vitamin D deficiency.
So forget the sunscreens with their toxic and even cancer causing ingredients because every tissue in our bodies needs vitamin D and will not work correctly if we do not get enough and in these winter months, supplement with vitamin D3.