Before the year 2000, very few doctors ever considered the possibility that you might be vitamin D deficient. But as the technology to measure vitamin D became inexpensive and widely available, more and more studies were done, and it became increasingly clear that vitamin D deficiency was rampant.
Most adults are not getting enough vitamin D, which we need for bone health and, more and more research suggests, for protection against many diseases including various types of cancer.
Researchers estimate that 50 percent of the general population is at risk of vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency, and this percentage rises in higher-risk populations such as the elderly and those with darker skin.
We get vitamin D from fortified milk and cereals as well as from eggs, salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines, and our bodies make it with exposure to sunlight. Unfortunately, many people don’t get optimal sun exposure, particularly in northern latitudes during the grey winter months, or just too much time indoors at their laptops. In addition, sunscreen, that most women apply daily in their moisturisers and foundation, blocks vitamin D synthesis in the skin. Dermatologists and beauticians have made us so fearful about UV damage to skin that many people don’t get enough direct exposure to sunlight regardless of where they live.
Fortunately, if you get enough sun exposure in the summer, your body will make and store almost enough vitamin D to get you through the winter. However, this doesn’t work so well if you’re obese because body fat holds onto vitamin D and doesn’t release it efficiently, says Michael Holick, Ph.D., M.D., an expert at Boston University.
Because so many people don’t get sufficient vitamin D from sun exposure or their diets, I recommend a daily supplement of 2,000 IU during winter months. Use the D3 form (cholecalciferol) and take it with a fat-containing meal to ensure absorption. There are no concerns about toxicity with this dose of supplemental vitamin D (the body will make 10,000 to 20,000 IU per day with moderate exposure to the summer sun).
Signs you may have a vitamin D deficiency include:
- Aged over 50,
- Having darker skin,
- Achy bones and fatigue (often misdiagnosed for fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)
- Feeling blue, Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure. In 2006, scientists evaluated the effects of vitamin D on the mental health of 80 elderly patients and found those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who received healthy doses.
- Head sweating (this is a classic sign)
- Gut problems – Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means if you have a gastrointestinal condition that affects your ability to absorb fat, you may have lower absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D as well. This includes gut conditions like Crohn’s, celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Optimizing your vitamin D levels may help you prevent bone health issues, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, infections, mental health conditions, and more. So enjoy winter sunshine whenever you can!
For further information regarding testing and nutritional consultancy contact Suzanne Garaty Tel: 647397501
Up-coming workshop 4 April: Springtime Superfood Brunch in Santa Catalina, Palma