We are just coming out of our beautiful summer months full of sunshine. Fall is underway and winter is not too far off.
The sunlight vitamin, D, is so important to our health. This is the “pro-hormone” that is produced in our bodies when we are outside in the sunshine. Our bodies do not produce vitamin D on their own. We must keep our vitamin D levels in the right range by getting out in the sun or by supplementation and foods.
Having Multiple Sclerosis, my vitamin D levels, are of particular importance to managing my disease. In fact some research has shown that low levels of vitamin D may be a contributing factor to a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. I make sure I take in at least 5000 IU of D3 daily, along with Calcium and K2 which all work synergistically together.
There are indicators that your vitamin D levels may be low. There are ranges where you want your D levels to fall between. You can have your vitamin D tested when you go for your annual blood tests. Just ask your doctor to add your D levels to the lab sheet. The appropriate range for D to be in your blood is over 50 nmol/L – a good level for healthy bones. Approximately 30% of Canadians are below that range. With the Canadian winter being a long season of indoor living it is very appropriate for Canadians to be bumping up their D levels with supplements.
When your vitamin D levels are lower than they should be, your body may be showing you with some common symptoms.
If you are getting frequent infections like colds for example, this could be a sign of a D deficiency as Vitamin D is essential to the functioning of a healthy immune system. If your immunity is strong then your body will fight off things like viruses, colds and flu.
Are you feeling blue? Vitamin D affects mood, particularly in the winter. Many “seasonal affective disorder” or SAD, has been linked to low D levels.
If you are always feeling tired, run down, worn out for no valid reason it could be your body screaming for Vitamin D. Vitamin D converts food into energy. Energy your body needs to function at it’s peak.
I often hear people my age and older complaining about joint pain or hip pain. This could be age related but it could also be due to low Vitamin D levels. When D is low your bones weaken putting you at higher risk for bone fractures, joint strain and aches. Pump up the D…you “over 50” folks.
Muscle strength is also affected by vitamin D levels. If you have lots of aching muscles then you need to check you D levels and possibly up your vitamin D intake.
The recommendation for vitamin D is considerably lower than most of my doctor’s and naturopaths suggest. I am supplementing with 5000 IU a day and I believe the daily RDA is only 600 IU per day. I have supplemented with as much as 15,000 IU per day. An American research group from the U of California stated that their studies show that the current RDA is “only about one-tenth those needed to cut incidence of disease related to Vitamin D deficiency.”
As mentioned above Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and other minerals from foods which are critical for building and maintaining bone health. As well as bone health, vitamin D contributes to the health of the heart, kidneys, colon, brain, muscle and immune system. And research shows that high levels of D are associated with lower risk of colon cancer, MS, lupus, high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Now there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing” so you don’t want to go crazy with your D intake without having your levels tested by your doctor. Not everyone is the same. We all assimilate vitamins and minerals differently. Excess vitamin D levels are stored in fat cells, and can build up to harmful levels causing high blood calcium, damage to the heart, blood vessels and kidneys so talk with your doctor or naturopath before supplementing with high amounts of D.
In my case, I’ve been using vitamin D for a very long time. I find I take it faithfully for months on end and then back off a bit when I know I’m going to be in the sun getting it naturally. Having said that, I can’t sit in the sun for more than 10 minutes anymore as the heat of it causes my MS symptoms to flare up so I can only bask in the sun if I’m half submerged in a cool swimming pool while soaking up the sunny rays.
The best way to get your vitamin D is to expose your skin to the sun, without sunscreen, for about 20 minutes per day. This is not always possible. Foods which contribute to D health are cod liver oil, fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna and herring. If you are going to supplement get a quality D3 supplement or D3 oil and do so with your doctors approval.
Enjoy the sunshine.