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  • Susan Koursaris, NTP, BCHN®

Summer Sun, Vitamin D Fun!



Vitamin D is also known as the "sunshine vitamin.” This is because our skin produces it when exposed to sunlight! But what does vitamin D do and why is it so important?


We need vitamin D to maintain proper blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, both of which are essential for strong bones and heart health. Enough vitamin D also supports strong immune function as well as mood regulation.

 

Our bodies produce vitamin D when skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight. UVB rays, specifically, help us convert a type of cholesterol in the skin into vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). This natural process is super-efficient; it takes just 15 minutes of sun exposure to the face, arms, and legs a few times a week to enable adequate vitamin D production for many people! How much vitamin D an individual needs is dependent on several variables including age, degree of health, and current body vitamin stores. Adults require a daily amount of 600 IUs of vitamin D3, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

 

While sunlight provides what we need to make enough vitamin D, we may also need to supplement, especially in regions with limited sunlight or those who have conditions that affect absorption. Finding a quality supplement that has D3 in tandem with vitamin K2 is the best choice for optimal effectiveness. One may even need to dose at much higher amounts of vitamin D3 (5-10,000 IUs) at first, to improve a deficiency.

 

During the summer, it’s easy to get outside and enjoy the sun. Often, though, grieving can keep us indoors. And even when we do make it outside, we usually slather ourselves in sun protection first. That can be problematic.

 

Sunscreen protects the skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, such as UVB rays, which are responsible for stimulating the production of vitamin D in the skin. Most numbered SPFs (Sun Protection Factor) effectively block UVB rays from penetrating the skin, also preventing the body from producing vitamin D.

 

Bummer!

 

While it is important to protect your skin from potentially damaging UV rays, this protection comes at the cost of limiting vitamin D production. So, finding a balance between adequate sun protection and ensuring sufficient vitamin D levels is crucial. There are many body-conscious products out there, for sun protection, that have non-toxic ingredients. You can even make your own sunscreen with a bit of zinc oxide and skin nourishing components like purified tallow, honey, and shea butter!

 

Ensure you’re also consuming dietary sources of vitamin D such as fatty fish (like salmon, sardines, and tuna). If you’re lucky enough to find it, raw milk contains a good amount of vitamin D, as well.

 

There are quite a few factors that affect our ability to make Vitamin D, and deficiency can be common. Some causes are:

·      Not Enough Exposure: Insufficient exposure to sunlight, especially in regions with long winters or high latitudes, can lead to deficiency. We know this all too well, up in the midwestern states, where we can easily get the “winter blues.”

·      Skin Pigmentation: People with darker skin have more melanin, which reduces the skin's ability to produce vitamin D in response to sunlight. This can increase the risk of deficiency, especially in regions where sunlight exposure is limited.

·      Cover-up: Cultural or religious practices that involve covering the skin reduce UVB exposure and can contribute to vitamin D deficiency.

·      Old Age: It’s harder, as we age, for our skin to produce vitamin D compared to younger individuals.

·      Obesity: Vitamin D is fat-soluble and can be sequestered in fat tissue, reducing its bioavailability. Obese individuals may require higher vitamin D intake to achieve sufficient levels.

·      Stress: You saw this one coming! Stress from any source: environmental, physical, or emotional, can quickly deplete your body’s vitamin D store. It is well documented that vitamin D levels will quickly decline, following an acute stress event. This includes grief of any kind.

 

How can we tell if we have low vitamin D? Here are some symptoms of a deficiency:

·      Bone pain

·      Low immunity

·      Depression

·      Muscle aches or weakness

·      Acne

·      Fatigue

·      Hair loss

·      Memory issues

 

While these can be caused by many factors, vitamin D is still a critical nutrient to ease these kinds of symptoms, as well as to support proper cardiovascular, bone health and immune function.


Whatever point you’re at in your grieving journey, it’s important to make sure you’re still getting enough vitamin D. Don’t let grief steal your sunshine… or your sunshine vitamin! Get out there and get your daily dose of vitamin D to stay strong and healthy!

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