Sometimes We Need More Than Sunshine

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a central role in many components of health. It stands out from other vitamins because your body is able to make most of what you need through exposure to sunlight, which is why it’s often dubbed the “sunshine vitamin.” But sometimes we need more than sunshine.

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Vitamin D is critical to several different systems in your body. It assists your digestive system to help your gut absorb calcium from the foods that you eat. Calcium is vital for building and maintaining strong and healthy bones. Vitamin D also blocks the release of the parathyroid hormone, which makes bones weak and brittle by reabsorbing bone tissue. Calcium and Vitamin D together improve your skeletal health, as well as the condition of your teeth. Vitamin D is not found in fresh fruits and vegetables, like most other essential vitamins. It is obtained through sun exposure, specific foods, and supplements. As people are getting less sun exposure and are using strong sunscreens, we are seeing a decrease in people’s serum vitamin D. It is often difficult to get the proper vitamin D intake. There are foods that are easy to incorporate into your diet to boost Vitamin D levels without taking supplements.

  • Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon.
  • Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals.
  • Beef liver.
  • Cheese.
  • Egg yolks.

Along with your diet, when your skin is exposed to sunlight, the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun provide energy that helps the cholesterol in your skin produce vitamin D. It’s generally recommended to squeeze in at least 5–30 minutes of sun exposure two times per week to help meet your vitamin D needs, although this can vary based on a number of factors, including age, skin color and body weight.

Adequate vitamin D may aid in weight management, boosts brain health, may prevent cancer formation, strengthens bones, and improves immune function.

Hi, I'm Dr. John Shim, and today I'd like to talk about why you need vitamin D. We are told we need our vitamins. Then a few years ago, there are comments on taking all these vitamins was a waste of money. I know - a bit confusing. As always, the details are important. As an orthopedic surgeon and a spinal specialist I will tell you that vitamin D is a very important component for your bone health. Without it you run the risk of stress fractures. With it your bones will heal stronger. This is not just a problem for older folks. There have been several studies from the US Navy, the Israeli army, and the Finnish military that showed lower rates of stress fractures during military training for young recruits with higher vitamin D levels. Despite vitamin D fortification of dairy products; the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the United States is very high. Elderly folks have a high rate of deficiency. Even young healthy Americans have a between 30 and 50 percent chance of deficiency of vitamin D. Those who live in northern climates with less sun exposure have even higher rates of vitamin D deficiency. This brings up a very common concept about vitamin D and sun exposure. Unfortunately, the vast majority people just do not get enough sun exposure to make their own vitamin D, and the effective sunscreen while helpful in other aspects also decrease the vitamin D production from the Sun. So, who is at most risk of vitamin D deficiency? As stated before it's the elderly, but it's also breastfed infants because mother's milk is not fortified. Dark-skinned individuals skin pigments also decrease vitamin D production, and those with limited sun exposure also have deficiencies. Folks with multiple stress fractures should be screened for vitamin D deficiency as several studies clearly show that deficiency associated with stress fractures and poor bone healing. The latest recommendations for vitamin D daily consumption is between 800 1,000 international units of vitamin D for folks over the age of 50. Also vitamin d3 is preferred over vitamin d2, and we recommend consuming 1000 milligrams of calcium together with the vitamin D for fracture prevention. Additional potential benefits of vitamin D is protection from colon cancer, protection from type 1 diabetes, regulation of blood pressure, and improvement of mental capacities. The bottom line is vitamin D is very important for many reasons, and that is why serum vitamin D is commonly tested during an annual physician evaluation. Take your vitamin D, protect your bones. This is Dr. John Shim, and I hope you'll consider your vitamin D needs. Thanks for watching.

Last modified: June 19, 2019

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