The Sunshine Vitamin – are you getting enough?

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Most of us are now very aware of the damage the sun can cause and the days of sun baking and sun worship are gone. The nationalised program of “slip, slop, slap, wrap” to cover up with clothing, hats, sunscreen and sunglasses has become a national mantra to protect against sunburn. It is no surprise when New Zealand rates of melanoma are the highest in the world. Shunning the sun has meant many have taken a toll on their health without realising it. This combined with aspects such as an indoor lifestyle, increased age, increased weight, dark pigmented skin and dietary constraints such as avoiding dairy products, adhering to a strict vegan diet or those who are on cholesterol lowering medication impact the level of Vitamin D intake.  The “sunshine vitamin”, Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight, but it is also occurs naturally in a few foods – including some fish, (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel), fish liver oils, egg yolks, and fortified dairy.

Many people tested for Vitamin D levels show that they are below optimal levels.  Generally it is considered 5 to 15 minutes of daily summer sun exposure on bare skin on our arms and legs, to give us enough Vitamin D to help keep us healthy.

The symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency in adults include:

  • unexplained fatigue
  • severe bone or muscle pain
  • stress fractures, especially in the legs, pelvis, and hips

The change of season often means increased chances of winter bugs. Cold wet days of winter and end of summer for many of us means reduced outdoor time and decreased sunshine exposure.

It is not surprising with the change of season that more people come down with lurgies as the drop in this vitamin has been linked to a decrease in immune function. Vitamin D for many years has been one of those nutrients that have gone almost unnoticed by many because we make it naturally with sun exposure. Recent studies have shown there is a connection to this nutrient with supporting the immune system, mood balance, bone health and other serious illnesses.

Vitamin D is important for:

  • Normal growth and development of bones and teeth
  • Disease resistance
  • reducing risk of some serious illnesses.
  • reducing risk of ills and chills.
  • Supporting weight Management
  • Supporting balanced mood.
  • Bone strength and integrity
  • Healthy heart function and normal blood pressure
  • Joint mobility
  • Protective effect from some serious illnesses

Doctors can diagnose a Vitamin D deficiency by performing a simple blood test. If you have had your Vitamin D levels tested, it’s important to understand what the results mean, and what action you might need to take. The results of the blood test can tell you whether you’re getting too little, too much or the right amount of vitamin D.

There has been some controversy over the amount of vitamin D needed for healthy functioning. Recent research indicates that you need more vitamin D than was once thought. Normal blood serum levels range from 50 to 100 micrograms per decilitre. Depending on your blood level, your Vitamin D intake needs may be increased.

Vitamin D blood levels  
0-10ng ml Deficiency – likely to have health problems
10-20 ng/ml Low levels
20-30 ng/ml Maybe enough
40-50 ng/ml Getting enough
50-60 ng/ml Good range/ normal
60-70 ng/ml High normal
80-90 ng/mg Higher than normal range
100 -150 ng/mg Not toxic but considered too high
<150 ng/mg Levels considered toxic and may be damaging to your health
   

 

If you feel you are lacking Vitamin D and are looking for a way to supplement it, consider adding Vitamin D rich foods into your diet, enjoy a few minutes of sunshine daily and look for supplements such as a multivitamin, Cod Liver oil and calcium products with it added.

Always read the label and use as directed. Supplementary to a balanced diet. Endeavour Consumer Health, Auckland