Vitamin D: Sunshine, Sunbeds or Supplements?
Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to some pretty scary things, like colon and prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. Almost every cell in our body has a vitamin D receptor, and all those receptors are there for a reason. Most of us know that we need vitamin D to form and maintain strong bones, but that’s not all vitamin D is good for. Deficiencies have been linked to daytime sleepiness, depression, autoimmune disease, insulin resistance, complications during pregnancy, muscle and joint pain, obesity, and problems with the thyroid to name a few. To top it all off, it’s been found that low vitamin D levels increases your risk of death by 26%. Wow.
Frequent colds or respiratory infections?
This could be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency (correct). However, it is even more likely to be a sign of sunlight deprivation.
Colds and flu nearly disappear in the summer when the sun is direct. During this time of the coronavirus epidemic, everyone on earth needs daily direct or indirect sun exposure. Those who do not tan can obtain plenty of sunlight from being outdoors under an umbrella or even in the shade near where the sun is shining.
Feeling down & deflated?
Vitamin D has some links to depression (correct). Nevertheless, it is also suggested to be linked sun deprivation. Dr. Gavin Lambert and his colleagues in Australia measured serotonin levels in response to varying degrees of bright light. To do so, they drew blood samples from the internal jugular veins of 101 men and compared the serotonin concentrations of the blood to weather conditions and seasons. The results were remarkable: Men measured on a very bright day produced eight times more serotonin than those measured on a cloudy, dismal day.
How to Get Vitamin D?
Now, how do you make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D? The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun, with sunbed use and oral vitamin D3 supplementation coming in second and third. What? Am I really telling you to go get a tan? Lay in the tanning bed? Yes, but some basic rules should be followed to avoid burns and damage to the skin.
Natural sun exposure is the best way to get your Vit-D. First, before there were vitamin-fortified foods & supplements, there was the sun, the only real way for the human body to form vitamin D. It makes sense why our bodies prefer it. Rarely, if ever, is it better to supplement or work around the body’s natural processes. To get Vitamin D from the sun it requires you to spend enough time outside with the majority of your body exposed (i.e. in a bathing suit or little clothing). The amount of time this takes will depend on your skin tone and sensitivity to the sun. The ideal time of day to absorb the most UVB rays is around noon.
Now, regarding sun beds, you must be selective about the type of sunbed you choose. “Low pressure” beds are the better choice as they deliver more UVB lights when compared to “high pressure” beds, which deliver more UVA. So, low pressure sunbeds are good for vitamin D production, second to real sun exposure, but only if you don’t burn. For people who live in countries with poorer weather – where it may rain frequently or see little decent sunshine, this can be an ideal option for vitamin D.
Lastly, there is oral supplementation with vitamin D. Now, I mentioned that your body makes vitamin D3. It makes sense to try to take something as similar to what your body naturally produces, so look for vitamin D3 when you go shopping. There are vitamin D2 supplements out there, but you don’t want that. Vitamin D2 is a vegetable-derived source and does not function in the body the same way. Vitamin D3 is absorbed about five hundred times faster, is 87% more effective in raising vitamin D levels, has a longer shelf life, and is more bioavailable.
As for doses of vitamin D, the sources vary in their recommendations but anywhere between 4000-8000 IUs/day is probably what it will take to raise and maintain a healthy level. As I mentioned before, it is always a good idea to have your levels monitored to ensure they are in a good range. Doses may need to be adjusted based on your ability to absorb vitamin D, your size, and your exposure to the sun.
1. H.A., Bischoff-Ferrari. Deptartment of Rheumatology, Institute of Physical Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, “Optimal serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels for multiple health outcomes.” Last modified 2008. Accessed April 1, 2013.
2. G. Bjelakovic, et al., Vitamin D Supplementation for Prevention of Mortality in Adults, The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, July 6, 2011: (7); CD007470, G.
3. Dr. John Cannell, Meta-analysis Looks at Efficacy of D2 vs D3, Vitamin D Council, November 16, 2011.
4. Robert P. Heaney, et al., Vitamin D3 Is More Potent Than Vitamin D2 in Humans, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, March 1, 2011: 96 (3); E447-E452.
5. More info at https://sunlightinstitute.org