The Great Sun Debate

Everyone knows that Vitamin D comes from the sun, yet we're all told not to be in the sun for prolonged periods of time. So how are we supposed to get enough Vitamin D without having a little fun in the sun?

September 15, 2015
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Everyone knows that Vitamin D comes from the sun, yet we’re all told not to be in the sun for prolonged periods of time. Vitamin D deficiency has risen over the past 10 years in all ages. So how on earth (literally) are we supposed to get enough Vitamin D without having a little fun in the sun? What really happens when we’re deficient in vitamin D?

For nearly five decades following its discovery, scientists believed vitamin D was primarily involved in regulating calcium absorption and maintaining good bone health. Within the last 40 years, however, researchers have learned that vitamin D is more like a hormone than a vitamin.  Scientists have been exploring the role of vitamin D in electrolyte metabolism, protein synthesis, immunity, and nerve and muscle functions.

Did you know that over 75 percent of Americans may be insufficient in Vitamin D?  In older individuals, vitamin D insufficiency has been linked to muscular weakness, poor balance, delayed reaction time, and a higher risk for falls and fractures. Low vitamin D levels can have a negative effect on young people and athletes too.

According to Dana Storlie-Ogan, a nutritionist at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, athletes who do not get enough vitamin D might find their performance lagging.  They may require longer recovery times, and they could be more prone to stress fractures and muscle injuries. Indoor Athletes are especially likely to develop vitamin D insufficiency.

I can remember living in Boston, feeling fatigued, my mind was foggy, and by the afternoon and I was totally useless.  This from the woman who walked several miles a day around the city, in the sun, to and from clients.  Imagine my surprise when my doctor told me I was deficient in vitamin D. Here I thought I was a little run down.  After just three days of adding a vitamin D supplement to my morning regimen, I was amazed at how much better I felt. I was full of energy, able to think clearly and take on the day.

The only way to know for sure if you’re vitamin D deficient is via blood testing. However, there are some signs and symptoms to be aware of as well. If any of the following apply to you, be sure get your vitamin D levels tested with your doctor.

You’re feeling fatigued or depressed:  Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure.  Think of the recent new “seasonal disorder” which is prone to those living in areas with long, grey-dreary seasons.

You’re overweight:  Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, hormone-like vitamin, which means body fat acts as a sink by collecting it. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re likely to need more vitamin D than a slimmer person.

Sweaty head:  A classic sign of vitamin D deficiency is a sweaty head. In fact, physicians used to ask new mothers about head sweating in their newborns for this very reason. Excessive sweating in newborns due to neuromuscular irritability is still described as a common, early symptom of vitamin D deficiency.

Intestinal troubles:  If you have a gastrointestinal condition that affects your ability to absorb fat, you may have lower absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D as well. This can include stomach conditions like Crohn’s, celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and inflammatory bowel disease.

So what does this all mean? The average person needs between 3,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D every day. Physically active people require more vitamin D to achieve top performance in their sport.  Being out in the sun can help improve vitamin D levels however, it is important to be sure your levels are up to par with what your doctor says it right for you.

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