The Sunshine Vitamin

Posted by: Jeanette |

April 5, 2011 |

Comments (2)

Vitamin D is required by every cell and tissue in the body, and without adequate amounts we’re at risk for many serious health conditions. Our bodies make vitamin D when we’re exposed to the UV-B rays in sunlight. I feel that many people, including older adults, have been made so afraid of sunshine due to public-health messages that they’ve become deficient in this most essential nutrient. Vitamin D deficiency may be characterized by muscle pain, weak bones/fractures, low energy and fatigue, lowered immunity, symptoms of depression and mood swings, and sleep irregularities. More than half of Americans are vitamin D deficient, and this number is on the rise. Are you one of them?

Sunshine Vitamin DSunscreen Blocks Vitamin D Production
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, “the application of sunscreen with an SPF factor of 8 reduces the production of vitamin D by 95%”!   Research findings are revealing that more lives are lost to diseases caused by a lack of sunlight than to those caused by too much. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, many forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, depression and osteoporosis (since vitamin D is necessary for the absorption and utilization of calcium and phosphorous–essential for our bone health!) Doctors in many parts of the world-including California- report a resurgence of childhood rickets, soft bones caused by lack of vitamin D.

Safe Sun Exposure
The good news is that there is a wealth of health benefits to be enjoyed when we’re vitamin D replete. And there is no doubt in my mind that nature provides the best way for us to get our vitamin D, when exposure is limited to safe amounts. Most of know this instinctively. Our bodies are remarkably efficient. Between May and September (particularly during the summer), even as little as 15 minutes in the sun (without sunscreen) in the early morning and later afternoon is enough for most light-skinned individuals to get plenty of vitamin D. This is the most common recommendation from physicians as it is both achievable and healthful for most people.  Darker skin individuals may require up to 40 minutes.  Never stay in the sun long enough for it to burn your skin. Be sensible and practice moderation.  Melanoma is a serious condition, so don’t increase your risk with unhealthy sun exposure.

Other Vitamin D Sources
For those who are not able to get sufficient sun exposure, then you’ll want to use food sources and/or vitamin D supplementation. Fish, such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, oysters and herring, is a good source of vitamin D and small amounts are found in eggs, real butter and fish liver oils. However, foods rarely provide enough vitamin D.  If you don’t get out in the sun often, then consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement, at least in the winter months. (Make sure you’re not taking vitamin D2 as it has more potential for toxicity and is much less effective than D3.)

How Much Vitamin D?
I’ve read tons of research material and articles about vitamin D by many doctors, scientists and other respected health professionals. The majority of them are recommending at least 1000-2000 IU of vitamin D3 daily, claiming that the government’s current RDA amounts are way too low for good health. The truth is that adequate levels are probably highly individualized and depend on a variety of factors. Vitamin D deficiency should not be taken lightly. To know whether your D-deficient and how much you need to boost your levels, consider getting a blood test from your healthcare professional.

Vitamin D Testing
Many doctors once scoffed at the notion of vitamin D deficiency, but testing has become more routine and is covered by most insurance. You’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test, also called a 25 (OH) D.  This blood test measures your levels in nanograms per milliliter (NG/ML).  Hopefully your doctor is up on the current research on vitamin D levels. A conventional doctor might think that 20 NG/ML is normal, but based on the massive amounts of research that has been done in the last few years, that recommendation is woefully inadequate.  Hopefully the standard of conventional care will be upgraded soon.  Many of the health and wellness experts and sources that I trust and respect recommend the following about vitamin D levels:

  • Less than 20 NG/ML is considered deficient
  • 30 NG/ML is the minimum amount essential to get D’s benefits
  • 40-60 NG/ML is considered optimal for disease prevention.

Work with your health care professional to safely achieve optimal levels. Keep in mind that in the end, optimal health is not just about one thing. Vitamin D is one part of a dynamically changing picture. Pay attention to how you feel and investigate your vitamin D level as part of a comprehensive approach to your whole health. And if at all possible, get outside and have some fun in the sun. When enjoyed wisely, sunshine is one of nature’s best healthy gifts!

Interesting Links
Visit to get the latest information and research on vitamin D. Grassroots Health has launched a worldwide public health campaign to solve the vitamin D deficiency epidemic through a focus on testing and education with all individuals spreading the word. They are leading the way with their in-depth research and have many reputable scientists on their panel and many health professionals that support their work.

Here’s a link to a cool video presentation about vitamin D given by Dr. Oz. It’s visual and easy to understand. Depending on your internet speed it may take a minute for it to download, so be patient. It’s worth it.


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2 Responses to “The Sunshine Vitamin”

  1. Val says:

    Hi Jeanette. Thanks for this great article. I’ve been thinking about getting a vitamin D test. After reading this I’ve decided to go ahead and do it. Thanks for the nudge. You’re the greatest!

    • Jeanette says:

      Hi Val,
      Glad to hear that you’re wanting to be more aware. I would love to hear what you find out from your test. Summertime is the easiest time to maintain our natural vitamin D production. Soak up some of those rays when the sun is not too hot.

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