Do You Get Enough of the Sunshine Vitamin?
We’ve all heard that Vitamin D is the “Sunshine Vitamin!” Vitamin D, especially D3, is sooooo good for you! It does amazing things for your body on every level, including your brain.
What IS Vitamin D3?
Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin in the D family. Its siblings are D1 and D2. Although you can get vitamin D from supplements, including in fortified milk and orange juice, your body also produces Vitamin D naturally when you get enough exposure to sunlight.
Amazingly, even in the southern United States, Americans have endemic levels of Vitamin D deficiency. In the north, where days are short and sun is limited much of the year, especially in winter, that’s understandable. People don’t necessarily have enough time outside in the sunlight to get the right amount of sunshine to generate the Vitamin D production they need. In the south, the effect is reversed: people stay out of the sun and make the most of the air conditioning in the hot summer months. Even in Florida, the Sunshine State, and sunny Arizona, Vitamin D levels are low because of the necessarily heavy use of sunscreen to avoid aging and skin cancer.
Among many other things, the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light just how many Americans are deficient in Vitamin D3.
Why do you need Vitamin D3?
Vitamin D fights disease! It boosts your immune system, reducing your chances of getting the flu, reducing your risk of MS and decreasing your chance of heart disease. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, promoting bone growth over time and helping prevent rickets and fragile bones in adults.
Research is still in early stages, but doctors noticed a correlation between lower Vitamin D levels and worse outcomes in patients who had COVID-19. Whether there’s a causation is yet to be determined. The correlation could be related to overall immune system health, or it could be more specific.
Vitamin D deficiency is connected to various cancers – including colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer – depression, weight gain, heart disease and other health issues. Vitamin D levels have everything to do with your mental well-being. It may be that the reason people associate sunshine with happiness is that sunshine stimulate Vitamin D production, making you happier!
Vitamin D helps keep bones and teeth strong, which is why it’s so closely tied to calcium in supplementing both milk and orange juice. The Vitamin D works with calcium to help the body better absorb both nutrients and strengthen bones. Vitamin D supplementation in milk began for exactly that reason, to help children grow without the deficiencies and subsequent problems of past generations, including rickets. Proper levels of Vitamin D can also help prevent osteoporosis in older adults, especially women.
Your mood is also affected by Vitamin D! That’s just one reason being in the sun makes so many people feel happier. Just a few minutes of sun exposure a day helps your body produce enough Vitamin D to improve mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder, which impacts some people when they don’t get enough sun and blue skies in the winter, may be helped through Vitamin D3 supplementation.
Where can you get Vitamin D3?
Besides fortified products like milk and orange juice, as well as spending enough time in the sun, you can get Vitamin D3 from many food sources. Foods that are rich in Vitamin D3 include oily fish such as a salmon and tuna, red meat, egg yolks, cheese and beef liver.
You can, of course, take supplements to boost your Vitamin D3 levels as well. All supplements are not created equal, nor are they regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. If you’re deficient in Vitamin D3, ask your doctor to recommend a quality supplement to help restore your levels.
Should you get tested for Vitamin D3 levels?
The short answer is yes. Many, if not most, American adults are deficient in this vital nutrient. As you age, your body may not be as able to synthesize the vitamin as well from sunlight. The darker your skin tone, the more melanin you have, and the lower your synthesis will be. That means it takes more time in the sun with more of your skin exposed to the sun to get the same levels of Vitamin D as someone who is paler. Even if you think you’re getting enough sunlight to have the right levels of Vitamin D, you may be deficient.
Vitamin D3 deficiency can lead to a host of problems, including cancers, mood issues, osteoporosis, bone loss and more. It’s important to make sure that your levels of Vitamin D3 are within a healthy range and to address the deficiency immediately if they are not.
How can you get tested?
- How much time do you spend outside?
- How much sunscreen do you use and what SPF is it?
- Do you eat red meat and fish regularly?
- Do you have osteoporosis or a family history of osteoporosis?
- Do you have celiac disease, kidney disease, IBS or other condition that makes it harder for your body to absorb and use Vitamin D3?
If your doctor determines that you do need to have your Vitamin D3 levels tested, they’ll add the order to your standing bloodwork as part of your regular physical exam OR they can order it as a separate test if they feel there’s a need.
Don’t wait until you have a problem to check your Vitamin D3 levels. Find out now if you have the right levels of this important nutrient so you can stay healthy! You can walk into any of our 11 UrgentCare 24/7 locations and get a Vitamin D3 test without waiting. Our caring professionals will work with you to treat and monitor your Vitamin D levels to make sure you are living your healthiest life! Come see us today.