With Spring in the air and increasing hours of daylight – people are more inclined to expose their limbs to natural sunlight while running. This feeling of freedom is so good, but also has the essential benefit of producing vitamin D and more specifically vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) in your body. Vitamin D is responsible for over a thousand biochemical processes and is essential for your mental and physical wellbeing, which is why you should also aim to include foods rich in vitamin D in your weekly diet. For those that are deficient – in supplement form, this is one of those no-brainer vitamins – especially if you have or want to prevent any of the following:
- Getting sick or infected often
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Bone and back pain
- Depression and feeling down
- Impaired wound healing
- Bone loss and fractures
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain
- Unexplained posture pain
Vitamin D is the only vitamin produced when you are exposed to sunlight, which is why you should spend as much time as possible out in nature. However, up to 50% of the world’s population may not get enough sun, and 40% of residents in the Western world are deficient in vitamin D. This is partly because people spend more time indoors, wear sunblock outside and eat a Western diet low in good sources of this vitamin. Being out in the sunlight will not only produce vital vitamin D, but you will also have the added bonus of producing serotonin from the calming effects of being in nature.
Foods high in vitamin D
- Herring & sardines
- Cod liver oil
- Canned tuna
- Egg yolk
- Fortified foods (Vitamin D Added) – cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, cereals
However, this can be a problem if you don’t like fish and have an intolerance to milk protein or you are vegetarian or vegan. In which case you will definitely need to take a vitamin D supplement.
Unlike for other vitamins, every single cell in your body has a receptor for vitamin D making it vital for holistic health. Vitamins D and A are the first group of substances that have been reported to exhibit properties of skin hormones and have the same properties to maintain cellular health, metabolism and regeneration of skin cells – placing it in the anti-ageing category of health supplements (1).
Other newly detected functions of vitamin D include profound effects on the immune system as well as protection against cancer and other diseases, including autoimmune and infectious diseases, in various tissues. The current investigation of the biological effects of vitamin D is likely to lead to new therapeutic applications that, besides cancer prevention, may include the prevention and treatment of infectious as well as of inflammatory skin diseases.
Along with the sunshine, how much vitamin D should you consume?
According to the Vitamin D Research Council and the US National Institute of Health the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for an adult range from 600-800 IU (international units) per day from foods (2). If you don’t get enough sunlight, your intake should be a minimum of 1,000 IU per day or more. However, these levels are minimal recommendations, because other experts recommend more, i.e. 1000 IU’s per 25lbs / 11kg / 1.8st of body weight. ‘Personally somewhere in between sounds right to me’.
|A 13st / 81kg man||7000 IU’s|
|A 7st / 51kg woman||4000 IU’s|
Some experts even recommend an annual blood test to find out where your blood levels are so that you can titrate your levels back up to what is recommended.
Definition of titration: a method or process of determining the concentration of a dissolved substance in terms of the smallest amount of reagent of known concentration required to bring about a given effect in reaction with a known volume of the test solution.
Here are 7 common risk factors for vitamin D deficiency:
- Having dark skin. You need more
- Being elderly
- Being overweight or obese
- Not eating much fish or dairy
- Living far from the equator where there is little sun year-round
- Always using sunscreen when going out
- Staying indoors under fluorescent lighting
There have even been reports in the US where over-protective parent are creating rickets in their children by being overprotective with sunscreen and restricting sunlight, believing it to be harmful.
In summary, get outside – be sensible – protect your skin, but allow enough exposure to produce vitamin D – and make sure you don’t burn or overheat. Natural sunshine is one of the healthiest contacts in nature we can have. Even the shortest exposure to natural light daily will help you produce this wonder vitamin.
1. Reichrath J, Lehmann B, Carlberg C, Varani J, Zouboulis CC. Vitamins as Hormones. Horn Metab Res. 2007 Feb;39(2):71-84