Vitamin D: How to Get Enough of the Sunshine Nutrient

Vitamin D is the sunshine nutrient, making the summer months ideal for addressing poor vitamin D stores and impacting your health in a positive way. It is important to test and ensure your body is maintaining optimal levels throughout the year.

Vitamin D is a widespread deficiency in Ontario, Canada throughout the year, but especially during the 6 months of Fall and Winter when we experience fewer hours of sunlight through the day. 


The health benefits of Vitamin D are extensive and include impact to:


  • Energy & mental function
  • Mood (including anxiety & depression)
  • Immune function
  • Hormonal function (including fertility & pregnancy)
  • Heart disease (including high blood pressure & high cholesterol)
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • Healthy weight management
  • …and more


Testing


A simple blood test can assess your current levels of Vitamin D. Speak to your family doctor or naturopathic doctor to receive a test requisition for 25-hydroxy or 1,25-hydroxy vitamin D. Once you receive your results, you can better determine the optimal ways to improve your vitamin D status. Note that toxicity is a concern with vitamin D, so the safe use of supplementation should be overseen by a medical provider. 


Best Sources of Vitamin D

  • Foods, including:
    • Salmon, mackerel, sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna, beef liver and egg yolks 
  • Supplementation of vitamin D3 (dosed based on your test results)
    • Can be taken in pills, drops, or injection form 
  • Sun Exposure


Considerations for Sun Exposure and Vitamin D

The safe exposure to sun can be tricky when seeking to improve your vitamin D stores.


Timing

The ideal time for higher doses of vitamin D is mid-day, when UVB is at its highest. The amount of time required varies, but general recommendations are to start with 10-15 minutes daily to avoid burning the skin or increasing risk of sun damage.


Sunscreen

Note that applying sunscreen can significantly reduce vitamin D conversion, with some estimates suggesting up to 95% reduction with sunscreen use.


Body surface area

The surface area of your body that is exposed to sun can also impact the amount of vitamin D you create, with some studies suggesting chest, abdomen and back exposure to be the most beneficial as they involve a larger surface area.


Skin Colour

Finally, the colour of your skin may impact vitamin D absorption. Fair skin tends to convert vitamin D more readily, while darker skin requires longer sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D. This difference is attributed to higher amounts of melanin present in darker skin, a compound that protects the skin from sun damage. People who have darker skin tend to be more deficient in vitamin D and are more likely to require supplementation of this nutrient for its health benefits.


Have you tested your vitamin D? Book an appointment with me if you would like any support with optimizing your vitamin D levels. 

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