Vitamin D that is.
When I was a kid, we learned that Vitamin D is important for healthy bones. Now we know that just about every type of tissue in your body has receptors for Vitamin D. Which isn’t so much a vitamin as a hormone with many, many jobs.
Like all steroid hormones, vitamin D is involved in making hundreds of enzymes and proteins, which are crucial for preserving health and preventing disease. It has the ability to interact and affect more than 2,000 genes in the body. It enhances muscle strength and builds bone. It has anti-inflammatory effects and bolsters the immune system. It helps the action of insulin and has anti-cancer activity. This is why vitamin D deficiency has been linked with so many of the diseases of modern society. Because of its vast array of benefits, maintaining optimal levels of D is essential for your health
Vitamin D is so important to our bodies that Mother Nature figured out how we could make our own while we were going about our daily business of hunting and gathering. Under ideal conditions the human body can make 20,000 IU in just 30 minutes! (Valid for Caucasians, differing pigment levels change that time requirement.) With that kind of potential I’m not sure what made researchers set the RDA at a measly 600 IU, but more recent research sets the minimum guidelines at somewhere between 2000 and 8000 per day.
How much exactly you need depends. Your age, your weight, your skin pigmentation, and your personal biochemistry will all effect what you require. If you are older, your kidneys may not convert D as well as they used to. If you are overweight, your body will shuttle D to your fat cells for storage, so it can be hard to keep up with an efficient storage system.
Personally, I’m all for making it naturally, but in our modern world it’s more complicated than you’d think. For one thing, it’s currently frowned upon to run around naked. Vitamin D production requires sun on bare skin. It also matters a lot where you live. There are some complicated factors that basically say if you live north of DC then you can’t possibly get the right kind of sun for Vit. D production from September to March. You also don’t make D if you’re protecting your skin with sunscreen.
Now I’m very fair skinned. My mother and some of her sisters are natural red heads. I used to burn almost instantly. That changed when my nutrition got better. I’m not sure what caused the shift but I can now be in the sun a reasonable amount of time without burning to a crisp. I used to never leave the house without sunscreen and a hat. Ok, I still keep my silly sun hat in the car so I don’t get caught without. The point is, for years I never went out bare skinned into the sun.
These days, whenever there *is* sun around here, I throw caution to the wind and get naked (ok, take off my shirt and hike up my skirt) outdoors (behind my 8 foot privacy fence) to get the maximum skin exposure I possibly can.
See, I got a call from my doctors office and despite having taken 5k IU of good Vitamin D3 with food most of the winter, my D3 levels are STILL low. So I’ve upped my supplement levels per her instructions and have put ‘getting sun when there is sun’ at the very top of my to-do list.
That impacts my schedule a lot less than you’d think. The number of rainy, hazy, or overcast days here is depressing. (Ha ha, that isn’t just a vitamin D joke).
Have you had your vitamin D levels checked? We’re so worried about the possibility of skin cancer we’re neglecting all the amazing things the vitamin D is supposed to be getting done.
As always, look for a balance.