Are You Getting Adequate Vitamin D?
Happy Autumn Season everyone! As we transition into fall and then winter and the weather changes, I start thinking about taking care of myself in a different way. It is time to switch from all the activity that summer brought, to a slower paced, more inward looking way of being. I notice the difference in the sun’s warmth these days, the overcast days that come with the season change, the shortening of the day light hours and the resulting lowering of my mood some days. I am reminded that due to less exposure to the sun’s rays, we don’t receive as much Vitamin D as we need. What about you? Are you getting enough Vitamin D?
Vitamin D from the sun helps regulate the production of the brain hormone serotonin, which helps increase our sense of well-being. When the skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, a cholesterol compound in the skin is transformed into a precursor of Vitamin D. During the fall and winter, adequate exposure to have this happen can be a challenge.
This is one of the reasons Health Canada recommends Vitamin D supplementation in it’s Canada’s Food Guide. The “Advice for different ages and stages” section reads: “The need for vitamin D increases after the age of 50. In addition to following Canada’s Food Guide, everyone over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10µg (400 IU).”
Vitamin D is also important for children. It is necessary for growth, as well as the normal growth and development of bones and teeth.
Vitamin D is required for the absorption and utilization of calcium and phosphorus. It protects against muscle weakness, is involved in the regulation of the heartbeat, enhances immunity, and is necessary for thyroid regulation and normal blood clotting.
Phyllis A Balch, CNC, in her book “Prescription for Nutritional Healing, writes that studies have shown that at least 40% of people have less than optimal levels of Vitamin D in their blood. She goes on to say that those who live above the 37th latitude obtain virtually no Vitamin D from sunlight between November and March. That would be we Canadians!
The form of Vitamin D that we get from food (or food supplements) is not fully active. It requires conversion by the liver and then by the kidneys, before it becomes fully active. Intestinal disorders and liver and gallbladder malfunctions interfere with the absorption of Vitamin D. Some cholesterol lowering drugs, antacids and steroid hormones such as cortisone can also interfere with absorption. Food sources of Vitamin D include cod liver oil, fatty saltwater fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, halibut) oysters, dairy products, eggs, butter, liver, shiitake and chanterelle mushrooms, sweet potatoes, vegetable oil and herbs including alfalfa, nettle and parsley.
Phyllis Balch, CNC also writes that not getting enough Vitamin D in the diet or from direct sunlight has been linked to the development of several diseases, including heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and cancers such as breast and colon. As baby boomers age, the risk of osteoporosis increases. Taking more than 400 IU of Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of fractures by 20% in those over 65 years of age. But how much is needed is needed to optimize health is still open to debate.
I reiterate, Health Canada recommends that in addition to following Canada’s Food Guide, everyone over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10µg (400 IU).” My advice is eat the very best way you can, (for a summary see this post), include Vitamin D containing foods as mentioned above and consider supplementation, especially at this time of year. It’s your body, your health. You decide!
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Enjoy the beautiful fall season!