pay a fee, for vitamin D?
One of the most common discussions around nutritional supplementation is in regards to vitamin D. Should I, or should I not supplement with it? If so, how much? What form is best? It’s another great example of confusion in nutrition. Some say vitamin D supplementation is necessary, and others say it actually increases your odds of bone fractures and other ailments. As you may know, I’m not a big fan of supplements, but that’s not to say I never would recommend them. Technically, I can’t recommend them as a health coach, but I can recommend you to have a discussion with your doctor, and I do. Supplements are called that for a reason. They can be used to “supplement” our regular diet, but as with many other supplements, I feel too many people take them without any knowledge about what they are putting in their bodies. Let’s start with what is vitamin D? As you may know, it’s often referred to as the sunshine vitamin. The funny thing is, it is not a vitamin at all. Vitamin D is a hormone that is made in your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Not having enough of a hormone can sometimes cause issues, so it’s important to understand a little about it. It’s most commonly connected to bone health which is why it’s often taken with calcium supplements. Many also believe it to help with prevention of illnesses like heart disease, MS, autoimmune diseases, and more. Needless to say, it is important. It’s often said that 75% of Americans are vitamin D deficient! That’s a huge problem. There are a couple reasons for this. Very few dietary sources of vitamin D exist. Oily fish is one of them. Mushrooms are one of the very few plant based sources, but only if they’ve been exposed to sunlight. Some foods like milk for example are fortified with the “vitamin”, and that’s a federal law in some countries. In any food source though, the quantities of vitamin D can be minimal. The sun is the only one reliable source, and it happens to be the best one too. The UVB light from the sun hits our skin and causes a bio-chemical reaction generating the hormone, vitamin D. Of course, it’s never that easy. You have to take into account where you live, the time of day, what you are wearing, what your skin tone is, and more. I live in Connecticut. I like to get 15 minutes or so of sun as many days as possible when the sun is highest in the sky. I try to wear shorts and short sleeves during that time. You do need to be careful not to redden your skin or spend too much time in the sun, since there is also plenty of science behind how the sun can cause skin damage. I don’t remember where I heard this, but one good rule of thumb I follow is the shadow rule. If your shadow is shorter than you, you're getting the vitamin D you want. If it’s longer, that means the sun is at more of an angle in the sky, and you probably aren’t getting the D you want or need. Like I said, keep in mind where you live. Floridians for example, are going to get more sun, for more hours in the day, at different times of the year, than someone living in Maine or Canada. Let’s get back to supplements. If your doctor recommends a supplement, there are generally two choices, D2 and D3. D3 is generally believed to be more effective. You can get D3 that is either derived from sheepskin or a plant based lichen derived option. A common recommendation from doctors is 2000IU, which is 50 micrograms per day, but your doctor may recommend more or less depending on your specific situation. You can also always get a blood test for vitamin D. The difficult thing is that doctors tend to differ on what is a sufficient level. In my experience, the general rule of thumb as been over 30ng/ml is considered adequate, but some feel less is fine, as others feel much more is best. So where does that leave you? As I always do, I recommend having a conversation with your doctor, one that has nutritional experience, and obviously one you trust. My vitamin D level has traditionally been low. I tend to take 2000IU per day in the winter, and once and awhile in the summer if I’ll be spending a lot of time indoors. As often as possible, I try to get 15 minutes or so of unprotected sun exposure as many days as possible. Again, this is not what I recommend for others, since that’s for you and your physician to decide. Care must be taken when considering vitamin D. As with any medication you take, you should be able to explain to someone why you take it. So do your research, talk to your trusted doctor, and stay healthy. I’ve included a link below for more information.