Most adults are believed to be at least somewhat deficient in vitamin D. Over 75 perfect of the population is actually deficient and those with less sun exposure and overweight have an even greater chance to be deficient.
As the population of overweight and obese adults and children has risen steadily over the past several decades, so has the incidence of vitamin D deficiency symptoms. Sadly, this vitamin D deficiency is correlated with increased risks of developing common cancers, autoimmune diseases, hypertension and various infectious diseases, too.
A 2017 study recently revealed that occupation can also play a big role in vitamin D levels. Researchers found that shift-workers, healthcare workers and indoor workers are at high risk to develop vitamin D deficiency due to reduced outdoor time and sunlight exposure.
Let’s break down the basics
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver and fatty tissues. This means that increased body fat has the ability to absorb vitamin D and keep it from being used within our body. Vitamin D is somewhat different than other vitamins because our body makes most of our vitamin D on its own, rather than solely relying on food sources.
The way that our bodies make vitamin D is to convert sunshine into chemicals that are used by the body. The cholesterol in our skin converts “previtamin D” and makes it into usable vitamin D3 which is sometimes also called provitamin D. Previtamin Ds first travels through the kidneys and liver in the blood stream, and then is converted into a biologically active and usable substance called calcitriol.
Vitamin D actually becomes a hormone within our body, particularly a secosteroid hormone. What we know as vitamin D is really a precursor to a steroid hormone. It impacts not only our skeletal structure, but also our blood pressure, immunity, mood, brain function, and ability to protect ourselves from cancer.
Sunshine and Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms
Many people assume that the best way to acquire vitamin D is through drinking milk, eating fish, or even taking supplements like cod liver oil. However, direct exposure to the sun is actually the best way to absorb vitamin D.
How Much Sun is Enough?
Most experts recommend getting about 10-15 minutes daily of direct sunlight, without wearing sunscreen, if you are fair to medium toned. If you have dark skin, you will likely need more time in the sun to make enough vitamin D since your skin has more protection against the sun’s effects.
Some experts recommend that darker toned people spend about 40 minutes to one hour in the sun daily if possible. If you live farther from the equator (in the US this would be the mid-states or farther north), then you will need more time overall in the sun. However, in winter, you will need to double the recommended time to allow enough vitamin D production to occur.
Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms & Causes
It’s worth repeating that roughly up to 90 to 95 percent of most people’s vitamin D comes from casual sunlight exposure. Your skin makes vitamin D when it comes in contact with the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun. Therefore one of the biggest reasons that a growing population is experiencing vitamin D deficiency symptoms is because of our modern, primarily indoor lifestyle. This contributes to the two most common causes of vitamin D deficiency symptoms:
Lack of Sun
Other symptoms can include:
High blood pressure
Top Vitamin D Sources
While some foods provide vitamin D, exposure to sunlight is still the very best way to get the vitamin D you need. However eating foods that are rich in vitamin D certainly also helps you to acquire more, so try adding good-quality, natural sources into your diet regularly.
Top 16 Sources of Vitamin D (according to the USDA):
Halibut - 3 0z. filet
Carp Fish - 3 oz. filet
Mackerel - 1 piece
Eel - 3 oz.
Maitake Mushrooms (Exposed to UV light) - 1 cup sliced
Salmon - 3 oz. filet
Whitefish - 1 cup mixed and shredded
Portabella Mushrooms (Exposed to UV Light Exposure) - 1 cup sliced
Swordfish - 3 oz. filet
Rainbow Trout - 3 oz. filet
Cod Liver Oil - 1 tsp
Sardines - 1 can
Tuna - 1 can (3 oz.) packed in water
Eggs - 1 large whole egg
Certain supplements do provide the preferred type of vitamin D3. You will want to look for a supplement that provides the actual food source of the vitamin, along with all of the other enzymes and compounds that naturally help us to utilize it. This makes it more effective than the isolated vitamin alone.
Ask Dr. Jordan and our excellent Vitamin D Synergy supplements available in the office.