Why We Need Vitamin D

We know all about the dangers of too much sun exposure, but there are also many potential side effects from not getting enough golden rays.

Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to health problems as the nutrient helps our bodies absorb calcium. The first signs can include tooth decay and bleeding gums. Furthermore, it can also lead to digestive, immune system, and brain disorders. The best way to get more vitamin D, of course, is from the sun!

Recent health campaigns have promoted taking protection from the sun. We’re encouraged to wear sunscreen all the time, wear wide-brimmed hats, and dodge the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – when its rays are at its mightiest. Experts agree the ideal range for vitamin D is between 1,000 and 2,000 IU every day and that’s hard to do if we’re hiding in the shade all day long.

So, if you’re an adult who lives in the Pacific Northwest, you’d need about 200 minutes of walking around in sunshine to get 1,000 IU (less time if you’re a youth) as long as you’re wearing short sleeves and pants. If you’re wearing shorts and a T-shirt, you’d need about 120 minutes. If you live in Southern California, for example, the time shifts. By a lot. Adults who are lying down would only need about 50 minutes in short sleeves and pants. Again, this is common sense. If you have doubts or concerns, talk to your doctor.

While we need to still take precautions, especially those who are fair skinned and/or have already had bouts with skin cancer, it is smart to expose our skin just a little bit. Some experts believe getting about 20 to 30 minutes of sun exposure, sans sunscreen, three times a week is a start. Interestingly, they also say not to shower immediately after sun exposure. Your body is still creating vitamin D on the surface of your skin even after being in the sun.

The sun produces many different kind of rays and the two we concern ourselves with are UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate your skin deeply and can be the cause of premature aging signs such as wrinkles and weakened collagen production. UVB rays touch the epidermal layer and are what trigger vitamin D3 production in our bodies.

Most people do not get enough vitamin D, especially those of us who don’t live near the equator or in places known for rainfall (hello, Vancouver!).

We can also help our bodies by eating food high in vitamin D (read this article for more details). That includes:

  • Salmon (wild-caught salmon is said to be higher in vitamin D than farmed salmon)

  • Herring and Sardines

  • Canned tuna

  • Oysters

  • Shrimp

  • Cod Liver Oil

  • Whole Eggs (most egg protein is found in the yolk but the fat, vitamins and minerals are mostly in the yolk)

  • Mushrooms (the only plant source of vitamin D)

  • Orange juice

  • Some cereals and oatmeal fortified with vitamin D

  • Milk fortified with vitamin D (Canada’s Food Guide recommends everyone over the age of two drink two cups of milk or fortified soy beverage every day to meet vitamin D requirements.

As with any health concerns, check with your doctor if you’re worried you’re not getting enough vitamin D.