Although we are having an extended summer here in Western Pennsylvania, we know the cooler, cloudier days of fall, and yes winter, will soon be upon us. During the summer we tend to get some sunlight exposure to our skin. This produces vitamin D which is important for our health. This article will discuss vitamin D, its benefits and how the human body obtains and utilizes vitamin D.
When you drink milk or orange juice you may notice the label on the beverage container states the product is “fortified with vitamin D.” The reason for this is mainly because of a condition called Rickets. For many years we didn’t know the wide-ranging benefits of vitamin D. It was found that vitamin D is important for the strength of our bones. Children deficient in vitamin D developed a condition called Rickets. Vitamin D helps calcium be absorbed and deposited into bones. This makes the bones stronger. If children did not have enough vitamin D their bones were a weak and they developed Rickets. One can search the Internet for pictures of individuals with Rickets and see they’ve acquired severe bowing of the legs because of this disease. As a result, many decades ago, milk was fortified with vitamin D and Rickets was virtually eliminated in the United States.
Besides helping us develop strong bones, vitamin D is also important for other aspects of our health. This vitamin helps our immune systems, especially during the winter months. Studies show that individuals deficient in vitamin D tend to develop the flu more easily. Vitamin D also helps to decrease generalized inflammation in the body. Generalized inflammation causes lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular problems, cancer, obesity, osteoporosis and more. We can see that it is important to have sufficient levels of vitamin D.
When we discuss vitamin D, is important to note that a specific form, vitamin D3, is the most beneficial type to obtain. During the summer months, when we have direct sunlight exposure to our skin, we produce vitamin D3. In the mid-Atlantic area of the United States 15 to 20 minutes of exposure to sunlight will produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D3. People who live in the South need less time exposure. As a rule, light-skinned people will need less exposure time than dark skinned people. Also, people living at altitudes do not have to be out in the sun as long as people living near sea level to get their vitamin D3.
As mentioned earlier, those of us living in northern climes will not have the fortune to have enough sunlight exposure to produce vitamin D3 as the colder months come upon us. However, we will be able to take the vitamin D3 supplements and increase dietary foods that contain the vitamin. By acquiring our supplements at a good health store or Internet source we can maintain proper levels of this nutrient. Adults should aim to take a supplement that has at least 5000 IUs of vitamin D3 per day.
Additionally, we can eat foods that are rich in vitamin D3. These would include salmon, cod, herring and sardines and beef liver. These foods, by themselves, will not supply enough vitamin D3 to maintain sufficient levels, so supplementation is recommended.
If you are not sure that your vitamin D3 levels are where they should be you can have a simple blood test to check. Blood testing labs can readily determine if there is insufficiency.
With summer ending be sure to switch to dietary forms of vitamin D3 to help to ensure the best possible health during the upcoming colder months.