Surprising information about Vitamin D and why you should see the light...

There's something about the feeling of warm sun that makes you just feel better.  Many of you are probably aware that vitamin D (technically a hormone, not a vitamin) is made in our bodies through exposure to sunlight and you might even know that if you live north of Atlanta, GA, chances are you're not making enough vitamin D in the winter months as the sun just isn't strong enough (as if you haven't noticed that or needed another reminder why this winter s*cks)!

Dr. Michael Holick, MD, PhD is an expert on vitamin D and the author of The Vitamin D Solution.  In an interview with Dr. Mercola, he points out some facts about vitamin D that I want to share with you.  Even if you've heard some or most of this before, I find that a little reminder never hurts.

*For starters, should you really be concerned about vitamin D status?

YES, because there's a good chance you could be deficient:  Estimates are that 50% of adults and up to 70% of children are vitamin D deficient.  Remember, if you live north of Atlanta and aren't taking a supplement, chances are very good that you're not getting enough.  If you ask your doctor or pediatrician for a status check (and you should, it's not expensive and information is power), know that you want to be in the optimal range (50-70ng/mL), not just the average range as this range has been going up as the years and research advance.

*And why does it matter if you or your children are deficient?
Vitamin D is strongly involved with our immune system and could help to fight everything from the common cold and flu to decreasing the incidence of certain types of cancer by 50% as seen in the Nurse's Health Study.  Adequate levels could also help prevent MS, autoimmune diseases, asthma, inflammatory issues, Crohn's disease, psoriasis, depression, fibromyalgia, fatigue and the biggest killer of all, heart disease.  Vitamin D is essential in utero as it's positive impact starts there.  And if you're having a baby soon and want to decrease your chances of having a C section, know that women with optimal vitamin D levels at the time of delivery had a 400% reduced incidence of C section.

*So if you can't migrate south all winter, what to do?

During the summer, 4 minutes in the sun (without sunscreen) on a fair skinned person in the Midwest would produce about 1000 IU of vitamin D (comparable to most supplement doses), but on New Year's Day, it would take 40 minutes of clear sky sunshine to make that same amount (and with clouds and smog, and gloves, hat, scarf etc., basically forget about it).  You also can't make vitamin D through a window as the glass blocks the necessary UVB rays.  During the summer, you can get adequate Vitamin D from just about 15-20 minutes of sun every couple of days (again, without sunscreen, although you can put it on your face to avoid wrinkles and just leave other areas exposed).  And according to Dr. Holick, you can't make vitamin D before 10am or after 3pm.  The optimal time to get your vitamin D is around 1pm.

TANNING BEDS: Really?  The vitamin D doc actually recommends using an electronic ballast operated tanning bed that puts out UVB radiation and can help you make vitamin D without the high risk of your typical tanning beds just cover your face and neck and only go for half the recommended time.

SUPPLEMENTS: If supplements are the route you take, Dr. Holick recommends that neonates get 400-1000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily, Children, 600-1000 IUs D3 and adults 2000 IUs of vitamin D3 to maintain optimal levels.  I take a supplement and give my boys 800 IUs daily in the winter (although I forget sometimes and am using this article as a nice reminder to be more consistent).  And according to Dr. Holick, it's important to get vitamin K2 if you're taking a high dose vitamin D supplement so speak with your doctor or nutrition professional about your current levels and supplement dose, especially if you go above 2000 IUs.

FOOD:  There are few foods that are high in vitamin D.  Some of the best sources include wild salmon, tuna, mushrooms exposed to UV light in their growing process, egg yolks, milk and other fortified foods and juices.

* And finally, there's new research indicating that maybe there's more to the sunlight/feel good connection than just vitamin D.  Nitric Oxide is also produced in the skin from exposure to the sun and can help reduce blood pressure, reduce heart disease, improve mood and energy, help you sleep better at night and treat skin disorders and antibiotic-resistant infections aka super bugs.

Cheers to longer days and larger smiles in the days ahead :)

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