Does a bright, sunny day put a spring in your step and a smile on your face? Have you ever wondered why a few hours spent out in the sun makes you feel better? It may have something to do with vitamin D, also known as the 'sunshine vitamin.' When our skin is exposed to the sun's ultraviolet B rays, the cholesterol in the skin is converted into vitamin D, and research shows that vitamin D is essential to our good health and overall well being.
Strong Bones, Disease Prevention and More
We all know that vitamin D helps build strong bones, but that is not all this warrior vitamin does for us. Not only does vitamin D prevent bone weakening and skeletal malformation conditions, such as Rickets (in children) and Osteomalacia (in adults), but research shows it helps to lower inflammation in the body. As a result, it aids in the prevention of several serious inflammatory diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease‚ and multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D may play an important role in brain function, too, by raising levels of serotonin, the brain chemical that affects mood. Since the research surrounding the link between vitamin D and serotonin is new and ongoing, it has not been determined if vitamin D can be used to treat depression or other mental illnesses. However, studies do find a correlation between low vitamin D blood levels and depression symptoms.
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
Not only does research show the importance of vitamin D for preventing illness, it unfortunately shows, too, that nearly half of the general population has insufficient blood levels of vitamin D. With increased use of high SPF sunscreens to prevent skin cancer and an increasing number of indoor activities, our modern society does not get enough UVB exposure to keep our vitamin D at the optimum level. To find out if you have sufficient levels, you can ask your doctor for a simple test, known as the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. If your results indicate a level of 20 nanograms/milliliter to 50 ng/mL, then you have sufficient levels. However, if your blood level is less than 12 ng/mL, you have a vitamin D deficiency.
How to Increase Your Levels
The most effective way to increase and/or maintain your level of vitamin D is exposing your skin to sunlight daily. However, this is not always an option. Several foods have vitamin D in them, such as fortified milk and orange juice, salmon, tuna, egg yokes and cod liver oil; however, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone. Other than sun exposure, the best way to get an adequate daily amount of vitamin D is to take daily supplements. The recommended daily intake for adults is a minimum of 600 IUs to a maximum of 4,000 IUs of vitamin D3. If your blood level of vitamin D falls in the deficient range, your doctor may prescribe a higher daily dose until your levels build up to the normal range.
So, whether you bask in the sun or take your supplement (or both,) make sure you soak up that vitamin D daily to improve your health, prevent disease, and put a spring in your step!