Vitamin D is the new go-to vitamin

Vitamin D seems to be the new go-to vitamin, helping anything from depression, skin conditions and low back pain to significantly reducing your cancer risk. But is it worth it to get it the “natural” way?

Our bodies produce vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. With all the fears of skin cancer about, and recent studies saying we are not able to produce vitamin D through sunblock, how can we get this glorious nutrient? Well, the average time it takes to get adequate amounts of vitamin D is about 20 minutes per day. Scientists and physicians are agreeing that the sun’s benefits greatly outweigh the risks. So, are we increasing our risk of skin cancer by getting 20 minutes of unfiltered sun per day? Well, that depends on your other risk factors:

Have you had bad sunburns in your youth?
Are you fair-skinned?
Has anyone in your family, or have you ever had skin cancer?

If you said “yes” to any of these, then you do have a higher risk of skin cancer. 20 minutes of sunlight a day shouldn’t burn you to a crisp, and if it does, obviously, I’m not recommending it to you. But especially those of us in higher latitudes when we may not see the sun for weeks, vitamin D levels in our bodies can drop significantly.

There is an easy way to check your vitamin D levels – through a simple blood test. Ask your doctor to test your serum levels by testing the 25, hydroxy-vitamin D (also called Calcidiol or Calcifidiol) to see how much vitamin D your body is making. If it’s below 75, I would definitely recommend increasing your intake either through food or supplementation if you can’t get outside each day. If you do supplement, make sure you re-test your blood in about 3 months to make sure you’re not getting too much. This
is not a water-soluble vitamin, so you don’t just pee out the excess, and too much vitamin D can be a problem, though it’s fairly difficult to get “too much.”

Sources of vitamin D :

Sunlight ~ 20 min per day
Cod liver oil – this type of fish oil also has some vitamin A, so check with your doc first if you are nursing, pregnant or plan on getting pregnant
Salmon (preferably wild-caught Alaskan)
Shrimp
Sardines (also an excellent source of calcium!)
Fortified cow’s milk (preferably organic)
Cod (preferably wild-caught)
Whole eggs (preferably organic)

If you do decide to supplement, make sure you get a high-quality supplement that only uses the active form of vitamin D, called D3, or cholecalciferol. This is the form of vitamin D that you will get in the above food sources as well.

Happy vitamin D-ing!

Source: Dr Gowthaman, Medical Director, Dr Gowthaman’s Ayurveda Panchakarma Center, Chennai
Image: Thinkstockphotos.com

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