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Wellness Wednesday: A Sunny Delight

A hiker enjoying the sun

Wellness Wednesday: A Sunny Delight

Bears hibernate in the winter and people in the Southwest hibernate in the summer. May-September are prime stay-inside months where a humming A/C unit becomes our dearest and most steadfast companion. The temptation to not go out is powerful, especially when it seems like all that’s waiting outside for us is sweat and sunburns.

Unfortunately we weren’t made to live like vampires. Sunlight is good for us. Not just good: vital! Exposure to the sun helps our body produce an essential nutrient: Vitamin D.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a nutrient that we both consume and produce. A fat-soluble vitamin, Vitamin D helps our body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus. It is an essential element in building and maintaining the density and durability of our bones. Vitamin D can also help reduce inflammation and control infections. Studies show that D can reduce cancer cell growth.

The daily Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin D for adults 19 years and older is 600 IU (15 mcg). The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (the maximum daily intake that is unlikely to cause harmful effects on your health) is Vitamin D is 4,000 IU (100 mcg).

How Can You Get Vitamin D?

Getting your daily intake of Vitamin D can be tricky. Unlike most vitamins, Vitamin D isn't found in a lot of types of healthy foods. Vitamin D can be found in:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Salmon
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna fish
  • Orange juice fortified with Vitamin D
  • Dairy and plant milks fortified with Vitamin D
  • Sardines
  • Beef liver

The most common and effective way for humans to get their dose of Vitamin D is via direct sunlight. Vitamin D appears in two supplemental forms: Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3, both of which are produced by our skin in the presence of the sun's ultraviolet-B rays. This is why D is known as "The Sunshine Vitamin." It's also why it's very common for people to develop Vitamin D deficiencies in the summer and winter times because they spend more time indoors and don't get enough healthy exposure to the sun.

A few important things to keep in mind in regards to getting Vitamin D through sunlight:

  1. Sitting next to windows won’t do the trick. The sun’s light might shine bright and clear through a pane of glass but the UVB rays you need for Vitamin D production won’t pass through them. 
  2. The amount of melanin in your skin can also affect how much sun exposure you need to get the right amount of Vitamin D. Having more melanin can reduce your ability to synthesize Vitamin D from the sun.
  3. The optimal time to get your daily dose of UVB rays is around midday. Some studies suggest that noon is the time of day where your body is most efficient at making Vitamin D.

How Do I Know If I’m Deficient?

Low levels of Vitamin D could lead to a loss of bone density, which can contribute to fractures and osteoporosis. It can also cause rickets in children. In addition to these factors, a deficiency in Vitamin D could lead to depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. It’s for these reasons that keeping an eye on your intake is so important.

Symptoms of a potential Vitamin D deficiency include: 

  • Frequent illnesses and infections
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Bone and back pain
  • Depression
  • Bone loss
  • Slow healing
  • Hair loss 
  • Muscle pain 
  • Anxiety 
  • Weight gain

Article by Austin Brietta

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