Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

At Body Logic we frequently talk about overall health with our patients, including lab work.  More and more frequently we are finding patients are deficient in Vitamin D.  In an effort to help improve Vitamin D levels it is important to educate ourselves.  This article will help answer the following questions:  Why is it important to have adequate levels of Vitamin D?  How do we make Vitamin D?  And, if deficient, how do we raise Vitamin D levels?

Why do we need Vitamin D?  Vitamin D is actually made by the human body through exposure to the sun.  We must have Vitamin D in the body to help absorb calcium into the bones to promote proper growth.  If there are not adequate levels of Vitamin D in children the result is soft bones, a disease also known as “Rickets.”  If adults do not have enough Vitamin over time, they develop fragile, misshapen bones, a disease known as “Osteomalacia.”  Although there are less scientific studies performed to evaluate other needs for Vitamin D, the Vitamin D Council suggests that Vitamin D might be helpful in treating or preventing autism, autoimmune disease, cancer, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, the flu, neuromuscular diseases, and osteoporosis.

How do we make Vitamin D?

The body is capable of producing the amount of vitamin D it needs through exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet B rays (UVB).  The body creates Vitamin D3, the usable form of Vitamin D, through direct, bare skin exposure to the sun.  There are many factors, however, the affect the body’s ability to make Vitamin D.   Skin type, for example, plays a big role in how long it takes someone to make Vitamin D.  Melanin is a substance that affects the color of the skin.  The more melanin you have, the darker your skin color.  Here’s a chart from the Vitamin D Council describing different skin types:

Skin Type Skin color Skin characteristics
I

Type I

Very fair; red or blond hair; blue eyes; freckles Always burns, never tans
II

Type II

Fair; sandy or red hair; blue, hazel or green eyes Usually burns, tans with difficulty
III

Type III

Fair; with any eye or hair color; very common Sometimes mild burn, gradually tans
IV

Type IV

Dark brown hair, green, hazel or brown eyes. Rarely burns, tans with ease
V

Type V

Dark brown and black hair; brown and dark brown eyes. Very rarely burns, tans very easily
VI

Type VI

Black hair, dark brown eyes. May never burn, tans very easily

Melanin is also protective against skin damage from too much UVB exposure by preventing the rays from penetrating the skin.  Preventing the UVB rays from entering the skin, however, also prevents the body’s ability to produce Vitamin D.  The more pale the skin is, the easier Vitamin D can be produced.  For example, if you have skin type I, it may only take 15 minutes of sun exposure to produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D.  If you have skin type IV-VI, it may take up to 2 hours to produce adequate levels.

Another factor that affects Vitamin D production is your location.  The closer to the equator you are, the better chance you have to produce Vitamin D because the sun’s rays have a more direct path.  Additionally, the time of year impacts the angle of the rays.  For example, in Florida, your body can produce Vitamin D throughout most of the year.  Whereas in northern Canada, your body can only produce Vitamin D in May through September.

Type of skin, location, and time of year all affect our ability to make Vitamin D.  Combined with the understandable fear of skin cancer and, therefore, use of sunscreen, it can be very difficult to produce adequate levels of Vitamin D for ourselves.

How do we increase our levels of Vitamin D without the sun?

Simply put, we must take Vitamin D supplements.  There are no food sources of Vitamin D as it is something the body produces on its own.  Unfortunately, not all supplements are created equal.  Clinically, we have found Standard Process’ Cataplex D to be the best product on the market.  We have successfully raised Vitamin D lab values for many patients over the years without any concerns or unwanted side effects.  If you or a loved one are in need of getting more Vitamin D, talk to one of our doctors today!