Many people don’t realize that they have a Vitamin D deficiency. They often think that they can get enough by taking a short walk in the sunlight. It actually takes a lot of effort to get plenty of Vitamin D. However, it is well worth the effort, because Vitamin D is essential to our physical and mental health. I have been reading and writing about the benefits of this “feel good” hormone for many years. In 2011, I joined the D*Action study group while they were asking for women over the age of 60 (worldwide) that did not currently suffer from cancer. All the necessary application forms were completed online and I received my vitamin D testing kit promptly. Over the years, I have gone from being vitamin D deficient to a healthy level of 55 ng/ml with the help of safe sunlight exposure and supplements. What is the D*Action project? The D*Action project was initiated by GrassrootsHealth (along with 42 leading vitamin D researchers) to demonstrate how health can be achieved right now – along with what’s known about vitamin D with a combination of vitamin D measurement and health outcome tracking. The project encourages people to participate to help reach other people around the world. GrassrootsHealth is a nonprofit public health organization dedicated to educating people about the importance of vitamin D and encouraging them to take action. Their goal is to raise vitamin D levels to 40-60 ng/ml and combat the deficiency epidemic that currently exists worldwide. How today’s world has diminished our vitamin D supplies In an ideal world, we would all be spending much more time outdoors and growing our own food (while getting exercise at the same time), which would naturally raise our vitamin D levels by getting more exposure to sunlight. But it is not an ideal world and we have made it worse for ourselves through our modern lifestyle choices. But it is never too late to make a change. While exercise and what you eat and drink are key to good health, there is a third component that is often ignored. We need to educate people about the importance of raising our vitamin D levels. People around the world are living in colder climates these days, which increases the risk of Vitamin D deficiencies. We now know that the further North we live, the more at risk of vitamin D deficiency we become. That risk is further increased as we age or if we have a darker skin. Modern life now often means being indoors for much of the time under artificial light and the media and the corporate world have managed to make many of us afraid of sunlight. Testing your vitamin D levels You can find out your vitamin D levels using a 25(OH)D test, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This can be done by your local lab taking a blood sample and carrying out the test for you or The Grassroots Health D*Action study allows you to test your levels at home. Raising your vitamin D levels The sun is good for you as long as you don’t burn.While natural sunlight is the best way to get your vitamin D, this is not always possible. When your body receives the sun’s ultraviolet rays, it is programmed to start producing its own natural vitamin D. It is important to know that ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths and that there is a difference between them.
- The good guy is UVB because it helps your skin produce vitamin D.
- On the other hand, UVA is considered the bad guy because it penetrates your skin more deeply and can cause more free radical damage. UVA can also break through cloud cover and pollution to further damage the skin.
- UVA rays are largely constant during all the hours of daylight throughout the entire year but, by comparison, UVB waves are low in morning and evening and high at midday.
- The optimum way to absorb vitamin D is to get your sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm as often as possible by exposing a large amount of your skin until it turns the lightest shade of pink if you are fair-skinned. The darker your skin, the longer you need to be in the sun.
- A vitamin D3 supplement can be taken orally especially during the winter months. Research published by Grassroots Health shows the average adult needs to take 8,000 IUs of vitamin D per day in order to elevate their levels above 40 ng/ml, which they believe is the absolute minimum for disease prevention. Good quality whole food vitamin D3 supplements are easily obtained from a health store or online – without the need for a prescription. Adding vitamin K2 and a spoonful of healthy fat at the same time helps to increase absorption.
Some of the top reasons for raising vitamin D levels – whatever your age
- Improving and protecting our eyes. Studies have found that having adequate levels of the sunshine vitamin may ward off the leading cause of blindness. Such research is still ongoing.
- Reducing back pain. Patients with chronic back pain are usually low in vitamin D levels and research found that adequate vitamin D supplementation caused their pain to disappear or became significantly less.
- Avoiding the cold and flu season. High levels of vitamin D boost the immune system to protect us from cold and flu infections as well as neoplasias or autoimmune diseases.
- Making us feel happier and lifting depression. The well known Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is the condition where symptoms of feeling depressed and ‘blue’ during the darker winter months are thought to be due to a lack of the sunshine vitamin as well as having to endure dark and gloomy days. Raising levels of vitamin D can definitely improve your mood.
- Reducing dementia risk. Vitamin D has a major impact on brain function Those with low levels experience cognitive decline at a faster rate. Vitamin D may lower your risk of developing dementia. It is believed that vitamin D helps to transport amyloid beta protein structures across the delicate blood-brain barrier so the clusters can be released for eventual disposal. If you are vitamin D deficient, you may be using sunscreen which blocks not only your body’s ability to produce this vital vitamin but also your production of cholesterol sulfate which is highly protective of your brain health, protecting cells from glucose and oxygen damage and reducing your risk of dementia.
- Improving blood pressure. Improvements in vitamin D status can greatly reduce hypertension risk. Research has found that for every 10% increase in vitamin D3 blood concentrations, the risk of developing hypertension decreased by 8.1%.
- Lowering heart attack risk. In a 2008 study, researchers found that men who had insufficient levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to have a heart attack than those who had adequate levels of the vitamin.
- The absolute top reason for having high vitamin D levels is for its cancer prevention properties. In 2012, Grassroots Health initiated their Breast Cancer Prevention Project, which now has over 1000 participants. This was done to add data to the existing Lappe study.
These are just some of the health benefits from raising our vitamin D levels. Researchers are discovering more and more of these benefits every year. Get those vitamin D levels right and your health will be better, your skin and hair will look good and you will feel great all round. Ensuring we improve our vitamin D levels can become a win/win situation.