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Vitamin D The Sunshine Vitamin

Sunshine on My Shoulders Makes Me Happy... One of my favorite songs. What few of us are paying attention to is that sunshine also has the power to make us healthy! Vitamin D is considered the “sunshine vitamin” even though it is not a vitamin at all. It is the most potent steroid in the body, produced in skin from the sun. With its hormone-like activities, it influences the functions of more than 200 genes essential for optimal health and disease prevention. Vitamin D enhances muscle strength and builds bones, has anti-inflammatory properties and boosts immune system and protects against a number of serious diseases. People most at risk of vitamin D deficiency are:

• those of us living north of 37 degrees latitude (the horizontal line that connects Norfolk, Virginia and San Francisco)

• people with darker skin • indoor cats and gym rats

• cover-uppers (higher percentage of religious Muslims and Jews show vitamin D deficiencies) • older

• overweight

• gastric bypass patients and those suffering from gut problems

• pregnant women

Signs that you may be vitamin D deficient:

• fatigue • general muscle pain

• weak • muscle cramps

• joint pain • chronic pain • unexplained weight gain • high blood pressure

• restless sleep

• poor concentration

• headaches

• bladder problems

• constipation and/or diarrhea.

Research suggests that healthy levels of vitamin D protect us against several autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, bone fractures, periodontal disease, decreased muscle strength, psychosis, depression, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, respiratory infections including colds and flu, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, bursitis, gout, infertility, hypertension, psoriasis,18 different cancers and more. UC-San Diego sent a big wake up call with their meta analysis which showed higher levels of vitamin D could prevent half of the cases of breast cancer and two thirds of the cases of colorectal cancer! So how is it possible that over half the American population has vitamin D deficiency and 70% of American kids test low according to the Journal of Pediatrics? With such dire consequences, why aren’t we all aware and making sure we are operating with optimal levels of vitamin D in our systems? What can we do to take care of our bodies, our minds and our moods? Especially now, in this season with little sun, take steps to take care of yourself.

1. Get Tested Now! Find out what your are today and monitor your results every three months to keep up with changes in seasons, your activity level and your food intake. So that you are testing correctly, ask your doctor for the total 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OH-vit D) level, which the Mayo Clinic asserts is the appropriate indicator of vitamin D body stores. When discussing your results, remind your physician that you are not looking to be in the borderline/adequate/normal/ range (20-55 ng/ml) to prevent rickets or osteomalacia, but you want optimal levels for optimal health (50-80 ng/ml).

2. Supplement, BUT Only if Necessary. Under the supervision of your physician, take the right vitamin D supplement - vitamin D3 (not D2) and the best dose for you. Again, remind your doctor that you choose to be operating in the optimal ranges. Always take your vitamin D supplement with a meal containing healthy fats to make sure your body best absorbs it.

3. Eat Foods High in vitamin D Daily. • Wild caught fatty fish, especially salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring, halibut, catfish, shrimp, oysters, eel and caviar • Fish oil, especially cod liver oil • Egg yolks from organic chicken, duck and geese • Mushrooms, especially shiitake, portobello, maitake, morel, chanterelle, oyster and white • Organic turkey, beef liver and pork Ghee

4. Spend Some time in the Sun Sans Sunscreen. Soak up quick moments in the sun each day. If you can’t do every day, get outside at least three times a week. The amount of time in the sun varies for each person based on their skin. The accepted rule of thumb: consider the amount of time it normally takes for you to get red in the sun and then spend one quarter of that time in the sun during peak hours (11a.m. - 3 p.m.) without sunscreen.

For example, for my Celtic skin, that would mean 15 minutes. Please do not spend more than your correctly calculated time in the sun without sunscreen. At that point, the vitamin D has been maximized and you will just increase the risk for cancer.

5. Sit in front of the SAD Lamp. Initial research suggests that using a S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamp 30 minutes a day after waking up can also help boost vitamin D levels. Make sure to discuss this option with your physician before getting started since certain medications and conditions may not be a good fit with the SAD Lamp.

When we take the necessary steps to insure the optimal levels of vitamin D in our bodies, we will be shining from the inside out.

Kimberly Hasenberg, H.C., AADP Integrative Nutrition and Health Coach

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