Moving from Sunny Texas to Snowy Michigan presents both challenges in driving and maintaining normal Vitamin D levels. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports 50% of the world’s population is deficient in Vitamin D with one of the main reasons for the deficiency being limited sun exposure. Vitamin D is called the Sunshine Vitamin because there is a substance present on our skin (7-dehydrocheterol) pro-vitamin D; when the ultraviolet light from the sun shines down on our skin the sun rays activates this substance and produces Vitamin D. Just think for a second, Vitamin D must be important in that the body has a way to form it just in case we are unable to ingest/eat sufficient amounts.
Vitamin D is essential to our health because it plays a vital part in reducing inflammation, improving cardiovascular health, necessary for proper muscle functions and the maintenance of the immune system. In addition, preliminary research is underway exploring how Vitamin D may help prevent colon, prostrate and breast cancers.
Vitamin D is my vitamin of choice since moving to Michigan, it’s my “D” to the Bone because the most important function of Vitamin D is keeping our bones strong and healthy. Our body mass is composed of 15% Bone, which is primarily composed of 99.5% calcium. I must also add a note about calcium, it in partnership with Phosphorus with a 1:1 ratio in the body (we will get to that later). At any rate, it is important to understand the only way for calcium to be absorbed in the body is by Vitamin D.
“D” to the Bone How It Works: As you consume foods high in calcium in the absence of Vitamin D or have a deficiency of Vitamin D, the calcium will not, cannot be absorbed. To maintain circulating normal ranges of calcium in the blood, the body will detect this drop-in calcium and begins a process to build it up. The body accomplishes this with the release of a hormone from your parathyroid called PTH. PTH goes straight to the bones and grabs bits of calcium and places it into the blood stream. Remember calcium has a partner which is phosphorus the other mineral which strengthen the bones, well when calcium flows out of the bone so does phosphorus. Should this continue for extended periods of time, the bones start to demineralize causing them to become weak, many experiences severe chronic pain in the legs, ribs and joints, this will eventually unfortunately lead to Osteoporosis. In the presence of Vitamin D this reaction does not occur, this is how bones are protected and maintain their strength. Vitamin D to the bone protects and nourishes our bones and helps prevent severe fractures and breaks especially as we age.
The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) is 400 IU to 600 IU of vitamin D per day from foods. If you do not get enough sunlight, 1,000 IU per day is recommended.
Sources of Vitamin D: Sunshine, it is recommended to expose the face, arms, legs or back for 5 to 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. be careful not to burn.
Food Sources: Salmon, herring and sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna, oysters, shrimp egg yolks, mushrooms, fortified foods such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and cereals/ oatmeal.
Work with your health care team, know your Vitamin D levels, if levels are not within normal range a Dietitian can return them to optimal levels using a combination of food and sunlight exposure as suggested, in addition with supplementation if needed (consult your primary care team for appropriate supplementation levels).
It’s all about keeping that “D” to the Bones!