It isn't surprising that we now suffer from low vitamin D levels since the medical community has scared us so much about getting too much sun. New studies are coming out all the time about vitamin D's importance. Getting a few minutes of sunshine is an important and healthy part of our day. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression, immune system impairment, insulin resistance, brittle bones, cancer and an increased risk of cardiovascular events.
You may be wondering what vitamin D actually does in our body to affect so many different systems. The most commonly known function of vitamin D is its promotion of calcium absorption. This is why many foods high in calcium are fortified (artificially added) with vitamin D. Vitamin D also plays a role in regulating the immune system, the neuromuscular system and participates in the life cycle of cells. This is why it is known to reduce inflammation, fight infection and reduce the risk of certain cancers.
There are some clues that you might be vitamin D deficient and interestingly, the color of your skin plays a role in vitamin D deficiency. If you have darker skin, you need much more sunshine to produce the same amount of vitamin D as a person with pale skin. This means that African Americans are much more likely to be vitamin D deficient. If you have low vitamin D levels you may experience muscle weakness, unexplained fatigue, inability to think clearly and bone pain.
Fortunately, it's pretty simple to increase your vitamin D levels. Get a little sunshine, 10-15 minutes per day should do it. This will also help with depression since serotonin, a hormone that puts you in a better mood, is triggered by bright light. You can also eat foods naturally high in vitamin D. Some examples are fish, cheese, eggs, beef and mushrooms. Add these to foods that are fortified with vitamin D such as milk, cereals, yogurt or orange juice and you should be good to go! Talk to your doctor about taking a supplement if you are vitamin D deficient. A supplement might be the best option for you if you are at a higher risk for skin cancer. Have your vitamin D level checked at your yearly wellness appointment at The Woman's Clinic.
Maybe there is some truth to the song lyrics “sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy!”