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Vitamin D is a “helper” vitamin that lets the body better use calcium and phosphorus. Healthy levels of calcium and phosphorus are necessary for skeletal health, as well as a wide variety of metabolic and physiological functions. Vitamin D also helps mobilize calcium stores in the bones when the body isn’t getting enough.
Few foods contain sufficient amounts of vitamin D, but Mother Nature made sure we could easily get this necessary nutrient—just go outside! Vitamin D is the only vitamin the body produces via exposing the skin to sunlight.[i]
Despite a great source being directly overhead, much of the western world is vitamin D deficient. This is why fortified foods and supplements are widely available. However, sunshine is free and easily accessible—it’s also a lot more fun!
Sources of Vitamin D
When possible, sunlight is always your best bet. It’s abundant, free and there’s no danger of accidental overdose. And did we mention the fun factor? In the sun’s absence, fortified foods and vitamin D supplements are other options, in addition to foods which naturally contain vitamin D. These include:
- Oily fish such as mackerel, trout, salmon and flounder
- The liver and fat of aquatic mammals such as seals and polar bears, although many state and national laws prohibit the hunting and/or importation of these animals as a food source
- Eggs from hens that have been fed vitamin D[ii]
Health Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency
Chronic sun exposure can lead to early skin aging and skin cancer, but sun deprivation causes many types of life-threatening cancers and diseases, too, including:
- Rickets in children, osteomalacia in adults and osteoporosis and/or easily broken bones in the elderly.[iii]
- Cancers of the breast, ovaries, colon, prostate, bladder uterus, esophagus, rectum and stomach.[iv]
- Hair loss.[v]
- High blood pressure and heart failure.[vi]
- Multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.[vii] These conditions are more common in regions further from the equator, but how exactly vitamin D levels relate to autoimmune diseases remains controversial.
Can You Overdose on Vitamin D?
Excessive amounts of vitamin D can cause unnaturally high blood calcium levels, but this is very rare.[viii] On the bright side, it’s impossible to overdose on vitamin D from sunshine!
How Much Vitamin D Do You Really Need?
Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to bone-related, cardiovascular, autoimmune and cellular complications. Although everyone can get plenty of vitamin D through sunlight, distance from the equator, weather, season, time of the day, air pollution, age, skin pigmentation and exposed body parts all play a role. Because of that, the amount of vitamin D each person needs is different and difficult to determine.[ix] Vitamin D expert Michael Holick recommends an average daily dose of 1,000 IU for infants and adults. But how much is that?
An “IU” is an International Unit, used to for measuring drugs and vitamins. An IU will vary, depending on each item’s potency, so it’s not a specific weight, like milligrams. Plus, you can’t measure out and serve yourself sunshine. All that makes things even more confusing, but Dr. Holick simplifies this for us and suggests exposing your hands, arms and face to the sun several times a week for one-quarter of the amount of time it would take to develop a mild sunburn.[x]
Why Goddess Garden?
We prefer a sunny day to supplements or sardines. Our bodies were made for using sunlight to good advantage. And we’re rewarded for our effort! Sun exposure produces beta-endorphins and serotonin, which gives us a sunnier disposition.
At Goddess Garden we offer mineral sunscreens to let you enjoy your time in the sun, without the worry of getting too much. That way, you can bask in the rays that promote good health and protect your skin at the same time—without exposing yourself to any harmful chemicals in the process.
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[i] http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI/DRI_Calcium/250-287.pdf, pg 250-251
[ii] http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI/DRI_Calcium/250-287.pdf, pg 256
[iii] “A Perspective of Moderate Exposure to Sunlight.” 25-26.
[iv] Holick. The UV Advantage. 97
[vi] Holick. The UV Advantage. 106
[vii] Holick. The UV Advantage. pg. 107
[viii] Macdonald, Helen M. “Contributions of Sunlight and Diet to Vitamin D Status.” Calcified Tissue International 92.2 (2013): 163-76.Web.
[ix] http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI/DRI_Calcium/250-287.pdf, pg 261
[x] Holick. “A Perspective of Moderate Exposure to Sunlight.” 32
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