We’ve been hearing a lot about the importance of vitamin D recently–it is one of the most crucial ways you can prevent disease and increase your lifespan, and the list of benefits is growing. So the question is, how do we get it safely?
As you may know, sunlight spurs the body to make vitamin D, but because of the skin-cancer risk, few experts in the medical field will recommend that you run out and catch some rays. For those of us who live in areas that do not get as much sun as say, California or Florida, that sunlight (even if we wanted to bask in it) isn’t sufficiently available for at least five months of the year. If you are determined to get it from the sun, however, Stephen Honig, MD, director of the Osteoporosis Center at the Hospital for Joint Diseases, in New York City, suggests about 20 to 25 minutes of exposure.
The risk of cancer through sun exposure is much greater than the risk of vitamin D depletion, but we don’t have to make an “either or” decision because with diet: fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, liver, fortified milk, juice, and breakfast cereal–and through supplementation, we can still maintain healthy D levels…and that’s a good thing!
Optimal vitamin D levels:
- Help to maintain strong bones and teeth
- Decrease your risk of all types of cancer
- Normalize insulin secretion and regulation
- Enhance the strength and efficiency of your immune system, which decreases your risk of developing autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus
- Can help with the regulation of heart and blood pressure
- Help to prevent in adults the soft bones of osteomalacia with its symptoms of generalized bone pain and muscle aches and pains
- May be mood enhancing
If you do not know whether you are getting enough vitamin D, it is time to ask your doctor for the blood test that will show your level.
I highly recommend that you have your blood level of vitamin D monitored about once every six months. Ask your doctor or laboratory for the 25(OH)D test, also known as the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. Please note that some labs do a similar test called 1-25(OH)D test, which is not as accurate a marker of your vitamin D status.
If your test shows a level lower than 30 ng/ml, you have a higher than average risk for prostate and breast cancer, as well as autoimmune conditions. Recently, experts have raised the recommended level of protective vitamin D to 50-60 ng/ml. The great majority of us need supplementation of at least 1,000 IUs on a daily basis. Those of us who are deficient need more.
Karen Honig is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor.