wheat field before a setting sunWhen was the last time you had your vitamin D levels checked? This “sunshine vitamin”—primarily produced in the skin in response to sunlight—impacts some 2,000 genes throughout the body.

Vitamin D affects everything from bone strength to mood, and scientists have associated lower levels of it with chronic health conditions and some cancers. One of its main functions is regulating the body’s absorption of calcium and phosphorus, both of which also have broad impacts throughout the body.

“Because we wear sunscreen in summer, we may not realize our levels are lower,” says Integrative Primary Care Physician Dominic Patawaran, MD. “Ten minutes of mid-day sun (without sunscreen) is great for getting vitamin D, unless you have a skin condition. For extended periods in the sun, you still want to wear sunscreen.”

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Fatigue

  • Aches and pains

  • Severe bone or muscle weakness

  • Stress fractures

If you’re taking a vitamin D supplement, Dr. Patawaran says that 2,000 units daily is generally  considered safe, “but if you get tested, adjust accordingly. It’s good to do that now because we’re coming into fall and winter, when there’s less direct sunlight.”

Dr. Patawaran adds that it’s important to take vitamin D with food because the vitamin is fat soluble. However, foods themselves can also be vitamin D sources, in addition to sunshine and supplements. These foods include:

  • Cereal (fortified)

  • Egg yolk

  • Milk (fortified)

  • Orange juice (fortified)

  • Salmon

  • Sardines

  • Shrimp

  • Yogurt (fortified)

Read on to learn more about the health benefits of this important “sunshine vitamin.”

1. Vitamin D and Depression: About 1 in 10 people in the U.S. has depression, and research into the role of vitamin D in preventing depression is growing. A 2008 study in the Journal of Internal Medicine reported that high doses of vitamin D supplements correlated with a decrease in depression symptoms among study participants. The Vitamin D Council attributes this link to vitamin D receptors on cells in areas of the brain linked to depression.

2. Vitamin D and Immunity: Multiple studies in the past decade have linked vitamin D with lowering risks of various diseases and illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and the flu. Studies also show that people with autoimmune diseases tend to have vitamin D deficiencies, but improve with vitamin D supplements.

3. Vitamin D and Bone Health: Vitamin D protects your teeth and bone health by helping the body absorb calcium and phosphorous, both of which keep bones strong. Muscles also rely on vitamin D to move, and nerves need it to send messages throughout the body.

To learn more about vitamin D or get your levels checked, please contact the Raby Institute at (312) 276-1212.

Good thoughts are half of good health.
- Proverb: Yugoslav