Updated: May 18, 2020
If you spend all day inside and are not getting enough exposure to natural sunlight, you are most likely deficient in this key vitamin, D. What makes it key to your health? Without sufficient vitamin D, you will impair your ability to absorb calcium, which is needed for healthy bones and teeth. In fact, according to the Harvard Health Newsletter, an online publication of the Harvard Medical School, without this “sunshine vitamin… the body steals calcium from bones.” And as it turns out, vitamin D also helps “maintain normal blood levels of phosphorus, another bone-building mineral.” The National Institutes of Health adds that, “vitamin D might play some role in the prevention and treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, multiple sclerosis, and other medical conditions.” Therefore, vitamin D deficiency has serious implications on one's health and quality of life and must not be taken lightly. So, how do you prevent vitamin D deficiency? Below are three specific ways that you can prevent deficiency in this key vitamin.
1. Include vitamin D-rich foods in your diet: Hippocrates said in his time, "Let Food Be Thy Medicine." So, knowing what foods your body needs to function optimally is important, but it only helps you if you eat accordingly. It may seem easy, but it's not as simple as it looks on the surface. So what foods supply adequate amounts of this vital vitamin?
Here are a few that I include regularly in my diet: sardines, egg yolks, sockeye salmon, cod liver oil, tuna fish, as well as fortified cereal, milk, and orange juice are all good suppliers of vitamin D. And perhaps one of the best and least known source of vitamin D is a a fruit that grows well both as farmed and in the wild in tropical climates, goldenberries. They are one of the highest sources of vitamin D among the foods I know.
What makes it especially important to keep our intake of vitamin D to adequate levels is that, while we are often reminded that we need to drink milk to get our calcium, many ignore the fact that vitamin D and calcium work synergistically in maintaining healthy bones. Osteoporosis, which is often associated with “inadequate intakes of calcium,” has led many to focus more on supplementing with calcium with hopes that this will address their need for stronger and healthier bones. However, increasing one’s intake of calcium without increasing access and absorption of vitamin D will not yield intended health results. Therefore, an extra boost of vitamin D can be included in one's health plan as a preventive measure by those at risk of osteoporosis and other conditions that can be exacerbated by both vitamin D and calcium deficiencies.
2. Spend Time Outside in the Sun: On sunny days, we can easily get our supply of vitamin D without spending a penny and instead, by sitting outside. This is the second way that we can get our supply of vitamin D. If you work inside office building, scheduling a break to spend 15 minutes outside at a time in the sun, twice a day is very beneficial as you allow the sun to get in direct contact with your skin. You are able to activate vitamin D production that way. There are many benefits to this. According to research on melatonin by Russell J. Reiter of the University of Texas Health Science Center, going outside periodically when the sun is shining brightly can impact “melatonin rhythms” and improve “mood, energy, and sleep quality.” Getting the necessary amount of vitamin D from the sun is also a cheap and easy way to enhance calcium absorption, help to prevent osteoporosis, and even support fat metabolism. in the body.
Take dietary supplements: Taking dietary supplements can address diagnosed nutritional deficiencies, boost the intake of needed nutrients, benefiting our overall health and productivity. Choices in nutritional supplements are many and knowing which are safest and can be most adequately absorbed by the body for the intended use, increase our chances of improving our health through supplementation. Seeking the guidance of a trusted health and wellness professional to make the right choice for your needs is important here. Supplements can be quite expensive though and they are not even an option for everyone. We nonetheless have other cheaper and safer options such as simple adjustments in our diets and lifestyles, including spending time outside when it's sunny. I often look for well respected brands and use a vitamin D supplement in liquid form. I take drops of around 5000 IUs daily and one of the benefits for me continues to be improved sleep.
If you are like many of us working indoors, chances are that you arrive at work early in the morning, spend your day inside, and by the time you go home, dusk has set in. These long days at work may equate to high levels of productivity, but not always. Sometimes, it is in fact the opposite. And while skill set is an important indicator of productivity, there are other factors that may determine how efficient and effective we are on the job. Nutritional deficiencies are one such a factor. Vitamin D deficiency has many implications that we cannot take it lightly. Yet, we can prevent it by spending time outside in the sun. The benefits are clearly many. So, why not include spending time outside in the sun on your wellness plan!
To Your Health!
Rose Kadende-Kaiser, Ph.D Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
1. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2008 April; 116(4): A160–A167.