Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin

Summer is just around the corner and one of the first things that I think of is – sunshine!!! Sunshine lights up our lives, makes us feel happy but also plays an important role in our physiological wellbeing. How? Well, it is an important source of Vitamin D for us. Vitamin D is produced when sunlight hits our skin and is synthesized. Approximately 30% of us in this sun-drenched country is deficient!

Vitamin D is both a hormone and a vitamin that plays a vital role in not only our immune health, but also our skeletal health – our bones! It is needed to stimulate the absorption of calcium and phosphate in our body. As we age and for women, as we enter menopause (natural or chemical), our bone density decreases.  With this decrease we are more prone to fractures and breakages and consequently a potential loss of our independence. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that we are keeping our Vitamin D levels up.

Optimal Vitamin D levels are also implicated in the prevention of some cancers (i.e. breast and bowel), helping to regulate insulin and reducing the possibility of depression. It is truly a vital vitamin.

Signs and symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, repetitive illness and of course broken bones. Your levels can be checked via a blood test. Aim for a level above 100 nmol/L (40 ng/ml).

But I hear you say – too much sunshine is not good for us! Yes, this is true, Australians have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. So, we need to be sun smart. It only takes 10-15 minutes a day to get your vitamin D needs from the sun. Make this time in the early morning or late afternoon when the UV index is lowest. Those of you with darker skin, need a little more time in the sun due to the melanin levels in your skin. These higher levels make it harder for sunlight to be absorbed and synthesised.

The sun is not the only source of vitamin D. Food sources of Vitamin D include salmon, tuna, egg yolks and mushrooms (increase level by laying them gill side up in the sun!). And if all else fails, speak to your nutritionist about the right type and amount of supplement.

In Health,

Tanya Zugajev

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