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The Benefits of Vitamin D and Sunlight Exposure

Did you know that Americans do not get enough Vitamin D? A research study published in 2018 estimates that nearly 42% of Americans are deficient in this essential hormone precursor vitamin.

This fat-soluble vitamin plays a critical role in several important bodily functions, such as the absorption of calcium needed to maintain healthy bones. Not to mention, low levels of Vitamin D have also been linked to a weakened immune system.

Without enough of this hormone, you may also be at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease caused by poor bone health, which can lead to uncomfortable symptoms. To support healthy Vitamin D levels, spend more time in the sun during peak UV hours. Or, try supplementing to help you optimize your Vitamin D levels and enhance your health.

What Happens During Sunlight Exposure

When your skin comes in contact with sunlight, Vitamin D synthesis begins. This transpires as the ultraviolet rays of the sun absorb through the skin. The body then converts absorbed sunlight into Vitamin D3, a precursor molecule. Ultraviolet B rays, or UVB rays, can more effectively enter the skin's cells when the sun is at its highest point.

The molecule is then sent to your kidney and liver for further processing. Once it converts in your body to a more active form of Vitamin D known as calcitriol, it can then be used throughout the body.

The simple synthesis process of Vitamin D cannot occur without enough sunlight exposure. It's important to monitor the amount of sunlight exposure you get, as too much sun can also be problematic. Spending too much time in the sun may lead to an increased risk of skin cancer or excessive sunburn.

Aim to get direct sunlight exposure during times with the highest UVB rays. This helps ensure more Vitamin D synthesis while requiring less time outdoors. It may be helpful to try to get out into the sunlight around the mid-day point to help reduce the chance of sunburn.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Health Conditions

Today, people spend more time indoors than ever before. In turn, this could leave the current generations and future generations at an increased risk for Vitamin D deficiency. Although some Vitamin D is found in foods like eggs or fish, this is often not enough to meet daily requirements. Many Americans still fail to meet the daily requirements of 600IU per day.

A Vitamin D deficiency can be tough to diagnose without lab testing, as it may not produce any symptoms. However, the danger still exists, as low amounts can cause issues with the body's ability to absorb calcium. In turn, low calcium can put you at an increased risk of bone fractures, muscle weakness, or bone pain.

Certain medical conditions increase your likelihood of developing a Vitamin D deficiency. People with GI tract conditions like Crohn's Disease or Celiac Disease may have difficulty absorbing Vitamin D. In addition, those with liver or kidney disease may lack the enzymes necessary for the proper synthesis of Vitamin D in the body.

Medications like steroids or laxatives may also interfere with Vitamin D synthesis in the body. To help keep an eye on levels, your doctor should perform regular blood testing as part of your routine wellness check.

Getting Enough Vitamin D and supplementation

For adults under age 70, it's recommended to get at least 600 IU (or 15 mg) each day. Older adults may be at an increased risk for falls from bone conditions, requiring slightly more Vitamin D daily at 800IU or 20 mg daily. These recommended daily values are important to reach, ensuring healthy bones as you age.

Vitamin D from natural sunlight is the most ideal form. However, spending time outdoors is not always possible. It may not be possible to spend time outdoors every day throughout the cold, winter months of the year.

In these scenarios, using supplements is a great alternative to ensure healthy levels are sustained throughout the entire year. Supplementation is also an easy way for people with limited sun exposure to get enough Vitamin D.

Including more foods with Vitamin D in your diet can also help. Fish like sardines, tuna fish, and salmon serve as excellent dietary sources of Vitamin D.

Ensuring Optimal Levels for Great Health

Balancing safe sunlight exposure and considering supplementation can ensure adequate Vitamin D levels for optimal health. Not only is enough of this essential fat-soluble vitamin important for maintaining healthy bones, but it also helps support your immune system and heart too. During your routine physical, ask your doctor about testing for your Vitamin D levels.

Are you ready to take more steps toward achieving optimal health? Explore the ActiveFit+ health and wellness blog to discover more ways to improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.


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