Vitamin D is critical. You may have heard of its use to prevent Rickets, and to prevent bone loss, bone pain and other bone disorders. It also plays an integral part in regulating minerals such as calcium and phospherous in the body, psoriasis, obesity, fall prevention and muscle weakness. It has also been linked to multiple sclerosis and some types of cancer.
Unfortunately, vitamin D is found in small amounts in some foods including fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and tuna. To make it more available, it is added to dairy products, juices and cereals that are said to be “fortified with vitamin D”, however the majority of the vitamin D – 80-90% of what the body gets – is obtained through sunlight.
But how much sunlight do you need? Exposure of the hands, face, arms and legs to sunlight 2-3 times a week for ¼ the time it would take to develop a mild sunburn is all you need. Another way to measure that is if the UV index is higher than 3 (i.e. your shadow length is shorter than your height) lie on your front for 10 minutes, then turn over and lie on your back for 10 minutes. This should give you 10,000 units if you have white skin. Darker skin requires longer exposure. If you are dark-skinned and don’t want to tan, your D levels are likely to be half the levels of white Canadians. Consider at least 2,000 IUs of vitamin D in pills or drop form. Take vitamin D3 supplements with food as digestive juices help absorption of this nutrient.
For us in Canada, we get more sun exposure in the summer months than the winter. This creates a yo-yo effect through the year, which cause confusion, as we get lots of vitamin D in the summer months and very little in the winter. It is important to keep your vitamin D levels stable through the year.
Although we do need stable levels of vitamin D, our body can store this nutrient. 6 days of sunlight can restore adequate levels of vitamin D for 49 days of no sunlight exposure. Vitamin D is stored in body fat and then released when sunlight is gone. With that being said, vitamin D deficiency is more common than you might expect. This is especially true for people living in Canada, the northern United States, and the elderly.
SO, how much vitamin D should you take?
The Institute of Medicine publishes recommended daily allowance (RDA), which is an estimate of the amount of vitamin D that meets the needs of most people. The current RDA was set in 2010. The RDA varies based on age as follows: 1-70 years old, 600 IU daily; 71 years and older, 800 IU daily; pregnant and lactating women, 600 IU daily. For infants ages 0-12 months, an adequate intake (AI) level of 400 IU is recommended.
Further research in more specific areas has shown that Vitamin D is required at different levels for different conditions.
- For preventing osteoporosis and fractures: 400-1000 IU per day has been used for older adults. Some experts recommended higher doses of 1000-2000 IU daily.
- For preventing falls: 800-1000 IU/day has been used in combination with calcium 1000-1200 mg/day.
- For preventing multiple sclerosis (MS): long-term consumption of at least 400 IU per day, mainly in the form of a multivitamin supplement, has been used.
- For preventing all cancer types: calcium 1400-1500 mg/day plus vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) 1100 IU/day in postmenopausal women has been used.
- For preventing the flu: vitamin D (cholecalciferol) 1200 IU daily.
Most vitamin supplements contain only 400 IU (10 mcg) vitamin D so be sure to read the label when purchasing supplements.
If you have any questions about Vitamin D or any other supplements call your North York Chiropractor at ARC Health & Wellness at 647-504-4213. We would be happy to answer any questions you might have.