Quite a few of us are suffering from a lack of vitamin D.
According to a 2014 U.N. report, fifty-four percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Never in our history have more Americans lived in the city than in rural areas. And our health is reflected in that. Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine published a study that showed that people who spent time in the forest had lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower pulse rates than those who walked in the city. Studies have even proven that patients who have hospital rooms that face a park or even a tree have a quicker recovery rate than those who do not.
Not only are we becoming more urban as a society, but we are also becoming more interior dwelling creatures. People aren’t working as much in the fields and more behind the desk. Many people are now suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Since we gain more vitamin D from sun exposure than we do food, it is important for us to get outside. Our increased use of sunscreen has also lead to a lack of vitamin D in our bodies. We cover our arms and legs in the colder months and slather on tons of sunscreen in the warmer months. That does not allow our bodies to absorb the sun’s ray and get the vitamin D that we so badly need. Of course, I do not suggest rubbing yourselves down with Crisco and bake in the sun, although I do have a cousin that did that. She said it made her tan quicker. We definitely want to avoid getting skin cancer. We need ten to twenty minutes of sun exposure per day without sunscreen to get the amount that our bodies need to convert into vitamin D.
In the winter months especially, we see not only a decrease in vitamin D, but also an increase in Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Some refer to this as Seasonal Depression. It is a type of depression that is related to the changes in seasons, most often in the winter months when the temperatures are colder, there is less daylight, and there is less time outdoors. Women are diagnosed with SAD four times more often than men. It is believed that people with SAD may produce less vitamin D, and that may play a role in serotonin activity.
While trying to find a way to cure rickets in the 1920s, vitamin D was discovered. Vitamin D is vital for our existence. It increases our bodies’ absorption of calcium which keeps our bones healthy. We are seeing an increase in osteoporosis.
How can you get more vitamin D? Go outside! Cut back on the sunscreen unless you are planning on spending a lot of time in the sun, particularly between 10am to 4pm. Of course, you want to protect yourself from getting skin cancer, but now we’ve tipped the balance to having a deficiency.
Fish and shellfish are natural sources of vitamin D, specifically oily fish. Salmon, halibut, or tuna are great sources. The yolk of an egg, fortified milk, and even some yogurts, orange juices, and cereals are fortified with added vitamin D. Of course, there are supplements, too. However, you will only be able to obtain a small amount of vitamin D from food in comparison to the amount you would receive from the sun.
How much sun exposure do you need? Not a lot. On average, just getting 15-20 minutes of sun exposure each day (up to 30-minutes if you have darker skin) is the right amount without causing other problems. If you plan on staying out longer than that, then make sure you use sunscreen.