Adding sunshine to your day is an attractive idea and in our ABC of vitamins series we’ve got to vitamin D which is often called “The sunshine vitamin”.
Truth be told, vitamin D is not actually a vitamin but a hormone. That was not known in the early days when the vitamins were being discovered so now we have the slightly absurd situation where a vitamin is not a vitamin – it sounds like a teaser but it really is true.
That means that we can find vitamin D in foods and it does fight disease but because vitamin D is not really a vitamin we can actually get vitamin D from non-food sources.
That’s where the sunshine comes in.
Just by allowing sunshine to shine on your skin we can make our own vitamin D. There are some caveats to this – the actual amount of vitamin D may be too small to be useful to you so in practise it is still important for some of us to take a vitamin D supplement – sorry! – and even to take a vitamin D test and more on both of these points below.
Vitamin D is the name given to a small group of naturally produced steroid like molecules. They are labelled as D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5. The 2 important to us are Vitamins D2 and vitamin D3.
Found in mushrooms exposed to a ultraviolet light
Vitamin D2, has a chemical name of ergocalciferol and has a similar effect in the body.
Made in the skin when it gets enough sunshine vitamin D3 called the Sunshine vitamin by most humans and “Cholecalciferol” by Chemistry geeks is the active version of the vitamin used in the body and is the form best suited when taking a Vitamin D supplement.
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
That depends on the amount circulating in your blood at present and the healthy level of circulating vitamin D is controversial. A simple pin prick blood test can tell you what your current level at and you can get that either through your family Doctor or direct from the websites I have listed below and on the Resources Page on this website.
The amount regarded as acceptable in the past is 20 ng/ml but this is now regarded as hopelessly deficient and a consensus is building around the 50 to 70 ng/ml region as being healthy levels of vitamin D in the blood. It is vital when receiving your blood test that you get to know the actual number and not let yourself get false reassurance by being told that your level is “Normal” because the population is generally deficient and the “Normal” level is much too low.
Dosage therefore must be decided after a blood test and all you can do without that information is make an educated guess.
My Educated Guess
Even in sunny countries like Australia many are deficient in the sunshine vitamin. Most people spend nearly all their time indoors and receive little sun exposure. In addition there is widespread superstition about sunshine giving you cancer and this adds to the problem.
The net result is that for all practical purposes I advise that we all take a vitamin D supplement. In the summer that should be a minimum daily dose of 1000 iu, in the Autumn and Spring 2000 iu and in the Winter a dose of 3000iu. These numbers look large but they are quite small and you may need double or treble this dosage – but you can only find that out with a blood test.
Blood Testing For Vitamin D
Being able to find out if your blood level of vitamin D is too low for your health can be a game changer. If you have had pain for years or another disability then your vitamin D status could throw new light on old problems. I have put some useful information on this on a new page on this site so please go here to read more.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D came to light as a result of bone diseases such as rickets. One of the early discoveries was that vitamin D helps the body absorb more calcium from the food we eat and that leads to better bone structure and along with other vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin K produces stronger bones.
Even more important in recent years is the discovery of the anticancer actions of vitamin D – especially against Breast and Colon cancers.
Far from being the bogey man that causes cancer sunshine which produces vitamin D now seems to be a major player in the body’s ability to avoid cancer and perhaps we should be supplementing cancer patients with appropriately high levels of vitamin D.
For the rest of us here are some possible vitamin D supplements.
I could not find a a high quality vitamin D tablet that was good enough to include here. If you know of one do please share in the comment section below or on my Facebook Page. Thanks 🙂
Here is a good brand, with 1000 iu per vegetarian capsule please click on the picture here on the right to read more.
Ideal for those who hate taking tablets and even prefer to avoid capsules – a few drops from the enclosed stopper either onto your tongue or into juice and you’re done. You can get the dose you want by counting the number of drops you use.
Vitamin D Foods
And please don’t skip healthy food sources either especially mushrooms
Photo credit Apollo1981