PR Natural Care | The Sunshine Vitamin
We created our #JustAddSun Challenge to encourage our followers and community to catch some sun wherever they may be, our #PRWellness expert Dr. Nilani Kaluarachi discusses the importance of Vitamin D, the sunshine Vitamin!
With the ongoing pandemic Vitamin D has been thrown into the spotlight in Sri Lanka, with many pharmacies having run out of over the counter supplements. Whilst there is no conclusive evidence that Vitamin D protects us against the COVID 19 virus, as a vital micronutrient, it is finally getting the attention it rightly deserves!
Vitamin D became topical in the western world over the past 10 years or so and has been affectionately dubbed the Sunshine Vitamin. This is because the main source of vitamin D is the Sun which is FREELY and abundantly available year round in the tropics and unlike the other vitamins only small amounts of it are present in foods such as oily fish ( salmon, mackerel, sword fish etc.), liver, red meat, egg yolks and fortified cereals and spreads.
Recently many studies have been done on the importance of Vitamin D and testing and correction of deficient levels in the community is becoming increasingly common.
A sufficient Vitamin D level is essential for the absorption and deposition of Calcium in bones and this is vital for musculoskeletal health. Deficiency in Vitamin D leads to rickets in children and Osteoporosis ( thinning of bones leading to fractures) in adults and whilst these are the obvious and most well-known conditions associated with Vitamin D deficiency, lately insufficient levels have been linked to bone pain and tenderness, low mood, reduced immunity, weight gain and sleeplessness. An association with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, deadly cancers, certain autoimmune diseases and multiple sclerosis have also been noted.
A single exposure to summer sun in a bathing suit by a light skinned individual for 20 minutes produces the equivalent of 15,000 – 20,000iu of Vitamin D and yet despite year round sun in our part of the world, most Sri Lankans are deficient in Vitamin D. This is due to insufficient sun exposure most likely due to a combination of factors including darker skinned individuals absorbing less UVB light, cultural practices of covering up, the use of sunscreen and simply not going out in the sun enough because of the fear of ‘getting dark’. Whilst it is important to be aware of the link between overexposure to sunlight and skin cancer it is vital to strike the right balance of getting ‘enough’ sun. The most amount of vitamin D is made between 11-3pm and even a short exposure, on a regular basis, will provide enough sunlight to maintain a sufficient level of vitamin D in a healthy adult. It is also important to note that sitting by a sunny window will not get you that Vitamin D as the glass will absorb the UVB rays.
In an average adult, the daily recommended requirement of Vitamin D is approximately 800 – 1000iu ( 20 – 25 mcg ). It is important to get your Vitamin D level checked. If this value is insufficient or deficient it is important to see your GP who will prescribe a high dose course of Vitamin D for several weeks. Following this it is important to maintain the corrected level with OTC supplements of approximately 1000-2000iu a day or get enough sun exposure. At these levels it is difficult to have an excess of vitamin D which can have its own negative effects such as increased calcium levels etc. Reputable studies done on dark skinned surfers have shown no detrimental health effects due to Vitamin D overdose by prolonged sun exposure so please go out in the sun and grab those natural free golden rays!
Dr Nilani Kaluarachi
MBChB ( UK ), DRCOG ( UK ), DFFP ( UK )