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Vitamin D Deficiency - How Do You Know?

If you've been avoiding the sun because you're afraid of getting skin cancer, you're actually doing yourself more harm than good. That's because sunlight is your best source of vitamin D, which is produced naturally when the sun's rays touch your skin. Vitamin D is essential for your health and for the proper functioning of your organs and cells. Lack of vitamin D will leave you vulnerable to a number of chronic diseases, including:
· 16 types of internal cancer
· Diabetes
· Heart disease
· Hypertension
· Multiple sclerosis
· Osteoporosis
· Psoriasis
· Ricketts
· Schizophrenia
· Tuberculosis and,
· Myopathy
The fear regarding sun exposure, combined with the fact that many people now work indoors, has contributed to a silent epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. (www.mercola.com)

Vitamin D is all over the news these days, and it's difficult to see the facts through the dusty haze created by the stampede.  Vitamin D is indeed an essential nutrient, and the average population is indeed experiencing vitamin D deficiency to some extent.  Concerned citizens are flocking to buy vitamin D for immune support in this season of multiple flu strains, colds and allergies.

Recent studies have indicated that our bodies need more vitamin D on a regular basis than the RDA's established in the 1990's. Government recommendations on recommended daily allowance of all nutrients have always been based on the borderline level beneath which disease-in this case rickets and osteomalacia-occur.  They have never approached the levels required to maintain optimal health.

Confusion reigns over the vitamin D question because there are so many variables:  Where do you live? How fair is your skin? Do you use sunscreen? How much time do you spend outside? What is your diet like?

Current wisdom suggests that the body needs about 4,000 IU (International Units) per day in order to maintain a healthy concentration. (www.creighton.edu)  That does not necessarily mean, however, that you should be taking that much vitamin D in supplement form.  The most natural, efficient, effective and safest way to get your daily vitamin D is by exposing your skin to the sun.  Dr. Mercola notes that under summer conditions it is frequently possible to generate about 20,000 units of vitamin D by exposing your skin to the sun.  Vitamin D is a fat-soluble substance, so excesses are stored by the body in fat cells, where it can reside for months as it is gradually released into the bloodstream.   An outdoor worker can conceivably produce and store enough vitamin D over the summer to maintain healthy levels much of the way through winter.
Office workers and children covered in sunscreen often get much less, however.  The application of sunscreen with an SPF factor of 8 reduces production of vitamin D by 95%.  According to Dr. Michael Holick, as little as 5-10 minutes of sun exposure on arms and legs or face and arms three times weekly between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm during the spring, summer, and fall at 42 degrees latitude (Boston, MA sits at 42 degrees north) should provide a light-skinned individual with adequate vitamin D and allow for storage of any excess for use during the winter with minimal risk of skin damage. (Linus Pauling Institute) 

Here in Lubbock our latitude is 33.57 degrees, considerably closer to the equater with signficantly more sunlight available year round, so we have much less to worry about here in the Sun Belt than our northern cousins.  As winter closes in, parents are stuck in an office building most of the daylight hours, and children are more limited than ever to outdoor recesses during school, vitamin D stores can become depleted, leaving bodies at risk of lower immunity.

Food sources of vitamin D shouldn't be overlooked.  While vitamin D is optimally absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream, it is also made available naturally through foods, expecially wild-caught oily fish such as cod and salmon.  Below is a chart of natural food sources of vitamin D.

Food sources of Vitamin D
Food Vitamin D* IU µg
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon 1360 34.0
Fish & Shellfish 
   Pacific oysters, 3.5 oz 640 16.0
  Salmon. pink, canned, 3 oz 530 13.3
  Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, 3.5 oz 360 9.0
  Mackerel, cooked, 3 1/2 oz  345 8.6
  Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 3 1/2 oz  270 6.8
  Tuna, light, canned, 3 1/2 oz 236 5.9
Milk, vit D fortified, 8 oz 90-98 2.45
Liver, beef, cooked, 3 1/2 oz  30 0.75
Egg yolk, cooked, 1 large 25 0.62
Human milk, 1000 mL 20-60 0.5-1.5
Yogurt, 1 cup 4 0.10
Cheddar cheese, 1 oz 3.5 0.09
* Recommended intake is 5 µg, or 200 IU (1 µg = 40 IU) per day.

It is important that infants and young children do not consume excess amounts of vitamin D regularly.  Children exposed to the sun for 5 to 10 minutes daily will produce enough vitamin D.  However, if children live in inner cities, wear clothes that cover most of their skin or live in northern climates where little sun is seen in the winter, then vitamin D deficiency may occur.  In the absence of adequate sun exposure, at least 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 may be needed to reach the circulating level required to maximize vitamin D's beneficial health effects.(www.colostate.edu) It is not advisable to take excessive amounts of supplemental vitamin D without first getting blood work done to confirm a serious deficiency.

If a final assessment of your family's sun exposure and dietary intake indicates that some or all members of the family require extra vitamin D supplementation through the winter months, beneficial Vitamin D3, or cholicalciferol, is available in 400 IU capsules, 1000 IU softgels, and a liquid serum that provides 2200 IU per drop, at
Healthy Essentials
8008 Abbeville Avenue in Lubbock