The Hush Post: In India, the older generation relied for their well-being quite a bit on basking in the sun, especially in winters. Hindu mythology, Zoroastrianism, ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology render great significance to the Sun God, and rightly so.
Medical science says that 90 per cent of our body’s need of Vitamin D is fulfilled through sunlight. Our bodies manufacture vitamin D when the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays interact with 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) present in the skin, converting it into vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures vitamin D.
Unlike most vitamins, vitamin D actually functions like a hormone, and every single cell in your body has a receptor for it. The body makes it from cholesterol when skin is exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin D is necessary for absorption of calcium in the body, otherwise the calcium in the body is going waste and passing out in urine. An organic compound, Vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning some dietary fat is necessary for its absorption, and calcium does just that.
Other sources of Vitamin D other than sunlight
Apart from the 90 per cent Vit D generated by exposure to sunlight, the rest of the ten percent is fulfilled through fatty fish and fortified dairy products. It’s impossible to get the daily dose of Vitamin D from diet alone. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are especially good sources. Small amounts are also present in egg yolks, cheese, and milk and orange juice if they are fortified with vitamin D.
Most of India is sunshine abundant, yet many people are increasingly becoming Vitamin D deficient. It is estimated that about 1 billion people worldwide have low levels of the vitamin in their blood.
The Challenge: Taking Vit D and also keeping VU rays away
High-SPF sunscreens are designed to filter out most of the sun’s UVB radiation, since UVB leads to sunburn and can cause skin cancer. But UVB wavelengths happen to be the specific wavelengths that trigger vitamin D production in the skin. Nonetheless, clinical studies have never found that everyday sunscreen use leads to vitamin D deficiency. The prevailing studies show that people who use sunscreen daily can maintain their vitamin D levels.
One of the explanations for this may be that no matter how much sunscreen you use or how high the SPF, some of the sun’s UV rays reach your skin. An SPF 15 sunscreen filters out 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent, and SPF 50 filters out 98 percent. This leaves anywhere from 2 to 7 percent of solar UVB reaching your skin, even with high-SPF sunscreens.
The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee, an independent team of experts on UV damage and sun protection, recommends daily use of an SPF 15+ broad-spectrum (UVA-UVB) sunscreen, and also other forms of sun protection such as shade and sun-protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and UV-filtering sunglasses, whenever possible
What duration of sun exposure?
No more than 10 to 15 minutes of exposure to arms, legs, abdomen and back, during mid-day, two to three times a week, followed by good sun protection.
The recommended daily intake is usually around 400-800 IU.
Best time to soak in the sun
A vitamin D deficiency is usually easy to fix. You can either increase your sun exposure, eat more Vit D rich foods or pop in a supplement.
According to latest scientific findings and experiments, best time for getting more Vitamin D (Calcifediol) from sunshine is noon time — between 11 am to 2 pm or 10 am to 3 pm. Plenty of Vitamin D is generated quickly any time during this period in comparison to morning and evening. During noon, sun is high in the sky so sun-rays penetrate different layers of the atmosphere very easily and sun-rays touching with one’s skin are almost perpendicular. The best time to trigger vitamin D in your skin is when your shadow is shorter than you. The shorter the better.
Morning and evening sunlight, which doesn’t fall straight on your skin from above, wouldn’t be able generate enough Vitamin D. Amount of UVB (UltraViolet B) radiation is very less. In the morning and evening, amount of UVA (UltraViolet A) radiation is higher which does more damage. During early morning or early evening, a longer exposure may be required.
Dark skinned people will need more exposure than fair skinned individuals.
What does Vitamin D deficiency do to the body
- A lack of vitamin D puts us at risk for painful, weak muscles, inadequate bone mineralisation, and skeletal deformities in children (rickets), as well as mineral loss and soft bones in adults (osteomalacia).
- vitamin D deficiency may be a potential cause of muscle pain in children and adults. One study in 120 children with vitamin D deficiency who had growing pains found that a single dose of the vitamin reduced pain scores by an average of 57%.
- Vitamin D increases the body’s immunity because it directly interacts with the cells that are responsible for fighting infection
- Many older women who are diagnosed with bone loss believe they need to take more calcium. However, they may be deficient in vitamin D as well.
- Low bone mineral density is an indication that calcium and other minerals have been lost from bone. This places older people, especially women, at an increased risk of fractures.
- Vitamin D’s role in controlling inflammation is important for proper healing.
Those prone to vitamin D deficiency are
- the elderly,children who remain indoors
- obese people
- people who stay indoors most of the time
- people taking milk-less diet
Symptoms: The symptoms are generally subtle, keep developing over a period of time and show up when they start affecting your quality of life adversely. If you become sick often, especially with colds or flu, low vitamin D levels may be a contributing factor. If you always feel tired, suffer from chronic daytime fatigue and headache, get your vitamin D level tested. In that case, taking Vit D supplements recommended by the doctor are the only safe option.
If your body is Vit D deficient, you could face bone pain and lower back pain
In adults, one big cause of depression could be related to vitamin D deficiency.
Slow healing of wounds after surgery or injury may be a sign that vitamin D levels are too low.