The sun warms your skin as you lie on your towel, listening to the waves lap gently at a sandy beach. A soft breeze carries away all your worries. All your stress. You lie there enjoying the peace and the calm. At that moment, nothing else matters. Nothing at all.
And then you wake up and realize summer’s long gone — along with daylight savings time and any real chance to soak up some rays.
And that’s a problem when it comes to your health.
Sure, the sun will be back. And it IS kinda nice to shut off the AC and slip on your favorite pair of jeans.
But what’s not so nice is if you didn’t get much sun during the summer, and you aren’t going to vacation in the tropics for the winter. You won’t just miss out on all that hot beach body scenery…
You’ll also miss making vitamin D, when your levels are probably already low.
Unless you’re an exception, you probably spend the majority of your days in an office building or in your house. You sit — a lot — and if you exercise, you do it inside a gym. You’ve gotta pay the bills, right?
I understand. I’m typing this article from my house, and I did my workout at home today too.
For most of my life, my advice to myself and my clients was to get some sunshine and not worry about vitamin D. There aren’t many foods rich in D — wild fish gives you about 1/10 of your daily needs — and the sun is readily available here in the Midwest.
And then I was diagnosed with celiac disease. If I eat things that contain wheat, barley, rye, or anything “contaminated” with them, my gut goes “crazy ninja” and attacks itself. But the lab work also showed low levels of Vitamin D.
People with autoimmune problems tend to use more D, so that made sense. But it also made me curious.
Why YOU Need Vitamin D
Several months of research later, I knew a lot more about Vitamin D. Including that D3 is the version that gives you the best results. But there was other stuff too…
For instance, you might know that you need good levels of Vitamin D for your bones to be healthy. But did you also know that the right levels of vitamin D3 can slow cancer growth? Vitamin D3 can modulate your innate and adaptive immune responses too, and that means it can change how your immune system protects you so you can more easily fight off the flu or any other infection.
But what if you aren’t getting enough? A deficiency in Vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity, an increased susceptibility to infection, more inflammation (aches and pains) and even neuromuscular problems.
The biggest surprise wasn’t any of that. Nope. The biggest surprise was that I was wrong about most people getting enough Vitamin D from the sun.
Our office lifestyles don’t give us enough sun exposure. It takes 30 minutes of full-body sunshine a day — and more if it can’t be full-body exposure. Not many of us strip down for lunch outside at the office (nor would most companies be happy if we did). So that leaves nearly all of us in a state of deficiency.
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to change my schedule enough to get more daily sun while still earning a living. And with winter approaching, even if I could get outside, I wouldn’t be running around in a bikini.
So my solution is to supplement with a good quality Vitamin D3.
Vitamin D Supplements: How Much is Too Much?
Research suggests that the right amount can help keep you healthy. But not enough leaves you vulnerable to disease and infection. If you’re an office worker who isn’t eating a boat load of wild fish or spending hours outside, you would most likely benefit from taking a little D3.
I take 2000-4000 IU each day. Now, keep in mind that I have celiac disease, so I need more. And I can take 2000+IU every day because my doc regularly checks my levels. Most people don’t need that much on a daily basis.
In fact, anyone who takes more than 2000 IU each day needs to have their values monitored — too much of a good thing is, well, still too much. You don’t want to wreck your bones.
But what about the short term? A higher amount isn’t a problem for a few days to a week or two. Just don’t turn it into a long-term daily habit. If your supplement is more than 2000 IU, don’t take it every day.
I hope that sheds some light on vitamin D and why it’s helpful to supplement when you can’t have fun in the sun.
Kathryn Woodall ran a private health care practice for 15 years. She is the creator and co-author of the Million Dollar Exercise joint pain and mobility program.