The “Sunshine” Vitamin: Why Vitamin D Matters More Than You Think

Written By Brady Wirick

When most of us think of Vitamin D, we likely conjure up images of sun-soaked beaches and long summer days. And while it’s true that the “Sunshine Vitamin” is closely tied to those sun-drenched moments, the importance of Vitamin D goes beyond just a byproduct of our sunbathing escapades.

Vitamin D Deficiency: A Northward Gaze

Living north of Florida – and especially in states like Idaho – means longer winters, shorter days, and, quite often, less sunshine. This geographical reality paints a grim picture for our Vitamin D levels. Even if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, skiing down Idaho’s slopes or trekking through its picturesque forests, you might still find yourself among the many who are deficient in this crucial vitamin.

Why does this matter? Vitamin D isn’t just another item on the nutritional checklist. It’s integral for brain health, Yahbone health, immune function, and a myriad of other bodily processes. Without adequate sunlight, our body struggles to produce enough of it.

Cholesterol and Vitamin D: An Intricate Dance

Consider this: Cholesterol being below 150 TRIPLES your chance of chronic disease. Here is why:

Now, before we dive deeper into sunlight’s role in Vitamin D synthesis, let’s debunk a common misconception. Cholesterol, often vilified in health discussions, plays a pivotal role in Vitamin D production. When our skin absorbs UVB radiation from the sun, it converts a type of cholesterol in our skin – 7-dehydrocholesterol, to be precise – into a form of Vitamin D, known as D3 or cholecalciferol.

Yes, that’s right! That oft-maligned substance, cholesterol, is a precursor to the sun-kissed glow of Vitamin D. This highlights the intricate balance our bodies maintain and underscores the fact that not all cholesterol is “bad.”

Sunlight: Nature’s Vitamin D Factory

While dietary sources of Vitamin D exist, sunlight is undoubtedly the most efficient producer of this essential nutrient. When UVB rays hit our skin, the aforementioned conversion process begins, turning 7-dehydrocholesterol into Vitamin D3. Our liver and kidneys then take over, converting this D3 into its active form, calcitriol, which our bodies can use effectively.

However, not all sunlight is created equal. Morning sunlight (without sunscreen), in particular, is incredibly beneficial for Vitamin D synthesis. It’s gentler on the skin and has the optimal UVB balance for our bodies to kickstart Vitamin D production. Plus, morning sunlight exposure sets our circadian rhythm, helping improve sleep quality and overall mood.

Ditch Those Sunglasses (At Least for a Bit)

Now, here’s a sunny tidbit that might surprise you: those stylish sunglasses, while protecting your eyes, might also be hindering optimal Vitamin D synthesis. When we shield our eyes from the sun’s rays, especially in the morning, we’re potentially disrupting our body’s internal clock. A bit of unprotected morning sun exposure – without looking directly at the sun, of course – can be beneficial. It helps regulate melatonin production, ensuring we’re alert during the day and sleepy when night falls.

The Bright Side of Vitamin D

So, with all this talk about sunlight and Vitamin D, what are the tangible benefits of ensuring we have enough of this sunshine nutrient?

1. Bone Health: Vitamin D aids calcium absorption in the gut, which is crucial for maintaining healthy bones and teeth. A deficiency can lead to brittle bone conditions like osteoporosis.

2. Immune Boost: This vitamin plays a pivotal role in promoting immune response. It’s been linked with reduced risks of multiple diseases, including certain cancers.

3. Mood Regulation & Mental Health: Adequate Vitamin D levels can combat symptoms of depression and has been linked to improved mental well-being.

4. Supporting Diabetes Management: Emerging research suggests a potential link between a deficiency in Vitamin D and chronic diseases, including coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes.

5. Overall Longevity: Regular Vitamin D intake has been associated with a reduced risk of premature death.

The Takeaway

Vitamin D, often overlooked or taken for granted, holds a paramount position in our health spectrum. Especially for those residing in northern regions, proactively seeking sunlight and other sources of this vitamin is essential. So, Idahoans, as the sun peeks through those vast skies and mountains, take a moment to bask in its rays. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you for that sunny embrace.

Here are a few foods that can give you vitamin D:

1. Fatty Fish: This category includes fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Among these, wild-caught salmon is especially rich in Vitamin D. Just a half fillet of salmon can provide more than the daily recommended intake for most people.

2. Cod Liver Oil: Not exactly a food you’d munch on, but it’s a potent source of Vitamin D. Apart from being used as a dietary supplement, cod liver oil can also provide a hefty dose of Vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.

3. Egg Yolks: Eggs, especially the yolks, contain small amounts of Vitamin D. The actual amount can vary based on the hen’s diet and whether it was pasture-raised or not. Generally, free-range or pasture-raised hens that get regular sunlight produce eggs with a higher Vitamin D content.

4. Beef Liver: While it might not be a staple in many diets, beef liver is a good source of Vitamin D. It also provides other vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, iron, and protein.

It’s important to note that while these foods can help increase Vitamin D intake, sunlight remains one of the most effective ways for the body to produce the vitamin. And, as always, if considering supplements or making significant dietary changes, consulting with a healthcare professional is recommended.

While the body can produce Vitamin D naturally through direct exposure to sunlight, many factors, including geography, seasonal changes, and modern indoor lifestyles, can limit this production. Therefore, incorporating Vitamin D-rich foods into one’s diet, considering supplementation (required in Idaho, see below), and making a conscious effort to spend time outdoors can help ensure that Vitamin D levels are maintained for optimal health. Whether it’s enjoying a sunny afternoon in the park, having a salmon dinner, or taking a Vitamin D supplement, there are multiple avenues to ensure you’re getting this essential “Sunshine Vitamin.”

Vitamin D, is essential for maintaining healthy bones and a robust immune system. Supplementing with Vitamin D is essential for anyone living north of Florida. What is less commonly known that Vitamin D’s effectiveness is significantly enhanced when paired with magnesium. Magnesium acts like the trusty sidekick, helping convert Vitamin D into its active form so that it can be properly utilized by the body. This dynamic duo works together to support bone health, aid in calcium absorption, and even improve muscle function. So, if you’re reaching for that Vitamin D supplement, don’t forget to invite magnesium to the party. It’s like adding a turbo boost to your vitamin’s superpowers, ensuring you get the full spectrum of benefits.

Not all Vitamin D is created equal. Pharmaceutical grade Vitamin D is often non absorbable and full of fillers. I have put together a great combination from one of my favorite supplement brands called Pure Encapsulations that is pure and affordable. You can see the products by CLICKING HERE. (If you sign up for an account you have full access to all of my supplements)

Cheers!

6 Comments

  1. Wendie Brandenburg

    Just wanted to look at supplements

    Reply
    • Brady Wirick

      If you hit the link, it will take you to see them. Unfortunately with Fullscript, you do have sign up with your email.

      Reply
  2. Robert E. (Bob) Ziel

    Right on, Dr. Wirick!
    I love Salmon and other Vitamin D and Omega-3 laden seafoods.
    Winter is a bummer of a time here in The Gem State since so many of us are unable to get out to enjoy fresh air and sunshine. Oh well, a four or so mile ride on the health spa tricycle a few times a week for this old geezer is helpful. Also, balance and push type of exercises strengthens my legs and helps to keep my walk straight. — The “Real” Bob Ziel
    .

    Reply
    • Brady Wirick

      Thanks Bob! Keep moving forward!

      Reply
  3. Myndee Casperson-Jones

    Love the swing from protection against the sun (yes we need it within reason) however I think its time we recognize how important it is for our overall wellbeing! Lets enjoy some morning sunshine!! Thanks Dr. BMW

    Reply
    • Brady Wirick

      Don’t get sunburned!

      Reply

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