Vitamin D comes in many forms, but is difficult to find in food or drink, so sunshine or supplements are the easiest ways to get it. Now that we are deep into the winter months it seems you can only find sun in a few remote parts of the country! Vitamin D is unique because it can be ingested or synthesized from sun exposure. Unfortunately, there are many things that prevent its absorption, so here's some information to help you decide if you are getting your appropriate dose from the sun or need to take a supplement.
For those of us trying to avoid skin cancer, this is a tough one. Believe it or not, you reduce your vitamin D intake from the sun when you protect your skin with sunscreen. Most dermatologists would recommend you wear sunscreen and take a vitamin rather than risk the harmful rays of the sun.
Smog or Clouds
Live in a sunny city like LA or Houston and think you get all the Vitamin D you need? Think again, if you live in a polluted area, smog can block enough of the sun's rays to cause a vitamin D deficiency. Additionally, the intensity of UVB rays are reduced by clouds, so a cloudy day means less vitamin D from the sun!
No, you can't take a seat by the window and hope to absorb your daily vitamin D. Just as clouds and smog block those rays, so does a window. It's truly sad because when it is freezing out in the winter, this would be such a pleasant way to take in your D. Alas, this is not an option.
Sadly, if you live north of the 42-degree latitude (some say 37-degree, but far north is the important part), you'll have trouble getting enough sun exposure from November through February.
It's not fair, but the older you get, the more vitamin D you need. As you age, your skin does not produce vitamin D as efficiently as when you were younger.
How much do I need?
If you get your vitamin D from the sun, light skinned people need 10 to 20 minutes of sun exposure daily while dark skinned people need a whopping 90-120 minutes daily. If you have decided vitamins are your route, an average person needs about 600 IU's (International Units) daily but it changes as you age so see this chart to find your basic needs.
Which supplement do I take?
Vitamin D3 is considered a great source of vitamin D. With all the above hindering most of us from getting our vitamin D from the sun, vitamins are likely the best option. Vitamin D aids in the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth, assists neuromuscular and immune system functions and may help to reduce inflammation! So go do some vitamin shopping and find yourself some ingestible sunshine!
*Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.