How to Get Adequate Vitamin D with Minimum Sun Exposure
Rebecca Robin, IIN Content Editor
A change in routine means a shift in vitamin D sources.
As we all spend more time indoors, certain aspects of our health, routine, and diet are consequently shifting. It’s likely that social distancing is impacting our usual intake of essential vitamins and minerals. We can’t run out for small grocery hauls, we’re buying fewer fresh items and instead stocking up on pantry goods, and there’s less leeway in spending extended periods of time soaking up natural vitamin D in the sun.
To accommodate this, medical professionals are stressing what we’ve already known to be true: Proper nourishment and nutrition have a direct link to immunity and prevention of risk to viruses and infection. In the time of the pandemic, this means supporting our bodies with a more nutrient-rich and diversified diet is more important than ever. With a new routine, this is a great time to try to focus on maintaining vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D has a direct impact on the strength of our immune system and our brain and nervous system functioning. It plays a role in everything from hormone regulation and bone health to calcium absorption, heart disease prevention, and blood pressure – making it a staple to support both physical and mental well-being!
Do you have symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency?
A vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies, known to affect about one billion people worldwide. According to the U.S. National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), the suggested vitamin D intake for most people is 400–800 IU, or 10–20 micrograms. From there, the recommended amount shifts according to age, race, and season. Vitamin D deficiency symptoms can include fatigue, bone and back pain, and hair loss.
The reality is that most of us rely on our diet for 20% of our vitamin D intake, while sun exposure provides the other 80%. Our skin absorbs the UVB rays from the sun, spearheading the process of vitamin D production in our body tissue for later use. During a time when many of us have limited sun exposure throughout the day, we’ve detailed some solutions for vitamin D absorption through food and supplements to meet your daily health goals:
1) Food is medicine.
We believe that food is medicine, one of the many core concepts that make up our holistic nutritional approach. This is a pivotal time to incorporate specific foods that nourish and play a medicinal role in our bodies. Here are some foods rich in vitamin D that you may want to add to your grocery list:
- Beef liver
- Cod liver oil
- Raw milk
- Sardines and herring
Additionally, look out for dairy products, cereals, and orange juices that are fortified with vitamin D. In general, foods with vitamin D are preferred over supplementation, as the vitamins and minerals found in these foods are more bio-available, meaning they are absorbed better and more efficiently.
2) Vitamin D supplementation can help.
Whether you gravitate toward plant-based foods or are unaccustomed to eating the foods listed above, vitamin D supplements are another great option to boost your diet.
Two of the more commonly available forms of vitamin D supplements are ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Vitamin D3 is recommended when possible as it’s the naturally occurring form of the vitamin. A supplement can offer up to 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day.
Be sure to take your supplements daily, adding them into meals or a source of fat if possible. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means that the body will better absorb the available vitamin when there is fat present in the food. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble! Take your vitamin D supplement alongside a breakfast of avocado toast or a dinner with salmon and kale sauteed with ghee!
3) Use UV light over natural sun exposure.
It may be time to invest in a UV lamp for your quarantine needs!
According to a study by Science Daily, UV light is considered safer and more effective than natural sunlight. Skin samples exposed to UV light in this study produced more than twice as much vitamin D3 as the samples exposed to sunlight.
This is great news for those of us accustomed to getting the “sunshine vitamin” outdoors. Not to mention, this practice can also help prevent skin cancers and diseases that result from extended sun exposure without proper sunscreen.
There are differing opinions regarding the proper use of sunscreen and how it can affect your vitamin D intake. However, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “no matter how much sunscreen you use or how high the SPF, some of the sun’s UV rays reach your skin.” Even a sunscreen with high SPF will leave anywhere from 2% to 7% of the UV rays needed for vitamin D production – this goes for UV lamp light, too.
Look into purchasing a small UV desk lamp as this can be used while working or even while enjoying your morning coffee.
Change can be powerful.
With new circumstances come new innovation.
If you find yourself integrating any of these new practices into your lifestyle, we applaud you! It’s important to acknowledge the positive changes that you are making to support your well-being on a daily basis.
Remember to stay safe, and stay inside!