Darling, how’s your D? Why so morose?

In praise of the good fat (of which I will dedicate a separate article, stay tuned), time had come to continue our journey into fat soluble vitamins.

D is the most popular of the four (A, D, E, K2), the one you had heard over and over again, more so during the current pandemic. Almost everyone can identify it with sunshine. We’ll touch on the timeframe the mighty sun will provide the ultraviolet specifically designed to synthetize vitamin D. Shall I spoil your mood saying that, basically, it’s precisely the time you’re laboring indoors, namely 10.30 am to 3pm? Truth might cause an initial discomfort but is essential. Long and praised be the weekends and may your holidays be planned and lived on sunny beaches.

Shall you keep on reading? I reckon you should

I’ll quickly present symptoms pointing to a possible deficiency so you don’t waste your time and make an informed decision if you should read further or click X in the right-hand corner.

Painful bones, osteoporosis, risk of fractures, aching muscles, fatigue are famous.

40% of breast cancer and 15% of all cancer cases are linked to vitamin D deficiency. Same for auto-immune disease.

You are Deficient if you feel the blues way too often. Ain’t nothing but the blues, lament some musicians. They’re surely deficient, I dare saying. Grumpy, morose, sullen, anxious – you don’t want to experience such moods.

 If you experience sleep difficulties, watch in horror how your hair is leaving your scalp in clumps, scars are healing too slowly, you stay sick in bed with colds and flu more than you’d  bargain for the sake of days off work (weak immune system), you have cognitive difficulties, your blood pressure is high.  A symptom I dedicate a phrase to refers to your sweaty head. Rather peculiar to have to wipe your upper level while rest of the body is dry: those might be tears begging for sunshine.

Sun worshippers, you have been right all along! Yes, this star around which we rotate every minute of our life, it does deserve the homage. Be smart and expose yourself wisely, at the right time, and uninhibited enough to bare more than 75% of your body. Then you’re a winner. In the privacy of your garden or showing off on nude beaches. But what do you do if karma had placed you far from Equator? Do good so that next time the stork will bring you closer. I guess that Alaskan people get it from the fish and seals and other delicacies they are indulging in.

Vitamin D promotes calcium and phosphorus absorption to enable normal mineralization of bone and to prevent hypocalcemic tetany. Calcium and phosphorus are the most abundant minerals in the soil (sodium, potassium, iron and iodine the least) so there is little to worry about having it through diet. But consumption isn’t enough, essential is good absorption. D is also needed for bone growth and remodelling through the action of osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Not enough D will turn bones thin, brittle or misshapen. Vitamin D prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adults.

Here comes the sun, do-doo-doo-doo, here comes the sun/and I say it’s all right

Yes, that’s Beatles singing.

Yes, sun is where you should lift your face towards to get your fix. Next, focus on your plate. If worse come to worse, you can consider supplements. But recent studies are rather skeptical about their efficiency. Any nutrient taken in isolation does little, it is synthetic and doesn’t hold hands with its brothers and sisters as it happens in real food case scenario. And you better watch how you are doing while on supplements, monthly assess if your symptoms decrease, otherwise you risk toxicity. In my previous article, I was explaining that vitamin A is the angel closely monitoring D and preventing a possible toxicity. D toxicity leads to calcification, which in physical realms translates into arteriosclerosis, blood vessels narrowing, endothelium damage, kidney stones, gall bladder stones. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals, as there isn’t an abundance of food which provides enough vitamin D which body needs. Again, we speak of synthetic addition.

Top 4 you can memorize are cod liver oil, trout, salmon and white mushrooms exposed to UV lights. Not a brilliant news for vegans and vegetarians, I’m afraid.

 ½ cup of mushrooms supply 9.2 microgram (366 IU) while 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil supplies 34 micrograms (1,360 IU). Rainbow trout and salmon are very close, 16 micrograms (645 IU) to 14 micrograms (570 IU).  Sardines have 1.2, egg yolk 1.1, tuna has 1. Milk and cereals are fortified. Remember, food comes second after sun.  

Disregarding where you get it from, a very important thing to know and look into it is this: Vitamin D obtained from sun exposure, food, and supplements is biologically inert and must undergo two hydroxylations to become ACTIVE. First occurs in the liver and converts vitamin D to 25-hydroxyvitamin (calcidiol) while second occurs primarily in the kidney and forms the physiologically active 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (calcitriol). If, despite your efforts (sun, food, supplements) you still show symptoms, ask yourself, how healthy are your liver and kidneys? And work on it. Though you might have these organs impaired, their task in conversion will be way easier if vitamin D comes from sun and food, but very difficult and with poor results if vitamin D is supplemented synthetically.

Risking to bore you, sun provides 90% of your needs for vitamin D, and it will last in your body two to three times longer. In addition, sun will stimulate production of beta endorphin, dopamine and serotonin (feeling good neurotransmitters) and nitric acid, which plays a major role in cardiovascular health. A quick comparison, RDA for vitamin D is around 10-15 micrograms (400 to 600 international units), higher for over 70s. Sun exposure to the point of your skin turning slightly pinkish will give you 10,000 – 20, 000 international units. Huge difference!!!! Still in doubt? You will never be at risk of mega-dosing vitamin D from sun, while supplements can take you there. Body is producing melanin (the gorgeous suntan you crave for is actually your body intelligence at work) to protect from over-producing D. Or excess will be converted into inactive metabolites. Same with food sources, little danger of toxicity, nature knows best, unless you eat five salmon fish a day for quite a time. When supplementing, there is a risk, so you should do it with care, monitored and, as discussed, as a last resort.

A quick note on supplements: there are synthetic vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Body produces a protein called vitamin D binding protein (VDBP) whose job is to carry vitamin D through the blood in order to take it where is needed. D2 has little affinity for this protein, so it will linger in your body, lead to possible toxicity, so avoid it. This protein is synthetized by hepatic cells, a reminder of how important liver is. If you feel tinges of gilt for mistreating it through alcohol, recreational drugs, constant and strong medication, toxin environment exposure, physically and emotionally, then go next level and take measures. If not enough D binding protein or if too long supplementation, there comes again the risk of toxicity. As vitamin A protects against toxicity, it can lead to vitamin A depletion. The logic conclusion: take it from sun and food!!! Supplements are tricky.

Know what you’re doing when you’re out for your vitamin D dose. AVA, the ultraviolet emitted before 10am and after 3pm will not give you any D. It is only between 10.30 am and 3pm when sun will emit UVB. Take your lunch break in that interval, take your food glass container on a patch of grass, strip as decency allows (or at least don’t wear dark clothes covering every inch of your skin) and congratulate yourself for investing in health and good moods. When back at your desk, you are smarter and more efficient.

Do some research and you’ll find how long you need to stay under sun according of UV radiation of the day/moment. You can download app on your mobile to display the UV. For darker skin, you need to stay longer, for skin which easily turns red, shorter. Always listen to your body, is unique.

When prising sun, we are talking of moderate sun exposure. Do use a hat, cover with clothes, stay under shade if sun is strong, avoid prolonged exposure. Sunscreen is rather a hot debate. Brands to buy have so many chemicals listed that one rightly wonders if that’s the best way to protect skin. The scary one is called oxybenzone, an infamous hormone disruptor. There are natural substances which can be used instead, people who are opting for a more natural approach go into combining it for a home – made sunscreen. Yes, final products are not tested in lab for SPF but on the bright side, it does not affect your hormonal balance or add some extra chemicals into your body. From highest to lowest in terms of SPF protection, natural sunscreens are:  red raspberry seed oil (25-50), carrot seed oil (35-40), zinc oxide (as an added ingredient), coconut oil  and shea butter (6), almond oil (5).

Doing my research for this article, I came across Narrowed UVB photo light lamps advertised as most efficient way to get your vitamin D when sun isn’t around, usually between October to April (not to be confused with suntan used in beauty salons). There are plenty articles vouching for its amazing results in skin autoimmune diseases where is a dysregulation of skin cells production: psoriasis, vitiligo, eczema. If you deal with such distress, worth to investigate! Also, if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder in the winter months. If not, food is holly, just eat more trout, salmon, fatty fish, mushrooms, eggs, cheese or cod liver fish oil.

My job was only to raise awareness and offer results of my own research; you take the lead. But first thing first, if you glimpse sun right now and care for yourself, put your shoes on and walk in the nearest park. Simple.

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