Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin
“Vitamin D”, coined the sunshine vitamin, helps our bodies make calcium and phosphorous. Vitamin D is largely responsible for building strong, healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D also supports muscles, nerves, glands and skin, and helps to boost our immune system.
Lack of vitamin D is thought to be associated with different forms of cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis (a disease affecting the nerve fibers of the brain and spinal cord), ulcerative colitis (a chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestines) and Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory bowel disease).
How is Vitamin D Produced?
Vitamin D is produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Our bodies are designed to make its own vitamin D using Ultra Violet Rays (UVB) from the sun. This accounts for about 90% of our body’s vitamin D. When the skin is exposed to UVB rays vitamin D is synthesized and is used by the body to maintain healthy bones and teeth, and to prevent other forms of diseases. Other sources of vitamin D are derived from the consumption of fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardine, catfish and mackerel. It is also found in eggs, cod liver oil, beef liver and milk fortified with vitamin D. Mushroom is the only vegan source of vitamin D second to the sun.
Adults age 50 and over need to take Vitamin D orally as age can cause the skin to loose its ability to synthesize vitamin D and to effectively absorb it from the sun.
Black Skin and Vitamin D
Individuals with black skin need to have longer exposure to the sun to get the required amount of vitamin D. Black skin, due to its high melanin content, has the ability to filter out sunlight and therefore preventing the conversion of vitamin D by the body. Sun exposure to the skin makes thousands of units of vitamin D. Black skin needs about 5 to 10 times more of sun exposure to that of white skin to synthesize the same amount of Vitamin D.
The cosmetic industry promotes the danger of sun exposure where nearly everyone believes that any exposure to the sun is harmful, but you cannot overdose on sunlight as the body takes what it needs and discard the rest. Taking a supplement if you do not have adequate sun exposure is helpful, however, too much can cause a build up of calcium and can lead to the development of kidney stones.
In my personal opinion, anyone with black skin should NOT use sun protection on a regular basis and more so anyone over 50 years of age. Black skin has its own built in SPF due to its high melanin content which serves to block out harmful rays from the skin. This is further supported if we observe our relatives living in the islands – they are the same color when they pick us up at the airport as when we leave whether we are there for a week or a month.
Living in a cold climate causes our skin to become acclimatized to that environment and we become more susceptible to burn if care is not taken. An SPF of 15 to 25 is generally necessary when travelling to sunny destinations or is undergoing hyper-pigmentation treatment for uneven skin tone. If sun protection is used on a regular basis then 2000 to 5000 IU of Vitamin D daily should be taken in a supplement form.
Vitamin D is a very important vitamin so it is essential for us to get as much non-burning sun exposure as possible in order for our bodies to synthesize enough vitamin D to keep us healthy and reduce our susceptibility to many forms of preventable diseases.
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