Do You Need to Worry About Vitamin D in the Summer?
Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is most easily absorbed through sunlight. However, depending on where you live (like Canada!), the sun’s rays may be too weak to provide enough vitamin D. Let’s look at why vitamin D is necessary and whether we need extra support (even in the summer!).
The Importance of Vitamin D
This fat-soluble vitamin acts like a hormone. Vitamin D is responsible for sending messages and signals that control calcium balance to reduce risk of osteoporosis, support healthy mood, maintain cardiovascular health, even prevent cancer. It’s necessary for the immune system, thyroid and metabolism, and to reduce inflammation.
Unfortunately we can’ make it on our own, so we need to get it from our environment (the sun) or our diet (it’s added to some dairy products or in supplement form).
Supplement or the Sun?
Perhaps one of the most common questions I get asked with respect to vitamin D is “do I need to take it during the summer?”. Nine times out of ten the answer is yes.
About forty percent of Canadians are below the recommended minimum of vitamin D in the winter and twenty five percent are low during the summer months. This happens for two reasons.
First, not everyone absorbs vitamin D. Those with darker skin have more difficulty making this nutrient from sunlight. Second, many Canadians are low in vitamin D during the colder months, so without supplementing to boost their levels, they may still be low despite regular sun exposure in the Summer. I always recommend a minimum maintenance dose of 1000IU of vitamin D3 daily, even during the summer. This should be increased during the rest of the year if your blood levels are low (talk to your doctor or naturopath and get tested!).
Practice Safe Sun
Using sunlight to obtain vitamin D naturally can be part of a healthy lifestyle. However, avoiding sunburn, overexposure (especially if you have fair skin) and testing your vitamin D levels regularly are all required to protect yourself from the adverse effects of too much UV light radiation.
The general recommendation from the National Institute of Health is 5-30 minutes of exposure to your arms and face between the hours of 10am-3pm, twice weekly. Keep in mind, based on your genetic makeup, this may or may not be enough to keep your vitamin D levels in the optimal range.
So what should you do? Don’t rely solely on the sun to keep your vitamin D levels in check. Maintaining a supplement regime can help to keep your levels of this important nutrient all year long.
Not sure which Vitamin D supplement is right for you? Book an appointment with Dr. Laura to learn more.
Dr. Laura Belus is a Naturopathic Doctor that focuses on detoxification and hormone balance for weight loss, stress management, and greater energy. She believes in making simple, yet powerful, changes to diet & lifestyle habits that create lasting results. She practices in Mississauga and Toronto.