WHAT DOES VITAMIN D DO?
VITAMIN D IS A FAT-SOLUBLE VITAMIN IN A FAMILY OF COMPOUNDS THAT INCLUDES VITAMINS D-1, D-2, AND D-3. YOUR BODY PRODUCES VITAMIN D NATURALLY WHEN IT’S DIRECTLY EXPOSED TO SUNLIGHT AND IT HAS SEVERAL VITAL FUNCTIONS; MOST IMPORTANTLY REGULATING THE ABSORPTION OF CALCIUM AND PHOSPHORUS AND PROMOTING A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM. GETTING A SUFFICIENT AMOUNT OF VITAMIN D IS IMPORTANT FOR THE GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF BONES AND TEETH, AS WELL AS IMPROVED RESISTANCE AGAINST CERTAIN DISEASES.
MORE ABOUT VITAMIN D
Vitamin D also increases the production of an enzyme in the lungs called ACE2, which protects against acute lung injury and has shown to boost the development of macrophages – white blood cells that help destroy pathogens and viruses in the bloodstream. In short, vitamin D plays an important role in keeping us fit, healthy and strong. We have known for over 100 years how important vitamin D is to our body. In 1903, a Danish-Faroese physician and scientist, Niels Finsen, received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in recognition of his work in the field of photo dermatology, in which he discovered that certain wavelengths of light could have beneficial medical effects. His pioneering work showed that light could successfully treat cutaneous Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Lupus Vulgaris), a disfiguring disorder common in the early twentieth century. The range of skin diseases treated by light therapy increased in the following years, to the point where a 1932 review by the American Medical Association on the use of UV therapy in dermatology, listed 34 different skin conditions for which UV radiation may prove useful.
HOW IS VITAMIN D PRODUCED
You can get Vitamin D in a variety of ways, including from the foods you eat and through nutritional supplements. However, the most natural and effective source of Vitamin D is the synthesis of cholecalciferol – a steroidal hormone that is produced in the skin when exposed to sunshine or ultraviolet light. When the sun’s rays penetrate our skin (specifically UVB radiation), cholecalciferol is converted in the liver to calcifediol (25-hydroxycholecalciferol) and is further processed by the kidneys in to calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol): this is the biologically ‘active’ form of vitamin D. Calcitriol is present as a hormone in our bodies, and it circulates in the bloodstream to promote the healthy growth of our bones. It also has positive effects on cell growth and immune and neurological functions, as well as anti-inflammatory effects. It’s fair to say that vitamin D is an essential part of the battle against ill health.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
A severe lack of vitamin D can cause rickets, a condition that in children manifests in incorrect growth patterns, weakness in muscles, pain in bones and deformities in joints. Moreover, children who are even mildly deficient in vitamin D can suffer from muscle weakness or sore and painful muscles. Our skin’s ability to produce vitamin D decreases with age, and people who are homebound or rarely outside are also prone to deficiencies due to a lack of exposure to the sun. And in temperate countries, vitamin D deficiency is especially common due to the reduced cutaneous synthesis during the long winter months. However, symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are not as obvious in adults and may include anything from fatigue, bone pain and muscle weakness to mood changes and depression. Your doctor can detect a deficiency from a blood analysis and, if levels are lower than normal, a supplement can be recommended. The preventive taking of vitamin D in the form of supplements is often recommended for both children and older people.
DOES SUNSCREEN DECREASE THE PRODUCTION OF VITAMIN D?
There is little evidence to show that wearing sunscreen decreases the production of vitamin D. In a recent British Journal of Dermatology study, investigators recorded an increase of Vitamin D in participants during a week of cloudless weather, with very high UV index, even when sunscreens were used properly and prevented sunburn. This shows that wearing sunscreen to prevent skin cancers does not negatively affect our body’s ability to produce vitamin D — so make sure to apply the sunscreen this summer!
HOW CAN I PREVENT A VITAMIN DEFICIENCY?
You can make some changes to your diet to boost your levels of vitamin D. Several foods contain the essential vitamin, such as fish liver oils, fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, and also cooked egg yolk, beef liver and fortified foods, including some breakfast cereals, orange juice, milk, soy drinks, and margarine. However, foods alone usually don't provide the daily-recommended levels of Vitamin D (400 international units (IU) for children up to age 12 months, 600 IU for ages 1 to 70 years, and 800 IU for people over 70 years) and exposure to sunlight is imperative. 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure two to three times a week to the face, arms, legs or back may be all that is needed to absorb a suitable amount, though you may need more sun exposure (especially in early Spring and late Fall) if you are older, have a darker skin color or live in Northern climates. So we can get vitamin D from certain foods but to ensure we are getting enough to maintain good health, some exposure to sunlight is a must.
THE SKIN IS A COMPLEX ORGAN, INTIMATELY CONNECTED TO OUR INTERNAL WELLBEING AND THE EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT. SKIN MAY BE AFFECTED BY AIR QUALITY, HUMIDITY, POLLUTION, SLEEP AND REST, HEALTH AND MEDICATION, DIET, HYDRATION, GENETICS, OR THE PASSING OF TIME, PROMPTING THE NEED TO REEVALUATE SKIN CARE ROUTINES OVER TIME.
Taking care of your skin is so much more than just a face cream you put on your face. We love to share our knowledge with you. The Read is our way of showing you we care about your skin, body and mind.