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Vitamin D Deficiency: Are You Getting Enough Sunlight?

  • timeline Anoush Gomes
  • 3 Min Read
  • Fact Checked

As per studies, about 70-90 % of Indians suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. This vitamin, made from cholesterol in your skin when exposed to sun rays, is important for your body. As India is now on lockdown, many of us are forced to stay indoors to protect ourselves from the COVID-19 virus. But, have you thought about what lack of sunlight can do to your body? What about your levels of Vitamin D?

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is the only nutrient body produces when exposed to sunlight.

Why is Vitamin D important?

The body needs Vitamin D in order to absorb calcium, phosphate and aid in bone growth and health. Deficiency in Vitamin D can cause Rickets in children and Osteomalacia in adults. Vitamin D has other roles to play, including reduction of inflammation as well as modulation of processes such as cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and glucose metabolism.

Vitamin deficiency has also been linked to cancers of the breast, colon and heart along with chronic mental and physical conditions such as depression, and obesity. Having maintained and healthy levels of Vitamin D can also help reduce the body’s risk of contracting infections and diseases. 

Additionally, it’s also important to remember that darker skin absorbs less sunlight leading to less Vitamin D being welcomed by the sun. Therefore, research also suggests that those with darker skin tend to have lower levels of this vitamin.

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency 

  • Frequent illness 
  • Delayed wound healing 
  • Constant fatigue 
  • Bone and muscle pain
  • Depression 
  • Hair fall

 

Vitamin D deficiency Risk Factors

  • Darker skin
  • Elderly
  • Obesity
  • Lack of Vitamin D in diet 
  • Lack of sun exposure

 

How much sunlight is enough sunlight?

It is said that about 30 minutes of sun exposure about twice a week between 10am- 4pm should be sufficient for most adults. This is not to say that too much of the sun’s rays can’t cause damage – especially to your skin. Make sure to protect your skin from the harsh rays by using the optimum amount of protective sunscreen. UV radiation damage is a real thing – skipping your sunscreen shouldn’t be an option. Keep infections at bay by bathing after sweating sessions and avoid dehydration by drinking sufficient water. 

There is no set dosage guidance for the amount of Vitamin D needed for your body, but experts recommend about 600-2000 IU per day depending on the age and Vitamin D levels of the body. Vitamin D is measured in ng/mL during a diagnostic test – a level from 20-40 ng/mL  is considered healthy. A level below 12 ng/ml confirms a Vitamin D deficiency.

How to get enough Vitamin D?

Get at least 30 minutes of sunlight a day
While going out for walks may seem hard to do right now during the lockdown, spending time on your balcony or looking out a window can help you get enough sunlight you need per day.

Consume Vitamin D
Eating foods such as fish can help maintain Vitamin D levels. Food that are rich in Vitamin D include

  • Fishes: salmon, tuna, sardines, oysters and shrimp. Most fish are also high in omega 3 fatty acids which can also positively affect your heart health
  • Mushroom
  • Egg yolks
  • Soy and Soy products
  • Fruits like oranges

 

From nutritional supplements
Some people may respond well to Vitamin D supplementation after being advised by a professional. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate – a doctor will be able to tell you how much Vitamin D you lack and how much your body needs and then can treat you accordingly. Remember excess vitamin D might lead to toxicity.

Vitamin D is essential for your body to thrive at its optimum, and most people don’t have the right amount of it. If you think that you are suffering from symptoms of low vitamin D, consult with a doctor to check your current Vitamin D levels.  You can also download the MFine app and book a test to find out your Vitamin D levels.

Watch the video below to see primary care physician, Dr. Sreelekha Daruvuri, talk about how vitamin D deficiency can be treated naturally at home, how much sunscreen is enough to protect you from UV rays without disrupting the vitamin D supply, and much more.

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    Anoush Gomes

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